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Old 5 February 2004, 14:01
(1VB)compforce (1VB)compforce is offline
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Excellent speech about SF

This appears to be a graduation speech at an 18A course. I thought it was worth posting for the historical parts. I did a search and didn't find it anywhere.

This was Was reprinted in the April 2003 (Vol. 16, No. 1) issue of "Special Warfare"; which is the professional bulletin of the JFK Special Warfare Center and School. (thanks to stratiotes for providing the source)

SF Regimental Speech by CWO3 Charles E. Simmons, U.S. Army (Ret.)

What's so special about Special Forces? I agree with Command Sergeant Major William Edge that what is special is that SF is the only combat unit in the United States Army in which enlisted men can and do command troops - in schools as teachers, in guerrilla bands as organizers and leaders, and in foreign armies as advisers and leaders. Where else can staff sergeants serve as platoon leaders, sergeants first class as company commanders, and master sergeants as battalion commanders?

Perhaps you don't believe that three companies of 150 men and a 40-man scout platoon could be a battalion? Why? Because they were Montagnards, Cambodians or Chinese Nungs? Think again. Did you ever hear of the Mike Force? Delta? Sigma? Omega? CCN? All of those units were led by SF; some of them were even led by E4s.

But they were not led by the bare-chested, snake-eating, guitar-playing Rambo types portrayed by the media as the "Green Berets." A green beret is nothing more than a hat - a symbol to the world of what you are: an SF soldier. No, the Special Forces I am referring to are the men who worked at Khe Sahn, the Ashau Valley, Phu Bai, Kontum, Dak To, Lang Ve, and a thousand other places that were denied to the enemy because six to 12 SF soldiers lived there and dared "Charlie" to come and take it.

In many cases Charlie tried, but the SF soldiers and their Montagnards, Cambodes and Chinese Nungs in the Mike Force denied him the victory. There were no 175 mm howitzers or eight-inch guns for artillery cover - just air cover when we could get it, and we got plenty of it in Vietnam. It was deadly accurate, usually called in by sergeants. The Hueys, Cobras, bombers and sleek fast movers all brought death from the sky to our common enemy.

The heart of the SF group is the A-detachment, which is composed of 10 sergeants and two officers. The A-detachment is a self-contained, do-anything group of men. And yet those men are the first to tell you thatthey could not do their jobs without the support of the unsung heroes who man the supply, commo, personnel, psywar, civic-action and flight organizations farther back.

You see, the A-detachment is only the blade of the axe. But it takes the whole axe to cut a tree, and that's the real SF: the whole axe. Officers - good men who had blisters and cuts from stringing wire, sunburns and bug bites from filling sandbags, and bruised shoulders from firing BARs - were right there in the mud and blood with their men.

These officers wore oak leaves and bars, but usually you could not see their rank, because they hung their shirts on tree limbs while they worked and sweated with the troops. They had nerves of steel; they were leaders you respected and never forgot. There was the major who personally led a relief party to rescue a wounded sergeant who was cut off, lost and pursued by the remnants of an NVA company - and brought him out alive. There were the lean and mean "slick" pilots who stood their groaning Hueys on their tails in order to load wounded Montagnards. Or perhaps they yanked you out of the jungle on a McGuire rig for a ride you would never forget. There were also the soft-voiced chaplains who gave comfort to the dying in a bloody mortar pit in the drenching rain.

And the medics - they are truly the eighth wonder of the world. Their routine feats read too much like fiction, but they were and still are more than medics; they are also super riflemen and scouts - killers as well as healers. They are often your first link in establishing rapport.

That was and still is Special Forces. Vietnam wasn't Saigon bars; it was hard reality and too much death. We had our crooks and drunks and quitters, all to our shame. We also had our giants, and by God, most were there because they wanted to be there. Professionals every one, trained as force multipliers. they were few in number, but they were strong in mind, heart and spirit.

Yes, I miss them. I miss their friendship and their respect. It's all a part of being special. Webster defines special as "distinguished by some uncommon quality; designed or selected for some particular purpose; having anindividual character that is noteworthy; unique."

SF NCO/officer interoperability

The demands of SF operations, then and now, are directly proportional to the interoperability of SF NCOs and officers. We are not a squad in the 82nd, the Rangers or some other conventional unit. We are all highly competitive, proactive self-starters who require the absolute minimum of supervision and guidance to get the job done. We are able to work alone for long periods of time, if necessary, with no light at the end of the tunnel. But our most endearing asset is the innovative, intelligent, thinking NCO.

It is imperative that newly appointed SF officers fully understand seven facts:
* SF NCOs are experts at their jobs.
* The officers don't know the NCOs' jobs.
* SF NCOs don't want and don't need close supervision.
* The team sergeant is the detachment commander's first point of reference.
* The warrant officer and team sergeant can do the detachment commander's job.
* The team can function without the detachment commander.
* The detachment commander should be prepared and willing to take off his shirt and get down and dirty with the team.

Detachment commanders, if you want to earn the respect of your team members, don't show up with the attitude that you know it all, because you don't. Be a team player. Lead by example and, most of all, trust your men and their advice. They have been performing real-world missions for years, and you are the new kid on the block who must prove his worth.

SF's role in the war on terrorism

On a night in mid-October 2001, 11 members of an A-detachment from the 5th SF Group dropped into a valley deep inside Taliban territory in central Afghanistan. The austere, wild gash in the earth prompted some of the team members to remark to one another, "This place looks like the back side of the moon." Gentlemen, every man on that team was carrying America's foreign policy on his shoulders, and that's one hell of a responsibility.

Out of the darkness stepped Hamid Karzai, now the interim leader of Afghanistan, but who was then merely the head of a modest militia force that the U.S. hoped could galvanize the Pashtun tribes of southern Afghanistan against the Taliban authorities. The success or failure of uniting those tribes and the conduct of America's war on terrorism rested entirely on the shoulders of each member of that team, regardless of rank. These are some of the responsibilities you will face when you wear the green beret. Can you handle it?

Sept. 11, 2001, was America's introduction to terrorism, and that A-detachment, your brothers, was our answer to the Taliban and al-Qaeda who had made the big mistake of waking a sleeping giant. Once again, SF was called on to fight an unconventional war: our type of war. For me, watching the news - the images of horseback-riding SF troopers directing B-52 strikes with laser designators and working with their Afghan counterparts - brought back many memories, tears and tremendous pride. Those fine young SF warriors were doing what thousands of SF troopers had done before - adapting to the conditions, establishing rapport, pressing on and getting the job done.

But SF's greatest contribution to the campaign in Afghanistan occurred unseen during the two years before the terrorist attacks. In 1999, the U.S. president's Middle East envoy, Anthony Zinni - then a four-star Marine general who was responsible for strengthening relations with the former Soviet republics in central Asia - directed his special-operations forces, in the words of Brigadier General Frank Toney Jr., to use their "military-to-military peacetime techniques to open up the new Asian nations for training with U.S. forces."

Roughly 2,000 SF soldiers are engaged in training missions around the globe at any given time. At a time when U.S. businesses and many diplomats viewed the central Asian region as a dangerous place that was best left to its own devices, Army SF teams were conducting training missions in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, where they developed personal relationships that remain critically important in that part of the world.

When the time came for the U.S. to wage war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the Uzbeks immediately offered their assistance. American transport aircraft were touching down on Uzbeki soil barely a week after Sept. 11, and a major base was quickly established at Khanabad, 130 miles north of the Afghan border. By mid- November, the Tajiks had made available three bases from which the U.S. could launch offensive operations (the Pentagon chose one of them), and the Tajiks' offer was soon followed by one from the Kyrgys. SF's familiarity with each nation's culture and topography, along with the mutual trust that had developed between the central-Asian and American soldiers, allowed the U.S. to conduct combat operations with stunning rapidity and effect.

In Afghanistan, SF demonstrated that it had learned well the lessons of the past. In the new war against global terror networks, SF needs all its hard-won experience and skills to bring the fight to those who would harm America.

The war on terrorism is a far more dangerous war than the Vietnam War was. At least in Vietnam, we knew the country that we were fighting against. You who are graduating face no specific country or army, and the enemy - the terrorists - are dedicated to destroying America and are willing to die for their beliefs. Your skills, adaptability and courage will be put to the test, and the test will be ongoing for many years, because this will be a long and deadly war. Unfortunately, we have already lost some of our brothers, and more will die in combat. There is a job to be done, and our country and our president are depending on us to see it through to victory. We will be victorious, but it will not be easy.

During World War II, there were many who said that the Nazis were 10 feet tall and that the Japanese were unbeatable. Yes, the Germans were ahead of us in technology (with jet fighters,V-2 rockets and V-1 buzz bombs), and when our forces entered the mountains of Peenamunde, they found on the drawing boards a prototype three stage rocket designed to hit New York City. The Japanese had resorted to kamikaze attacks with devastating results. Yet, we beat both armies, won the war and turned our former enemies into prospering democracies who are world powers in the 21st century. I believe we can do the same in the Middle East: We can win the war, and we can lay the foundations of democracy. All people, regardless of their location on this planet, want to be free. The people of Iraq are no different, and you will play a significant part in their liberation.

The ways in which SF operates are changing. The tried and battle-tested techniques of World War II, Korea and Vietnam are blending with the high-tech weapons of war. That's as it should be - SF is known for its flexibility. Historically, the military has been resistant to the development of SF and to the use of unconventional methods in dealing with threats. All that is changing because of the reality that terrorists will target areas in which the state is weak. Changes also mean that SF may have to work in different ways, using techniques not associated with conventional military operations or even with "white" elements of SF operations.

Afghanistan has shown how new weaponry, combined with real-time intelligence, can transform a conflict while using very few people on the ground. The SF teams in Afghanistan used backpack-sized satellite laptops that linked them to aircraft and allowed the precise targeting by close air support that proved pivotal in forcing the Taliban's collapse.

But as things change, the old battle-tested requirements are even more important. The very survival of SF depends on detailed mission planning that is based on strategic, operational and tactical intelligence that is specific, comprehensive and current. Such intelligence requirements are not new to SF, but they are far more vital in today's war on terrorism. SF personnel must have a thorough knowledge of the operational area - including its geographic, political, social, economic and environmental conditions and its language. One reason that we were able to get into Afghanistan as quickly as we did is that we had spent years working in Uzbekistan, training Uzbeki border guards.

These are exciting times for SF, but they are also extremely dangerous times. I would love to be out there with you and about to start a career in SF, but my time has passed, and the torch is now handed to you. I have had a wonderful career. As a young black kid from the ghettos of Brooklyn, I never dreamed that I would one day qualify for America's elite Special Forces. President Kennedy authorized the wearing of the beret by Special Forces in October 1961. Exactly one year later, in October 1962, I came to Training Group to begin my SF training. I am still in awe, knowing that I stood in the ranks with some of the greatest heroes in SF and American military history. To be respected and counted as one of them is a unique, special privilege and an honor that I will always deeply cherish.


Your family will suffer emotionally, perhaps far more than you will realize. When you're deployed, which will be quite often, you will know that your family is safe, regardless of where you are. However, your family will have to live with the uncertainty of your location and with the uncertainty of your safety. The burden of not knowing is deeply depressing, and it can create problems upon your return if you, the returning SF warrior, do not make every effort to assure your family that you understand what they have experienced. It is paramount that you demonstrate that understanding by spending real quality time with your family. Once you are home, no matter what mission you were on, it is not the time to hang out or to party with your team.

Over time, I came to understand that my family established their own daily SOP during my absence and that their SOP worked. My coming home signaled a change in the daily SOP, and that change led to conflict and family disruption. Yes, on deployments I was great at establishing rapport; I was flexible; I could blend in with the indigenous people of any culture. But at home, I was an absolute failure at establishing rapport and in being flexible with my own family. But I learned, and learned quickly, to change my ways. From my experience, it is best not to assert control once you are home. It is far better to support your wife's SOP with understanding and patience - the same understanding and patience that you demonstrated on your last mission. I cannot emphasize this point enough in support of family harmony.

For 29 years of my 31-year SF career, my wife was an SF wife extraordinaire. Not once was I ever called home during those 29 years, for any reason. This speaks volumes of her dedication as an SF wife to me, to the U.S. Army and to our country. I am sure that one of the main reasons our marriage has worked is that I learned to make some changes in my attitude once I came home. Without a doubt, my wife is the real unsung hero in our family, the true trooper. All SF wives are unsung heroes. They receive none of the recognition, glory or praise that the SF soldier receives. That's why it's incumbent upon you to ensure that your wife and family know that you consider them heroes - a special breed who make great sacrifices daily on your behalf. Their sacrifices allow you to perform your job as an SF soldier without worry. Through your actions, you must demonstrate to your family that you appreciate and recognize the sacrifices they make in supporting you.

Thank you for allowing me to share this special time with you. I only hope that perhaps something of what I said this evening will be of benefit to you as you start your SF career. Remember, SF does not follow where the path leads. Instead, we go where there is no path and leave a trail for others to follow. That's the SF way. Good luck, keep your head down, and watch your six o'clock.


Last edited by (1VB)compforce; 9 February 2004 at 10:32.
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Old 5 February 2004, 14:19
Join Date: Jun 2002
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Great speech:

Read it before, but it's worth another read:

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Old 7 February 2004, 03:46
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Tracy Tracy is offline
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Charlie Tuna and I were ski buddies in Montana and classmates in WOC School. He went through the course as a Sergeant Major.

It was rumored he had written guarantee to stay on an A-Team for the remainder of his warrant career. A lot of the SOG vets were deliberately recruited to be the first SF warrant officers; in order to provide the experience base needed to jump-start the program.

The man is as hard as woodpecker lips; and an absolute pleasure to serve with.

Charlie also had the pleasure of explaning to a certain very-young SP4 why it's not a good idea to f*ck with a WO Candidate; especially when he has an ID card in his wallet with a big 'ol 'SGM' in the rank box.

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Old 7 February 2004, 16:20
stratiotes stratiotes is offline
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Speech was given to a class of Q Course grads during their regimental supper in February 2003.

Was reprinted in the April 2003 (Vol. 16, No. 1) issue of "Special Warfare"; which is the professional bulletin of the JFK Special Warfare Center and School.

Last edited by stratiotes; 8 February 2004 at 18:42.
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Old 8 February 2004, 14:14
(1VB)compforce (1VB)compforce is offline
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In response to where the post came from:

This post was copied from a gaming forum ( . The credits that were posted here, were the same ones that were posted there. I thought that the speech was written by Chief Simmons and quoted by a member of the gaming forum. I would be happy to credit the original post/article, can you point me to it?

Also, as I am a mod on the forum where I pulled it from, I will modify the post that I read to include the original location.

So if someone has the original link, please let me know so I can add it both here and there.



edit - Thank you stratiotes, my post has been changed here and the original forum has had a note added.

Last edited by (1VB)compforce; 9 February 2004 at 10:36.
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