Mo' betta Green Berets -- more quickly?
June 18, 2003 12:12 PM   Subscribe

"Army recruiting civilians as potential Green Berets" is the story I was thinking about when I wrote this post. Sounds like Rumsfeld wasn't kidding around. I wonder if, as discussed yesterday, there's a manpower shortage anticipated?
posted by alumshubby (15 comments total)
I wonder what the regular Special Forces guys will have to say about this...

And I wonder if these civilians really have any idea what they are getting into. These fellows do a lot of stuff that you and I will never know about.
posted by konolia at 12:20 PM on June 18, 2003

I don't get it.

Aren't all Green Berets men who were once civilians? An all-volunteer army does actually have to recruit members from time to time.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:29 PM on June 18, 2003

The big surprise to me was when I looked at this page -- I'd somehow gotten the impression that to be a Green Beret, you had be at least an E-5 (a buck sergeant) and had to qualify as a Ranger PDF first -- 'tain't necessarily so.
posted by alumshubby at 12:51 PM on June 18, 2003

When you are violently taking over the world, you need a lot of soldiers. Let's all do our part and breed a new generation of pure and strong arabkillers!
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:56 PM on June 18, 2003

Yeah: Duty Now for the Future of the Homeland. Every Mother's Womb is a Cradle for Freedom! Oops, something keeps happening to my right arm...must...stop...from...raising...

My point, and I actually did have one, was that it used to be that you had to have been around the Army block a few times before you were even eligible to be considered for acceptance into the program. I wonder whether this is a quality/quantity tradeoff for the SF groups.
posted by alumshubby at 1:08 PM on June 18, 2003

My point, and I actually did have one, was that it used to be that you had to have been around the Army block a few times before you were even eligible to be considered for acceptance into the program. I wonder whether this is a quality/quantity tradeoff for the SF groups

Exactly. I can't imagine what this will do to morale in the regular Army, either.

Of course, it may be simply a mechanism to funnel very bright people into a military career they may not have otherwise considered. But the Powers That Be better make sure they have a plan to integrate these guys smoothly into The System.
posted by konolia at 1:27 PM on June 18, 2003

"And not just anyone can be Special Forces. You have to be a much more mindful soldier. It means using your brain. It means being a teacher. It means more than just using your muscles," Sully said.

what the regular Special Forces guys will have to say about this...

You have Special Forces and in it, Green Berets. The ones I know speak multiple languages and instruct; on the other hand Rangers that I know are strong & courageous soldiers in the US Army who've passed the training(not saying un-educated).

Wonder how's the pay scale, the better teachers may be leaving the private/public sector then.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:13 PM on June 18, 2003

Ok I was not going to say it, but the GB, in the 80's the program was not there like it had been. Maybe they have rebirth it to what it was in the 60's & 70's. Delta Force took the place during the 80's. During the 80's met graduates of Ranger School, never a new GB, only the ones left over from the 60's & 70's.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:19 PM on June 18, 2003

Surprisingly enough, the irony of the Green Berets, with a few exceptions, is that "If you are being shot at, you are wrong."
In other words, if you need leg infantry stuff done, you need a leg infantryman. But a Green Beret is as different in his typical mission from a leg infantryman as a dentist is from a plumber. They are not a force, but a force multiplier.
Their purpose is not to do, but to teach dozens, perhaps hundreds of others to do. They also make friends very readily, creating huge numbers of allies from people previously either indifferent or hostile to the foreigners known as "Americans."

And the value of this was so powerful, that during the Cold War, allegedly the Russian Spetnatz assigned two men to assassinate each and every Green Beret, by name and dossier, if called upon to do so.
posted by kablam at 9:15 PM on June 18, 2003

You have Special Forces and in it, Green Berets... on the other hand Rangers that I know...


Unless I've been misreading everything I've seen and misunderstood everyone I've talked to, Special Forces = Green Berets.

Rangers are "special" in the sense that they are elite troops with highly technical and particular training suited to their various missions, some of which overlap with other elite Army jobs: Pathfinders, Airborne, light-fighters, mountain troops etc.

(Further muddying already roiled waters, SF has its own elite-within-the elite, 1SOFD-D, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment - Delta, popularly known as Delta Force and about which the Army doesn't talk much.)

A look at this page suggests there's increasingly an interservice "purple suit" approach to special operations whereby everybody's wearing camo and has differing titles of rank but largely overlapping areas of expertise and mission tasking -- and (in theory at least) interservice rivalry is a lot less of a big deal.

I wonder whether this is a quality/quantity tradeoff for the SF groups...

Exactly. I can't imagine what this will do to morale in the regular Army, either.

I talked to a former Ranger officer about this tonight and he just shrugged. He didn't articulate it quite this way, but apparently the SF are considered sort of exotic adjuncts to the rest of the "real" Army. Or maybe that's just him.
posted by alumshubby at 9:50 PM on June 18, 2003

I see some confusion in the comments. I work in the SOF community and maybe can clear some of that up. Traditionally, you had to be an PFC or a Specialist to go to SFAS (Special Forces Assessment and Selection). This has been done away with. There is now a program where a soldier is recruited, goes through infantry training, jump school, training for SFAS, SFAS, the other phases of being trained to be a GB (like language and SERE), etc. In addition, the soldier has to go to PLDC (Primary Leadership Development Course) which all NCOs in the Army go to. assuming the soldier does not wash out, these schools take a total of about three years. By then many regular army guys would be a SGT, just like these newly minted GBs. The result is soldiers who have the just same training as always and who have greater longevity as a GB. The best training is after the new GBs get to their teams and have senior, experienced operators mentoring them. This program does not replace the traditional way Special Forces are created. It only adds about 10% more men at the begining the training. The other 90% come from the regular army, same as always.
posted by mcchesnj at 4:42 AM on June 19, 2003

Isn't it about time they were called red, white and blue berets?
posted by crasspastor at 5:21 AM on June 19, 2003

Isn't "beret" a freedom word to boot. Looks like eventually the Green Berets will be known as the Red, White and Blue Hats. Doesn't quite flow off the tongue the same, but we'll be better off for the name change anyhow.
posted by crasspastor at 5:25 AM on June 19, 2003

I think the "in" term for them is "blankets," actually.
posted by alumshubby at 12:18 PM on June 19, 2003

This isn't as new or revolutionary as you might think: from its founding in 1952 until 1988 the Special Forces recruited civilians. At the time it was discontinued, the SOF mission seemed to be waning, the military was downsizing, and the need was much smaller. The military has always done a lot of recruiting of specialized skill sets; this just extends that to another category of skills.

To add to alumshubby and mcchesnj's comments, perhaps simplifying for civilians (like me): the typical path to Special Forces included qualifying as a soldier, qualifying as an airborne paratrooper, qualifying as a Ranger, and then again for the Special Forces. (They like to say that they volunteered three times.) The broader Special Operations Command (SOCOM) includes not just the various services' special forces (among them Green Berets, USAFSF, Navy SEALS, Marine Force Recon, as well as the even-more-elite Delta Force) but also the quasi-SOF Rangers (who operate like infantry but have the specialized training to do a lot more). Ultimately there's so much difference between SOF and infantry that the lack of "regular Army" experience isn't likely to be detrimental -- at least at first. I do wonder whether it might cause more psychological separation between the groups: in Mogadishu, the lack of interaction and, indeed, mutual scorn between the Delta Force guys and the Rangers was a direct contributing factor to some of the tactical problems. Also, the civilian-recruits might tend to have a lower retention rate: at least the guys they recruit from within the ranks already have a taste of the military life and know, to some extent, what they're getting into.

But I've spoken before about how I worry that an all-volunteer army, whatever its other merits, might breed a military culture that is less connected to mainstream American culture and unknown to it. This seems like one way of countering that trend.
posted by dhartung at 6:58 PM on June 20, 2003

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