TORII STATION, Okinawa -- The first sergeant's words bounced off the shoot house walls like the sim-rounds being fired through the Special Forces support Soldier's rifles. "We need you to be enablers. To enable, you must be able to enhance our Special Forces missions. In order to do that, you must shoot, move and communicate … in that order, " he howled. The Soldiers fervently regrouped to stack on the door of a notional target and under the watchful eye and direction of the Green Berets they support, the battle drill was honed to a fine edge.
Nearly 20 Special Operations enablers, many new to the paragon Special Forces outfit, completed the 14-day biannual Special Forces Basic Combat Course - Support Nov. 8. Per regulation, the Soldiers - from cooks to drivers, intel to signal - are required to complete the uncompromising course for a tactical tune-up prior to going downrange or every two years.
The 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group is unique, in that it is one of two forward deployed battalions in the Special Forces' inventory. Their portfolio is as diverse and challenging as one would expect of Special Operations in the Pacific. For the enablers, this means being at the top of their game as the Green Berets they support serve far beyond the tip of the spear.
"Because of our unique status forward, we are able to accomplish a great deal in the [Pacific Command area of responsibility] in support of Special Operations Command -- Pacific," said Headquarters Support Company Commander Capt. Eric, whose last name is withheld due to security reasons. "[The Battalion's] support Soldiers will learn critical skills to support [Operational Detachment -- Alphas] during deployment and develop a solid baseline for the Soldier fundamentals in shooting, moving, communicating and medicating," he said.
During the two-week trial, Soldiers revisited basic tasks like marksmanship, communications and troop-leading procedures while tackling more advanced concepts like Zodiac maritime operations training, ATV driver's training and Tactical Combat Casualty Care. For many Soldiers, the chance to develop a more diverse skill-set was an opportunity not be missed.
"You're expected to go above and beyond," said Staff Sgt. Mychal Sexton. "You're challenged to be a versatile individual … be able to work alongside 18-series [Military Occupational Specialties] and not just blend in, but be a part of the team."
The Headquarters Support Company's leadership is determined to build better leaders through rugged yet sophisticated training that will serve the Regiment well on the battlefield. Expectations are high for the support Soldiers, whose readiness is essential to waging unconventional war.
The company's top enlisted Soldier said he would advise would-be Special Operations Soldiers to develop a hunger for learning the craftsmanship of combat and controlled chaos.
"… Not just in your MOS and Soldier skills, but in fitness and physical readiness, ethical behavior and leadership," said 1st Sgt. Jesse, last name withheld. "[Special Forces] Soldiers continually strive to be the very best and they want to see those same characteristics in the Soldiers serving next to them. The most valued tool in Special Forces is the Soldier on the ground, that's every Soldier regardless of his or her MOS. The main effort is and always will be the Team. Our role as support and enablers is to ensure that the Team is supported not only with equipment but with the skills we bring to the fight. [The course] gives our Soldiers the tools to be a part of that team," he said.
The Battalion's ethos is steeped in its lineage of combat service, and traces its roots to the Office of Strategic Services and the 1st Special Service Force during World War II. Between 1957 and 1972, 1st Special Forces Group Soldiers earned eight Distinguished Service Crosses, 44 Silver Stars, and 244 Bronze Stars for valor in Vietnam, according to the unit's official history. These honors were earned at a heavy price. Forty Soldiers of 1st Special Forces Group were killed in Vietnam, while two remain missing in action.
The unit's prowess in combat continued into the 21st Century in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, where they had the distinction of being some of the first Special Operations Forces on the ground.
"It's an honor to be in this battalion," said Staff Sgt. Craig Dolsberry, who said he hopes the training will serve him well in Ranger school. Dolsberry said he appreciates the responsibility the Battalion entrusts him with to lead other Soldiers in a forward-deployed environment.
"My expectation is that these Soldiers will bring what our instructors have invested in them back to their sections to become better warriors and leaders," said 1st Sgt. Jesse. "The onus is on them now to take what they have learned from [the course] to help lead training within their sections and continue to shape a strong NCO corps."
While the training the Soldiers received will serve them well into the future, for now many are glad to have their graduation certificates in hand.
"You have the opportunity to learn from 18-series guys … It's extremely valuable, said Sexton. "They push you to be better and so far from what I've observed, it's a no brainer. I'm glad it's over … but I recommend that everyone gets a taste."