GREEN BERETS: THE QUIET PROFESSIONALS
For more than 60 years Green Berets have been at the forefront of America’s most dangerous humanitarian missions around the world.
They crept along the rigid rocks at the base of a mountain held by the militant group Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq, commonly known as Iraq Kurdistan. It was the dead of night and nothing could be heard from these quiet professionals except the light footfall on the occasional loose piece of shale. It was just two days into Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003 and U.S. Special Forces were doing what they do best – unconventional warfare. They met up with Kurdish rebels lingering in the area surrounded by numerous Iraqi militant divisions. The rebels called themselves Peshmerga—“Those who face death”—and they were willing to fight for freedom. So, using small groups of 12 men, a task force — called Task Force Viking — led the Kurds to victory against the Ansar Al-Islam.
Operation Viking Hammer was a textbook U.S. Army Special Forces operation. The mission was to train, fight with, and lead guerrilla forces, and that’s exactly what they did successfully. More commonly known as the Green Berets, the elite branch specializes in unconventional warfare and has a rich history of fighting with and for the mistreated. Their motto is “De oppresso liber, ” or in English, “To liberate the oppressed, ” and they are some of the toughest soldiers in the world.
The Green Berets, so known because of their distinctive service headgear, are specialists in unconventional warfare (their original and most important mission), but they also have four other duties: foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, and counter-terrorism. Because of these five missions, the Green Berets have the widest operational responsibilities of all the Special Operations Forces (SOF).
Unconventional warfare (UW)— also commonly known as guerrilla warfare or insurgency – is the action of aiding and bolstering a resistance movement with the aim of overthrowing an enemy force or government. This type of warfare is often done “underground” with guerrilla forces, requiring Green Berets to work and live with the locals – they live as the natives do, speak as they speak, eat what they eat, gain their trust, and win their support. Thus, they need to be highly skilled in language and culture, and they need the skills to effectively train foreign troops.
They operate in 12-man teams, called Operational Detachment Alphas, or ODAs. Each member of the team has a specialty, making them a subject matter expert at a specific critical skill. The ODA is ideally led by a detachment commander and an assistant detachment commander, followed by an operations sergeant, assistant operations and intelligence sergeant, two weapons sergeants, two engineer sergeants, two medical sergeants and two communications sergeants. These 12-man teams have the mission of liberating the oppressed through aiding resistance movements and guerrilla forces. While winning the support of natives is their hallmark, Green Berets must be trained in combat tactics and reconnaissance, diplomacy, psychological warfare, and even disinformation. Because these quiet professionals must be so skilled in such a wide-range of activities, they have the longest and most complex qualification course in the U.S. military.
Becoming a Green Beret
It’s a small percentage of the military that become part of Special Operations, and an even smaller percentage that are able to wear the signature Green Beret. Azad Ebrahimzadeh is one such man.
It’s not the physical demand of training that causes three-quarters of candidates to fail. The psychological warfare is unbearable,
“I remember the lasting impression that the first SF guy I met left with me. He was charismatic, confident, and well spoken. I wanted to work with people of that caliber, ” Azad, who more commonly goes by his call sign “Oz” (picture below), said about joining the military. “All I knew was that it was an honorable thing to serve my country. I was young and foolhardy. I was excited about the concept of saving lives and making a difference.”
Azad Ebrahimzadeh, U.S. Army Green Beret Medic, Call sign: “Oz”, “Leonidas”. Rank: Staff Sgt Unit: Operated with 3rd Special Forces, 19th Special Forces and 20th Special Forces Group. Tours: Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan, operations in Thailand, South Africa and Mozambique
Knowing little to nothing about the military, Oz joined at the young age of 17 after finding himself in trouble with the law. “I wasn’t prepared for what I was getting into, ” says Oz, a SF Medical Sergeant. What was he getting into? A three-year program that boasts a washout rate above 75 percent.