The past and present of the green beret were celebrated during a Special Forces Regimental Day ceremony April 5 on Fort Bragg, N.C.
Held by the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, the ceremony included a Special Forces Qualification Course graduation and the dedication of a statue honoring President John F. Kennedy and then-Brig. Gen. William Yarborough, who is known as one of the founders of the Special Forces regiment. The statue was commissioned and donated by Ross Perot, an honorary member of the Special Forces regiment and long-time U.S. military supporter, who was also the ceremony's guest speaker.
The Kennedy-Yarborough statue commemorates the meeting between the two individuals in 1961 on Fort Bragg, when Yarborough instructed his Soldiers to take their unauthorized green berets out of hiding and wear them proudly before the president.
"We have a photograph of these two men talking about it, right outside this great place," Perot said during the ceremony, while standing behind the same podium that Kennedy used during his Fort Bragg visit in 1961. "With that photograph, we were able to bring it forward and make this statue just the way they were when they were talking."
The statue stands in front of Kennedy Hall, on the corner of Ardennes St. and Reilly St. on the SWCS headquarters campus. Across the street on the John F. Kennedy Plaza stands another statue donated by Perot, honoring Col. Arthur "Bull" Simons.
"During this meeting, the green beret was officially authorized for wear by the men of the U.S. Special Forces by President Kennedy," Perot said. "President Kennedy showed his continued support for Special Forces, calling the green beret, and these are his words, a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage and a badge of distinction in the fight for freedom, and I can't think of a better series of words to describe the green beret."
While the statue commemorates the origin of the green beret in the U.S. military, and honors 50 years of American unconventional warfare, the ceremony gave Family, friends and instructors an opportunity to applaud the 267th graduating class of Special Forces Soldiers.
"Seventy-five percent of the Soldiers who began this course are no longer here today," said Maj. Gen. Bennet S. Sacolick, the SWCS Commanding General. "Not only is [the Special Forces Qualification Course] the Army's most physically demanding course, it is the Army's most intellectually challenging course. Scholastically, each Soldier must master among 1,000 critical tasks specific to his assigned specialty, and hundreds of advanced war-fighting skills, plus demonstrate a proficiency in a foreign language."
"It takes us longer to produce a green beret than it takes the Air Force to produce a fighter pilot. There is simply not a more demanding program in the United States military," Sacolick said.
Following Perot's official remarks, 127 Special Forces Qualification Course graduates were awarded their course diplomas. Distinguished honor graduates and course leaders from each of the five Special Forces initial-entry specialties (officers, weapons sergeants, engineers, medics and communications specialists) were presented with additional awards for their performance. Allied service members from foreign militaries -- Afghanistan, Macedonia and Turkey -- were also recognized for completing the U.S. SFQC, through the SWCS International Military Student Office.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, senior leaders from through the U.S. Army Special Operations Command toasted to the newest members of their brotherhood. These Soldiers will now report to their first assignments as members of Special Forces operational detachments in one of the Army's five active-duty or two National Guard Special Forces groups.