5th Special Forces Group celebrates 50th anniversary
Posted: Thursday, September 22, 2011 8:02 pm
By KRISTIN M. HALL
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) — The 5th Special Forces Group celebrated its 50th anniversary at Fort Campbell, Ky., by reflecting on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that launched the elite unit of Green Berets into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During a ceremony Wednesday at the installation on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line, a pair of steel beams from the World Trade Center was unveiled on Gabriel Field, where trees are planted in honor of the group’s fallen.
The 5th Special Forces Group was activated on Sept. 21, 1961, at Fort Bragg, N.C., when the U.S. was involved in Vietnam. As one of the Special Forces’ primary missions, 5th Group trained and led South Vietnamese forces in reconnaissance and combat missions throughout the war. Eighteen Medals of Honor were presented to soldiers from 5th Group and the group was awarded numerous other unit citations, making it one of the most decorated and well-known Army units.
But the 2001 terrorist attacks marked another turning point for the 5th Group, whose soldiers now specialize in responding to conflicts all over Middle East and southwest Asia. They were among the first U.S. troops in Afghanistan weeks after the terrorist attacks and worked to dismantle the Taliban regime in a matter of months.
The unit similarly spearheaded the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and has spent years there fighting insurgents and training Iraqi forces.
Special forces units operate largely without public knowledge. But some of their stories have been made public, such as the soldiers from 5th Group who rode into battle against the Taliban on horseback. Their exploits were recounted in a popular book called “Horse Soldiers.” They later joined the Northern Alliance fighters in quelling a bloody uprising of Taliban fighters at a prison where John Walker Lindh, the American who joined the Taliban, was captured.
Col. Scott Brower, the 5th Group commander, said his soldiers have developed a bond with the first responders to the terrorist attacks, firefighters and police and others, who ran into the burning buildings to rescue people.
“It is an understanding and an ability to relate to that mindset that led those first responders to go to the aid of others at risk of their own lives that has kept many of our soldiers in these organizations friends today,” he said.
Published in The Messenger 9.22.11