The 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) celebrated its annual Menton Week Dec. 4-8 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The First Special Service Force, the predecessor to modern day Special Forces, disbanded in Menton, France Dec. 5, 1944.
Each year, the 1st SFG (A) reflects on this history during a week of activities; the first activity in a joint memorial ceremony. Since the First Special Service Force was a unit comprised of Americans and Canadians, members of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment joined in the ceremony. Col. Will Beaurpere, 1st SFG (A) Group Commander, and Master Warrant Officer for the CSOR, Sergeant Major Shaun Burdeyny, laid a wreath at the 1st SFG (A) Memorial Wall in honor of those American and Canadian special operations forces who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
"The First Special Service Force consisted of volunteers - men who trained for an unknown mission, going deep behind enemy lines to pave the way, not only for conventional forces during World War II, but paved the way for the modern day Special Forces," Beaurpere said. "From the First Special Service Force was born the Green Beret."
"To be reminded of the great legacy of the First Special Service Force that we are so fortunate to perpetuate helps the ongoing solidarity between our two countries," Burdeyny said. "The Canadian Special Operations Regiment is young. Since our inception in 2006, we have endeavored to live up to the values and heroic actions of the men of the First Special Service Force. We have been especially fortunate to have shared our baptism under fire in Afghanistan in 2006 with our American comrades."
Throughout the week, various teams competed in physical competitions such as a run-row-ruck, a stress shoot, and Olympic weight lifting into order to compete for an overall fitness title. The teams were comprised of the battalions, a team of competitors over 40-years-old, the CSOR, and the Philippine National Police Special Action Force, a regionally aligned partner force in the Pacific area of operation. The winner of this year's competition was the 2nd Battalion, 1st SFG (A).
The week also provided the opportunity for the Soldiers to show their families some of the unique aspects of the 1st SFG (A) to include a family day for range operations. During range operations, family members were allowed to shoot or hold the M4 carbine, M240 machine gun, the Beretta M9, M249 light machine gun, M3 "Grease Gun" submachine gun, Glock 19 pistol, the SCAR-H heavy assault rifle, and others like the Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle. Families were also allowed onto the drop zone to watch airborne operations. The Soldiers were able to earn Canadian or Filipino foreign jump wings.
"We had a tightly compressed window for air," said Capt. Joseph Yu, Group support Battalion, the airborne commander for the event. "We only had a three hour window to jump, and our foreign partners rearranged their schedules to accommodate us. Because of them, we pushed 340 static line jumpers and 46 military free fall jumpers out, and it was special because we did it together."
The week's festivities concluded with a First in Asia ball at the Tacoma Convention Center, a tribute to the 1st SFG (A)'s role as the Army's premier special operations force in the Pacific. During the ball, the 1st SFG (A) paid tribute to its Asian partners and enjoyed cultural performances from Thai and Guam dance troops.
This year's Menton Week celebrated 60 years of the 1st SFG (A). "This is a momentous year for the 1st Special Forces Group as we celebrate our 60th anniversary," Beaurpere said. "In 1957 we activated at Camp Buckner, Japan and became the First in Asia. Sixty years later we remain aligned with our Pacific partners. To our friends from the Philippines and Hong Kong, thank you for traveling so far to train with us."