Monday, April 04, 2005

The Scholar-Soldiers : Do you know them?

Maybe you don't know them by that phrase, perhaps you know them as the Quiet Professionals. Still not sure ... How about Special Forces? Okay, then try Green Berets - got it now?

Many people don't have a clear picture of the elite soldiers of the Army Special Forces, or Green Berets as they are known. A year ago, if you had asked me what I knew, the answer would have been based on the movie "The Green Berets" - in other words, very little! Then I happened to sit next to a Special Forces officer while traveling last year, and the friendship from that chance encounter also provides an ongoing education in matters SF.

So I found the article The Scholar-Soldiers very interesting, and thanks to John at Castle Argghhh, and his reader Mike D, for providing the link. Here is a brief excerpt :

"One of the startling images of the Afghan War was that of heavily bearded U.S. Green Berets on horseback leading the U.S. effort to defeat the Taliban. But this was not the battle of Urdurman revisited. These were high-tech horsemen. They had at their command the ability to call in close air support at any minute from the skies above. It took a month of fighting for the 100 Green Berets and the indigenous fighters of the Northern Alliance to overthrow the fanatics of the Taliban and lay the foundations for a more stable Afghanistan. Apart from bringing a whole new dimension to taking old Nelly for a canter, this feat brought about a new appreciation of what U.S. Special Forces can accomplish.

The Green Berets inhabit a special world all their own. For obvious reasons, we do not know much about it, except what we can glean from the John Wayne movie of 1968, which one had to brave protest lines to get in to see and in which members do impressive stuff with weapons, eat bugs, and are mighty proud of their distinctive headgear. One soldier even speaks flawless Norwegian, which in itself constitutes an act of bravery.

This gap in our knowledge is filled by Linda Robinson’s Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of the Special Forces. Linda Robinson is a senior writer with U.S. News and World Report and a former Nieman fellow. She has covered various wars and guerrilla conflicts, and she served as an embedded reporter with the Green Berets during operation Iraqi Freedom. Her book picks up where Charles M. Simpson III’s Inside the Green Berets: The First Thirty Years left off, covering the conflicts of the past 15 years from Panama to Iraq as seen trough the eyes of individual soldiers. "

The book sounds quite interesting, and it just went on my reading list.

If you are interested in quick insights on the Special Forces, check out Go Jack Army - the blog of a SF recruiter. In particular, he recently pulled together a recap of his postings on Special Forces, check it out here!

Another source of interesting stories is SFAlphaGeek - he's been to the sandbox, and shares some good tales. For a good intro, check out So what do you do for a living?

By the way - the Special Forces article is but one small item from John's "Things I like on a Monday" entry. Make sure you check out the whole thing!