More than 100 Soldiers graduated from the 266th Special Forces Qualification Course and entered the ranks of the U.S. Army's Special Forces Regiment on Feb. 23 at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville.
These Soldiers completed anywhere from 52 to 92 weeks of training, depending on their designated specialty and language requirements.
The SFQC focuses on core tactical competencies, specialty skills, survival, and regional language and cultural skills necessary for Soldiers to join one of the Army's Special Forces groups.
The final test for these Soldiers is Robin Sage, a culmination exercise set in the fictional war-torn country of Pineland, which covers 15 North Carolina counties. During this time Soldiers infiltrate Pineland to prepare citizens to fight independently as guerrilla forces to support a resistance movement.
Upon completion of Robin Sage, Soldiers join the Special Forces brotherhood, earning the right to wear the Special Forces tab and don the highly coveted green beret.
During the ceremony two former Special Forces Soldiers were inducted as distinguished members of the Special Forces regiment. Retired Sgt. Maj. Jon R. Cavaiani fought during Vietnam and captured and spent 23 months as a prisoner of war. He was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Gerald Ford during a ceremony on Dec. 12, 1974. Retired Brig. Gen. Frank J. Toney, Jr., who commanded both Special Operations Command -- Central and U.S. Army Special Forces Command, was also inducted as a distinguished member.
Six Special Forces Soldiers were honored during the ceremony as distinguished honor graduates: Capt. David Martin, a Special Forces Officer; Sgt. Steven Larson, a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant; Sgt. Michael McGuckin, Jr., a Special Forces Engineer Sergeant; Sgt. Zachary Wright, a Special Forces Medical Sergeant; Staff Sgt. Apollo Emeka, a Special Forces Communications Sergeant and Lebanese 1st Lt. Michael Kaddisee, an allied partner attended the course and was attended the Special Forces Detachment commander course.
The distinguished honor graduate award is presented to Soldiers earning the highest marks in each military occupational specialty.
Five Special Forces Soldiers were also honored and recognized for their leadership throughout the class: Capt. Philip Kroll, Sgt. Jason McDonald, Sgt. Andrew Ammer, Sgt. David Willis and Sgt. 1st Class Robbi Stanton.
Lt. Col. George M. Bond, the commander of 1st Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg was the guest speaker for the ceremony.
Bond spoke directly to the newest members of the regiment about the iconic moment they were participating in.
"In a few moments you'll don the green beret for the first time, you'll be putting on more than just a piece of green cloth. When you don that green beret you will be shouldering a legacy," Bond said. "Your actions from here on out will no longer be solely a reflection on you, but on the entire Special Forces regiment, past and present."
As hundreds of friends, Family members and colleagues watched on, the graduating class stood in unison and recited the Special Forces creed. They then put on, for the first time, the headgear has come to identify the legacy and mission of Army Special Forces: the green beret.
"Our accomplishments speak for themselves, we don't have to," Bond said at the conclusion of his speech, referencing the Special Forces tradition of acting as "quiet professionals."
The Special Forces Qualification Course is conducted by the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, the training center for Special Forces, Civil Affairs and Military Information Support Operations.