Mention the proposed Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) patch and beret. http://www.sof.news/sfa/sfab-beret/ Which given their collective “nickname” of “Silent Professionals” is rather ironic once you get ten comments in on any of the military news sites where these “quiet professionals” (or at least people claiming to be SF) leave their nuggets of wisdom to share with the world at large. Read the comments if you darehttps://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2017/10/27/the-rumors-are-true-the-army-plans-to-issue-distinctive-berets-to-its-new-military-training-advisers/
The usual complaints abound, “the green beret is ours!” and “the SFAB patch steals our Recondo heritage!” are the two most common, and superficially they seem like sound arguments.
But…this isn’t the first controversy that the Special Forces community has come up with over the Security Force Assistant Brigade concept, even to the point where an SF Colonel openly reminded his SF compatriots to “shut up and Soldier, bitch.” https://warontherocks.com/2017/03/a-green-berets-ode-to-big-armys-new-security-force-assistance-brigades/
And the Army has experienced this before. The Black Beret, adopted by the 75th Ranger Regiment so that they wouldn’t be “paratroopers” with their
raspberry “maroon” beret, nor be Special Forces with their surplussed Canadian infantry berets “green” berets, adopted the beret of the British tanker. The beret is an excellent piece of headgear for a tank crewmember, because your communication headphones slip right over very easily, and there is no brim to get in the way of using periscopes to drive the tank or aim the cannon (or “tank gun” as Americans call it as the Field Artillery branch claims to own all things with the label of “cannon”). And the color black hid the grease stains very well, so it was a rather nice uniform choice for tankers. When GEN Shinseki made the black beret standard headgear, the Rangers very publically protested, then went about finding a different color for themselves.
It seems that any group which thinks of itself as “elite and special” tends to get a case of the butthurt when someone else shows any level of competence at a similar mission set. Marines are incensed to find out that the Army can do amphibious assault, and has no problem with force projection as they see those missions as uniquely belonging to the USMC. Unfortunately for our Devil Dog brothers and sisters, a mission is something given down from the powers that be, and never inherently belongs to any one service, or branch within a service.
So why are the SF long tabbers getting their Ranger panties in a bunch over the SFAB concept? Well, because it does place a much larger “non-SOF” unit clearly into the “gray zone” of conflict. The SF community, in the form of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (JFKSWK), put out in their most recent newsletter that only SF was SF and it would not be handing over any more of the SF mission set to Psychological Operations or Civil Affairs. Even inside the SOF community SF is feeling a bit butt hurt as more Civil Affairs Teams and Military Information Support Teams (MISTs) are welcomed into countries by the State Department on missions that would have gone to SF teams two decades ago.
News flash to the SF community. You guys got exactly what you lobbied for, and I’m going to laugh and laugh as you start to realize this. As massive numbers of SF Captains leave the community due to noncompetitive promotion rates, while “pipe hitters” from CAG and DEVGRU take the 4 star command slot for SOCOM, and while the Infantry Officers from the Ranger Regiment bounce back and forth between SOCOM and FORSCOM to get all their key development positions punched, there is no conclusion left except to point out that SF has worked very hard to make itself irrelevant. If that offends you, it is probably because my point is very true and not made with any sort of malice.
The war on terror reshaped the US Army. SF took way more “direct action” missions than it should, and the “regular Army” tried a whole bunch of solutions to fill the percieved mission requirements. From “Military Transition Teams” to “Police Transition Teams” to “Advise and Assist Brigades” to the new SFAB concept, the Army has decided that we need forces that are able to deploy, embed, and train allied conventional forces. The SF model was never able to take on that mission set, training a Tank Battalion for example, and as long as it was an “ad hoc” solution then the SF teams didn’t seem to mind. But the SFAB…well that is an institutional solution, and one that the SF community sees as a direct threat to their mission.
But…the truth is that there is more “peacetime” deployment mission load than SF can carry. There is more deployment requests based on foreign requests for training or requests for assistance than all of SOCOM can fulfill even with Psyops and Civil Affairs also involved. And JFKSWCS had the chance to shape how the Army as a whole addressed that shortfall when they were put in charge of a proposed war fighting function called “engagement” which is meant to do exactly the sort of things that SFABs are designed to do (as well as the old “advise and assist brigades”). With this prime opportunity to shape the doctrine that would shape the Army, what did the SOF community, specifically the SF community, do? Nothing.
The SF community quietly fought the idea of regular Army units conducting “engagements” during peacetime for reasons of their own. The irony is that it was a former CAG guy who lobbied to create “engagement” in the first place. So congratulations Green Berets, you kept “engagement” from being an Army warfighting function. However that did not change the reality that SF can’t cover down on every mission, and you guys keep bitching like Prima Donnas every time another unit stands up to fill the gap. I was there for when the Asymmetric Warfare Group stood up, and I heard all the SF bitching then, to the point where the AWG now works for the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) rather than SOCOM. I very much remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth that AWG would need to use “regular” M4s https://shadowspear.com/vb/threads/army-takes-hk416s-from-special-unit.2037/ But now AWG is all over the globe, embedding with allies, and bringing back lessons learned while sharing our best tactcis, techniques, and procedures with the units they embed into. SF is not really doing that mission.
There is an old joke that if you want to see two heterosexual men get passionate about a swatch of fabric just go to any Civil War re-enactment and ask about uniform authenticity. The new reality is that if you remind and SF fanboi that “Recondo” came out of the regular Army they’ll tell you that you are “stealing SF’s heritage!” http://www.25thinfantrycrips.com/recondo-school-vietnam/ Then again, when you mention to the “Batt Boys” that Ranger school predates the Ranger Regiment by decades, they like to argue that because Ranger units existed before Ranger school that somehow it is being in the Regiment that is important. Never mind that “Merrill’s Marauders” never once called themselves “Rangers” as the Regiment needed some sort of history and that is what they chose (to the point that every Marauder was awarded a Ranger tab, no matter if they’d gone to school or not).
People often have a deep sense of pride in their unit, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, when the “quiet professionals” start bitching like divas about a shade of a beret being too close to theirs, it doesn’t inspire confidence in the professionalism of the quiet professionals.