Third Special Forces Group (Airborne) traces its lineage back to July 9, 1942, when Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment was activated for 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment, First Special Service Force, Camp William Henry Harrison, Montana. The First Special Service Force was a combined Canadian-American organization charged with conducting commando-type special operations behind enemy lines in Europe. During World War II, the unit participated in campaigns in the Aleutian Islands, Naples-Foggia, Anzio, Rome-Arno, Southern France, and the Rhineland. The First Special Service Force was disbanded in France, January 6, 1945.
The 3rd SFG was first activated on December 5, 1963, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as a Special Action Force (SAF) with a Middle East and Africa orientation. When 3rd SFG was activated, it was manned with Soldiers from 1st Special Forces Group, 5th Special Forces Group, 7th Special Forces Group, and the Special Warfare Training Group of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS). In recognition of the various groups the Special Forces Soldiers were coming from, 3rd SFG adopted a flash made up of the four colors used on those various flashes; yellow for the 1st SFG, red from the 7th SFG, black from the 5th SFG, and white from the Special Forces Training Group. Since 1963, the distinctive four-color design has been worn by the unit.
The 3rd SFG trained soldiers from many nations, including the armed forces of Mali, Iraq, Ethiopia, the Congo, and Jordan. Additionally, 3rd SFG participated in training exercises in Southern Europe, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the United States. The unit also supported the Gemini 5, 6, and 7 manned space launches with detachments who stood by to recover astronauts in the event of an emergency landing.
The 3rd SFG was inactivated on December 1, 1969, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, four days before the group's six-year anniversary.
Because of the need to again provide regional engagement on the African continent, and in the Caribbean, 3rd SFG was reactivated July 1, 1990. During the next several years, the group deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield / Desert Storm for the liberation of Kuwait, Restore Hope in Somalia, and Restore Democracy in Haiti. In 1996, the 3rd SFG focus shifted back to Africa, to include participation in the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI), supporting African peacekeeping efforts, as the unit again trained armed forces on that continent.
Since 2001, 3rd SFG has remained fully engaged in the War on Terrorism supporting Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Freedom's Sentinel and Resolute Support. Priorities shifted to the Middle East as the unit trained, advised, and assisted Afghan National Security Forces since early 2002. The 3rd SFG was the first group to serve as the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF) Headquarters in Afghanistan, and has trained various elements of the Afghan National Army (ANA), to include Commandos, Special Forces, Afghan Local Police, and Police Special Tactics elements.
In 2014, 3rd SFG reoriented to engagement in Africa, although elements continue to support Middle East operations in order to maintain relationships, and to train, advise, and assist partner nation special operations units. The 3rd SFG has had two of its Soldiers awarded the Medal of Honor for actions during the War on Terrorism.
Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism while serving as the weapons sergeant in Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3312, Special Operations Task Force-33, CJSOTF-Afghanistan during combat operations against an armed enemy in Konar Province, Afghanistan, January 25, 2008. Staff Sgt. Miller was killed in action with the posthumous Medal of Honor presented to his family, October 6, 2010.
Staff Sergeant Ronald J. Shurer II distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a senior medical sergeant for Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, Special Operations Task Force-33, CJSOTF-Afghanistan during combat operations against an armed enemy in the Shok Valley of Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, April 6, 2008. Staff Sgt. Shurer was presented with the Medal of Honor, October 1, 2018.