FORT PICKETT, Va. – A mob of angry citizens flooded the streets, smoke filled the air, and what was once a peaceful protest erupted into a riot, threatening the lives of the diplomatic personnel inside a simulated U.S. Embassy abroad. When threatened, the embassy relies on its Marine Security Detachment and its Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) as its first line of defense. When those agencies are pushed to their limits, the Green Berets are called upon. Green Berets are U.S. Army Special Forces who excel in unconventional warfare and increase the combat potential of forces around the globe.
For almost a week, Soldiers with the Ohio National Guard’s Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (Bravo Company), 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), participated in a joint exercise with the U.S. Department of State to help train students in its Agent Training Program. The program's advanced tactics, leadership and skills course (ATLAS) culminated in a high-intensity immersion exercise known as CAPSTONE.
Bravo Company's participation was vital, as the elite Soldiers provided a wealth of knowledge and experience to the students. This hands-on training is invaluable in preparing agents to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel abroad upon graduation from the Agent Training Program.
"Bravo Company participated in the ATLAS capstone to build and establish relationships and interagency cooperation," said the Bravo Company detachment commander. “Similar to Special Operations Forces, Diplomatic Security Services personnel are assigned to austere and remote parts of the world.”
Bravo Company filled the roles of both instructors and participants during the Capstone training exercise. As instructors, they advised high-ranking diplomatic personnel and embassy security forces before the simulated conflict to help increase security and adaptability using existing forces on location. As participants, Bravo Company acted as a quick reaction force (QRF). The DSS agents-in-training were able to call the QRF as the simulated embassy was on the brink of being overrun. Bravo Company also served as a QRF to rescue an attacked convoy of U.S. personnel and conducted a helicopter insertion during a simulated hostage rescue mission.
Adaptability and critical thinking were essential in facing the growing and ever-shifting threats DSS personnel have to meet.
Bravo Company employed its practical and hard-won wisdom to deliver guidance in the joint, interagency and high-tempo CAPSTONE environment. The students of the Agent Training Program worked with Bravo Company to receive hands-on advice and lessons in the field during a challenging and realistic series of training scenarios.
This personal level of engagement with Special Forces leveraged the training provided by the ATLAS program, enhancing the student's pre-existing essential skills with weapons, tactics and critical thinking which allows them to dominate in high-intensity conflict across the globe.
"Many Diplomatic Security Service agents have never worked with Special Operation Forces elements, so just talking through our capabilities and the things we bring to the environment is value-added for them," said the Bravo Company detachment commander.
Embassy defense and evacuation, hostage recovery and exfiltration are among countless missions Bravo Company executes. As the end of the CAPSTONE exercise was announced, both Bravo Company and DSS agents had integrated entirely as one unit. Together they had established an understanding of how they would react with one another in any given scenario.
"What we try to gain from this is a better understanding of how these organizations work, how they're structured and how they plan and conduct operations; we think we can better support them by doing that," said Lt. Col. Samuel Oliver, commander, 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group. “In many countries that we work in, the State Department is the lead in those countries. We have to work under their umbrella and meet mutual goals, both with the Departments of Defense and State.”
The shared experiences gained from joint exercises like ATLAS: CAPSTONE enables greater understanding and enhanced communication between organizations. Real-world exercises also build upon the units’ existing experience and familiarization with certain skills. These events provide an invaluable and integrated training opportunity with federal and Ohio National Guard Special Forces to ensure interoperability, lethality and adaptability in any environment.