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Special Forces Culture

Home > Culture

A tightly-knit elite group such as Special Forces that exists for decades forms a specific culture unique to it's organization. This page will provide some information and history on that culture.

Green Beret. The most obvious historical and cultural aspect of Special Forces is their unique hat - the Green Beret. It is a symbol of their heritage and special training and is only earned by attending and successfully passing the Special Forces Qualification Course or SFQC. The Green Beret was authorized for wear at Bad Tolz, Germany by the 10th Special Forces Group commander (Col William Ekman) on November 17, 1955. The Department of the Army did not recognize the headgear as official - which caused all sorts of cultural clashes between the Special Forces Soldiers and conventional commanders and SGMs. In October 1961 President John F. Kennedy visited Fort Bragg where he met with Special Forces leaders. Kennedy was a champion of unconventional warfare and the Special Forces. He issued a Presidential Directive recognizing the Green Beret as the "Symbol of Excellence" and the Green Beret was then made the official headgear of Special Forces.

Ballad of the Green Beret. Special Forces has its own song. Wrote and sung by SSG Barry Sadler during the height of the Vietnam War it became extremely popular. In fact, it was the number one song in 1966 hitting the top of the charts.
www.specialforcestraining.info/balladgreenberets.htm

Bronze Bruce. The Special Warfare Memorial Statue (known as Bronze Bruce) is representative of a Special Forces non-commissioned offcer. Bronze Bruce is located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Special Warfare Museum. For many decades the Special Warfare Museum located on Ardennes Street, Fort Bragg, NC was the place to go to learn about the history of Special Forces. Its many exhibits provided deep memories for former SF soldiers and were an inspiration for young Green Berets and potential recruits to SF. In 2020 the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) closed the museum. This was an action that drew a quick and angry response from current and former members of Special Forces.
http://www.specialforceshistory.info/culture/special-warfare-museum.html

Special Forces Branch. The Special Forces Branch was established by the U.S. Army on April 9, 1987.

Camp Mackall. This WW II training base for U.S. paratroopers held thousands of soldiers training for the European theater. Since WW II Camp Mackall has become a primary training facility for Special Forces soldiers and units. Read more in "Historic Camp Mackall", by Lt. Col. Robert P. Curtin (Ret), Pine Straw Magazine, (date unknown).
https://pinestrawmag.com/historic-camp-mackall/

Coin Check. Each Special Forces Soldier has his coin. It is usually sold by someone within the group headquarters. Some are serial numbered. There are some very unique rules and history about SF coins. For instance if you are in a bar and someone conducts a coin check and you don't have yours it can get costly. For a description of the rules and regulations pertaining to SF coins see "Coin Rules and History" at the link below:
http://sfalx.com/h_coin_rules_and_history.htm

Green Beret Sport Parachute Club. For decades the Special Forces community had their own on base 'clubs' to gather at during lunch and evening hours. One of these was the Annex located in one of the one-story wooden buildings at the edge of the 7th Special Forces Group Parade Field (now site of an Engineer Brigade). A more popular drinking establishment was the Green Beret Sport Parachute Club located near the base hospital. The club was moved several decades ago to a one story building near Gruber Road not far from the MATA Mile. Somewhere around 2014 the Green Beret Sport Parachute Club was discontinued and the building was turned into the Smoke Bomb Grille.

Martha Raye. Actress and entertainer helped form up the USO during World War II and toured through combat zones during the war. She continued this during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Due to her interest in Special Forces - visiting many SF A teams in Vietnam - she was made an honorary member of the U.S. Army Special Forces. Watch a video published by the USASOC PAO (Mar 31, 2019, 2 mins).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIHHw_ogRfY

Mistress. There is an old adage about Special Forces being a mistress.
www.specialforceshistory.info/culture/mistress.html

Movies about Green Berets. A listing of movies about the Green Berets, paratroopers, and legacy units like the First Special Service Force, the Office of Strategic Services, and other special operations units of the past. In addition, some of the 'cult' films favored by Green Berets.
http://www.specialforceshistory.info/culture/Green-Beret-cult-movies.html

Special Forces Creed, USASOC
www.soc.mil/USASFC/SFcreed.html

Special Forces Crest. The SF crest insignia was adopted in 1960. Its design reflects both the lineage and mission of Special Forces. It was approved as the Special Forces regimental designator in 1984.
www.soc.mil/USASFC/SFCrest.html

Special Forces Shoulder Sleeve Insignia. The gold and teal SF shoulder patch, originally approved in 1955, is authorized for wear by personnel of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command and subordinate units. The teal blue arrowhead alludes to the American Indian's basic skills in which Special Forces personnel are trained to a high degree. The dagger represents the unconventional warfare nature of Special Forces operations. The three lightning flashes reflects their ability to strike rapidly by air, land, or water.
www.soc.mil/USASFC/Sleeve.html

Special Forces Tab. The Chief of Staff, U.S. Army approved the wear of the Special Forces tab in June 1983 to those personnel who successfully graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC). The SF tab is sometimes referred to as "the long tab".
www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/Catalog/Heraldry.aspx?HeraldryId=16094=SF-tab

Special Forces Motto. "De Oppresso Liber" translates into "From oppression we will liberate them."

Trojan Horse Crest. This crest was worn by members of the 10th SFGA on their berets during the 1950s. On December 10, 1982, the 1st Special Operations Command (Airborne) adopted the Trojan Horse part of this crest as its official emblem.

Special Forces Prayer. The history and origin of the Special Forces prayer by Special Forces Search Engine.
www.prayer.sfahq.com

President John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy had a special relationship with the U.S. Army Special Forces. Kennedy was an astute student of unconventional warfare, political warfare, and communist insurgencies. He advocated for a strong unconventional warfare and counterinsurgency capability within the U.S. military - and especially with the Army's Special Forces. 1.

SF Underground. Rumors abound about 'secret societies' within the Special Forces community - especially among the retired Soldiers. Read one story in "Inside 'The Special Forces Underground'", The Fifth Column, April 23, 2015.

Randall Knives. During the Vietnam era . . . and to some degree even today Randall knives were very popular among Special Forces troops. During the Vietnam War SF troopers carried the Model 1, 5, 14, 15, 16, and 18. During the GWOT era the Model 16 seemd to be the most popular.

Tattoos and Weight Lifting. During the several decades of the 'Cold War' the U.S. Army Special Forces community frowned on SF soldiers getting tattoos due to operational necessity. The prospect of conducting long-term behind the lines unconventional warfare in Soviet-occupied Europe discouraged getting 'inked up'. In addition, there was more emphasis on running and rucking than 'hitting the gym' during the Cold War era. With the beginning of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) there was a cultural shift to SF team members getting tattoos and hitting the gym to bulk up. Read more about this in "The Weight Training Puzzle: Six-Shooters, 'Six Packs', or Men with a Sixth Sense - What Does SF Need?", by Anna Simmons, Small Wars Journal, November 5, 2020.


Websites about Special Forces Heraldry

Special Forces Heraldry - Special Forces Search Engine
www.groups.sfahq.com/sf_heraldry/index.htm

Special Operations Forces (SOF) News
www.specialforcestraining.info/SOF-News.html



Endnotes

1. For more on President Kennedy and the Green Berets:

See "Green Berets" on the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum website.
www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFK-in-History/Green-Berets.aspx and

"The Green Berets and Kennedy: Two legacies forever united", Army.mil, November 21, 2019.

Keith Nightingale provides an 'inside perspective' on how the U.S. Army Special Forces was authorized to wear the Green Beret. (LinkedIn, Oct 12, 2020).
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/battle-beret-a-never-ending-campaign-keith-nightingale/

 

 

 

 


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