The United States Army Special Forces are also called the Green Berets. The soldiers were nicknamed for the French-inspired headgear they wear. At this time, seven Special Forces Groups exist, the 1st (headquartered at McChord, WA), 3rd (Fort Bragg, NC), 5th (Fort Campbell, KY), 7th (Elgin Air Force Base, FL), 10th (Fort Carson, CO), 19th (Draper, UT), and 20th (Birmingham, AL). The last two groups, the 19th and 20th, are National Guard units. Four groups, the 6th, 8th, 11th, and 12th are inactive. Each group wears a distinctive cloth shield-shaped badge on the beret.
The Special Forces are charged with five important tasks; the first, unconventional warfare is the most important. Additionally, the Green Berets conduct foreign internal defense, direct action, counter-terrorism, and special reconnaissance. The troops are highly skilled with advanced training which includes practice in language and culture of the countries where they will serve so they work effectively with foreign troops. The Special Forces operate in many other capacities including hostage rescue and humanitarian acts such as demining, as well as peacekeeping, counter-narcotics, counter-proliferation, combat search and rescue, information operations, security assistance, psychological operations, and manhunts.
The 10th Special Forces were first formed in 1952, but the foundation and roots of the Green Berets began before World War II. The first proponents of unconventional warfare were the Alamo Scouts and the Philippine guerrillas, and the Operational Groups of the Office of Strategic Services, the latter not a U.S. Army unit, but rather stocked full of Army personnel who influenced the forming of the Special Forces. Former Philippine guerrilla commanders Lt. Col. Russell W. Volckmann and Col. Wendell Fertig formulated the doctrine of unconventional warfare during the Korean War. In 1951, the seeds of the Green Berets were formed under Col. Aaron Bank, the appointed chief of the Psychological Warfare Staff. Today, the Psychological Warfare School is the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg.
The Green Berets have engaged in several war theaters starting with World War II, followed by the Korean, Cold, Laotian Civil, Dominican Civil, Vietnam, Salvadoran Civil, Gulf, Somali Civil, Bosnian, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and North-West Pakistan wars. Other engagements include Operation Urgent Fury, Operation Just Cause, Operation Uphold Democracy, the War on Terror, Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, Lord’s Resistance Army Insurgency, and Operation Atlantic Resolve. The Special Forces are not under the command of the ground commanders in the countries where they serve. Instead, they report to their own special commanders, either a Command Sargent Major, a Major, or a Captain, depending on the subgroup. Each of the seven Special Forces groups serves in a specific geographic area. Altogether, about 7,000 soldiers serve in the U.S. Army Special Forces.
Other nicknames for the Special Forces, besides the Green Berets, are Quiet Professionals, Soldier-Diplomats, Snake Eaters, and Bearded Bastards. The Central Intelligence Agency, Special Activities Division recruits from the U.S. Army Special Forces, some of the world’s most elite and highly trained soldiers.