As this article began to develop, I felt a desire to understand and share something of the beliefs and the motivations of those who push themselves to the limits of human endurance and beyond. The best answer I found is the reply of Quiet Professional. Here it is, verbatim:
Thank you for the inquiry. I’d be happy to answer the question. Yes, for the most part it is the strong desire to serve our great nation.
I, for one, have generations of military service in my family history. My father, grandfather and uncles. I am carrying on with the traditions of serving. I think it is a deep seeded desire to protect and serve with honor. If no-one were willing to make the sacrifices necessary to protect not only our nation but that of oppressed nations then what is the point of a free society. America requires that men and women stand up for the liberty, freedom and preservation of our country. I am following a time honored tradition. After high school I searched for direction. I consulted with family, friends, clergy and God. I awoke one night hearing God whisper in my ear that I should be a soldier. I heeded his advice. I don’t know if you believe that God speaks to us or not. But in my particular case He did. I have heard this from many of my teammates as well. I had a personal recruiter that directed my path in moving forward. I opted for the medical profession because for me it came naturally. I knew that if I requested God to guide me in learning my profession, He would. I knew I could rely on him to teach me the necessary skills. He gave me not only the skill but compassion, patience, and ability to proceed. You are correct that I don’t wish to disclose certain aspects of our jobs. It wouldn’t be appropriate. I can say that we love what we do even in situations that most civilians couldn’t or wouldn’t stomach. It is gratifying to hang up our uniforms at the end of the day knowing that we worked for America.
For the record, Quiet Pro, I do believe that God speaks to us. To soldiers, and even to civilians on occasion. 😉 That part of your comment, and especially your statement that you have heard the same thing from many of your teammates, is the most encouraging, gratifying remark I have ever heard from any warrior, and I thank you for sharing it. You make this country a safer place, and you make us proud to share the name “American” with you. Mean Green, Snake Eater, this is spoken to you also, from all of us at the Heartbeat, and from millions of true Americans “from sea to shining sea”.
The question of motivation was the most important one for me to answer satisfactorily. Ravi Zecharias once pointed out that when you have chosen your worldview, many other questions are automatically answered. When Quiet Professional speaks about protecting and serving with honor, and making the sacrifices not only for our nation but other, oppressed, nations, he is telling us that we can trust him and his teammates in any situation. These men will never turn against us. We can always be proud of them. We never have to fear that they would ever deprive us, or any other people, of our God-given rights. Never have to fear that they would treat us or the citizens of any other nation with anything less than honor and dignity. We can trust them, not only to fight the battles we can’t fight for ourselves, but to be outstanding neighbors, outstanding ambassadors of America, and ambassadors of the God Who talks to them. They may have rough spots, and they may suffer extremely from the brutalities that are part of their chosen profession. They’re not perfect and not superhumans. But they are honorable men and women. God has blessed America, with men and women like these.
Motivation of this degree explains the otherwise unexplainable. Consider the tasks assigned to the various Special Forces outfits:
Capturing or extracting “high-value hostiles”. “Disproportionate disruption”. Asymmetric warfare. Intel gathering. Reconnaissance well behind enemy lines. Learning foreign languages and adapting to, or at least accepting, foreign cultures so they can spend months and years away from all they know and love, advising and training foreign soldiers.
Not exactly easy. Nerve-wracking. Terrifying at times. Dangerous beyond measure. Life-threatening. Mistakes in this profession, or just plain bad luck, have terrible consequences. Even the training …. sheesh ….
Why would anyone, for example, go out of their way to endure “Hell Week“?
“Hell Week is the defining event of BUD/S training … Hell Week consists of 5 1/2 days of cold, wet, brutally difficult operational training on fewer than four hours of sleep. Hell Week tests physical endurance, mental toughness, pain and cold tolerance, teamwork, attitude, and your ability to perform work under high physical and mental stress, and sleep deprivation. Above all, it tests determination and desire. On average, only 25% of SEAL candidates make it through Hell Week, the toughest training in the U.S. Military. It is often the greatest achievement of their lives, and with it comes the realization that they can do 20X more than they ever thought possible. It is a defining moment that they reach back to when in combat. They know that they will never, ever quit, or let a teammate down.”
Why would anyone want to accept the towering challenge of living up to the Ranger Creed?
“Ranger Creed: Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit-de-corps of my Ranger Regiment … Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite Soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster and fight harder than any other Soldier … Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task, whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some … Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained Soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress, and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow … Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country … Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor.”
Why? Because of love. Love of country, love of family and friends, love of a way of life that is so much better than anywhere else in the world. Spoken by the father of a Special Forces soldier killed in action, at his funeral, as something that expressed his son’s attitude:
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Delta Force … I think their motto is, “Never allow anything or anyone to stop you from killing or capturing your target.” Hard to say, though. Delta Force operators don’t even tell themselves what they do for a living:
“Though Delta Force is primarily a tier-one counter-terrorist unit, specifically directed to kill or capture high value units (HVU) or dismantle terrorist cells, Delta Force remains extremely flexible and can engage in direct action missions, hostage rescues, and covert missions working directly with the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as high ranking protective services of our senior leaders during visits in war torn countries.”
As for the actual missions, again I encourage everyone to visit the links. There is so much more of the history and accomplishments of all Special Forces that I can’t possibly fit into this article, and it is fascinating and awe-inspiring. Before we start that part, let me say that we have very capable “traditional” military forces. Their high quality does not suffer at all from comparison to Special Forces, because the two roles are different. We definitely need an Army, a Navy, an Air Force, and a Marine Corps, and Americans can be proud to serve in any of these.
The higher standards of Special Forces are not attainable by many people, but the equally vital necessary functions of our “traditional” military, while rugged and demanding, can be dealt with by “G.I. Joe”, the military’s equivalent of “Joe Plumber”. G.I., of course, stands for “General Issue”. Standardized, to use another word. Stock item. On the shelf. Commitment and training are the factors required for traditional military roles.
But there are situations that can’t be satisfactorily dealt with by conventional means. That’s when Special Forces are necessary. America has had “Special Forces” in the past, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that they became a recognized and established element of our military.
The physical, mental, and emotional strength required to conduct Special Operations is beyond the capacity of most of us. Couple outstanding capacity in these areas with extreme training and appropriate missions and equipment, and Special Forces are dazzling in the performance of their duties. (If, that is, their intel, support, and extraction all work out, which they don’t always.) They are easily romanticized because of this, but “dazzling” and “romantic” are probably not words that come to the minds of Special Forces warriors when they are engaged. They’re too focused on their specific mission and on how to stay alive, if possible.
From Special Forces Association :
“Deployed on every continent, operating in remote areas under spartan conditions, with a tenuous radio link their only connection to higher headquarters, small detachments of U.S. forces are training their allies to defend themselves against dangerous insurgents. Often they are the sole American military presence in a nation, every day making tough decisions in unheard-of situations, with no one looking over their shoulders. They volunteered for this duty … The Army’s Special Forces, known popularly as the Green Berets, are specially selected and trained. They are America’s main weapon for waging unconventional warfare in an age when conventional conflicts have become increasingly rare … The Army’s premier proponent of unconventional warfare, Special Forces traces its historical roots from the elite Army formations of World War II and the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS. The OSS was formed in World War II to gather strategic intelligence and conduct operations behind enemy lines in support of resistance groups in Europe and the Far East … In the Army’s official lineage and honors, the SF groups are linked to the regiments of the First Special Service Force, (the Devil’s Brigade) an elite combined Canadian-American unit that fought in the Aleutians, Italy and southern France … The Army Rangers of World War II began with the activation of the 1st Ranger Battalion on June 19, 1942, in Carrickfergus, Ireland. The 1st Battalion was nicknamed Darby’s Rangers for their commander, Colonel William O. Darby … Merrill’s Marauders was the title given to Brigadier General Frank D. Merrill’s, 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), a 3,000-man long-range penetration force modeled on the British “Chindits.” The Marauders fought in five major battles and 17 skirmishes in the China-Burma-India Theater … ”
There are more outfits. More wars. “Anti-communist guerrillas with homes in North Korea and historical ties to Seoul … and their American cadre … eventually numbered 22,000 and claimed 69,000 enemy casualties … ”
“The first and last American Soldiers to die in Vietnam due to enemy action were members of the 1st SF Group. On Oct. 21, 1957, Captain Harry G. Cramer Jr. was killed, and on Oct. 12, 1972, Sgt. Fred C. Mick was killed.”
More Vietnam service by Special Forces:
“By the time the 5th left Southeast Asia, SF soldiers had earned 17 Medals of Honor, one Distinguished Service Medal, 90 Distinguished Service Crosses, 814 Silver Star Medals, 13,234 Bronze Star Medals, 235 Legions of Merit, 46 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 232 Soldier’s Medals, 4,891 Air Medals, 6,908 Army Commendation Medals and 2,658 Purple Hearts. It was a brilliant record, built on blood and sacrifice … But fighting in remote areas of Vietnam – publicity to the contrary – wasn’t the only mission of SF. It was also responsible for training thousands of Vietnam’s ethnic tribesmen in the techniques of guerrilla warfare.”
And other nations, other operations, that you may never have known about: “Not to be overlooked, other SF training teams were operating in the 1960s in Bolivia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Colombia and the Dominican Republic. Counterinsurgency forces of the 8th SF Group conducted clandestine operations against guerrilla forces, carrying out some 450 missions between 1965 and 1968. In 1968, SF-trained Bolivian rangers were involved in tracking down and capturing the notorious revolutionary, Che Guevara, in the wilds of south-central Bolivia.”
In the 1980s, “…SF teams were deployed to dozens of countries around the globe. Missions varied from training allied nations to defend themselves to offering humanitarian aid, like medical care and building construction, in remote villages of Third World countries. SF proved particularly successful in El Salvador and Honduras, preventing the civil war in neighboring Nicaragua from spreading beyond its borders.”
The missions didn’t always hold up long-term. Politicians have the moral responsibility to consult with military leaders and choose missions with an eye to long-term results as well as headlines in the short run: “In Colombia, SF teams conducted a long-term program of upgrading the capabilities of the Colombian military in its counterinsurgent fight against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia insurgency and the drug cartels.”
And as we know, Special Forces are active today in many places around the globe. I do not think it wise to comment further.
Here’s one famous outfit that was disbanded, but has been recreated by the Marine Corps:
“The U.S. Marine Corps formed the Marine Raider Battalions during World War II, inspired by the British Commandos. Two Raider battalions were activated in February 1942. First and 2nd Raider Battalions specialized in conducting small-unit amphibious rubber boat insertions, light infantry warfare, and executing independent raids behind Japanese lines … The Raiders were involved in almost every major Pacific campaign from August 1942 to January 1944, earning seven Congressional Medals of Honor, 141 Navy Crosses and 330 Silver Star Medals for combat operations conducted in less than a year and a half’s time …
In early January 1944, the Marine Corps re-designated the Raider Battalions, and the Raiders, in their official capacity, were no more …
… Until June this year  when MARSOC [U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command] re-designated its subordinate commands, integrating ‘Raider’ into their titles. ‘I was there when they made that happen,’ said Mudhole. ‘It made me cry, actually, because of what it meant to me and the Raiders still alive. It means our legacy will live on for as long as there’s a United States.’ ”
The US Air Force has its own “Special Forces” group, Air Force Special Operations. One unit of that group is the Pararescue Jumpers, the PJs:
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to get somebody out.” (Of trouble.)
The “protect and defend” attitude of Special Forces is not something they leave at the base when they return home…
Books for further exploration of the Special Forces world, from your library or Amazon:
“The Quiet Professional”
Bam Bam should love this one, judging by the title:
“Masters of Chaos”
Have a blessed and Safe RED Friday all!