The U.S. Army Special Forces regiment welcomed more than 120 men into its brotherhood during a Special Forces Qualification Course graduation ceremony May 17 in Fayetteville, N.C.
The ceremony, where the newest Special Forces Soldiers wore their green berets and the Special Forces tab for the first time, marked the completion of at least one full year of specialized, individual training at Fort Bragg, N.C. with the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.
"The long, storied tradition of the legendary green berets began with just a few individuals who sought to strive for a higher standard of excellence in the profession of arms," said Maj. Gen. Patrick M. Higgins, the ceremony's guest speaker, to the graduates during the ceremony. "Now it's your turn."
Higgins is the director of the Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense Organization, part of the joint staff in Washington, D.C. His first assignment as a Special Forces officer was as a detachment commander in 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in 1986, when the group was assigned to Fort Bragg. Since that time, Higgins has gone on to command 2nd Battalion, 5th SFG(A) at Fort Campbell, Ky., the 3rd SFG(A) at Fort Bragg and the U.S. Special Operations Command-Africa, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany.
"Only through carefully, arduously and ruthlessly building the strength of the individual Soldier will we preserve the strength of the regiment," Higgins said, acknowledging the graduates' countless hours in training.
Only Soldiers who have successfully completed the three-week Special Forces Assessment and Selection program are qualified to begin the Special Forces Qualification Course. Once enrolled in the course, SFQC students must complete five phases: orientation and history; language and culture; small-unit tactics; specialty training; and a final culmination exercise known as Robin Sage. Each student is assigned an occupational specialty within the Special Forces branch and attends specific training to become a Special Forces officer, weapons sergeant, engineer, medic or communications specialist.
"Your training has only just begun," Higgins said to the graduates. "Your country demands the most from you. The regiment expects that no matter the task, no matter the environment, no matter the difficulty, you will always accomplish the mission."
During the ceremony, SWCS recognized a 2010 SFQC graduate for heroic actions taken while attending the course.
Capt. Chad Lewis, now a detachment commander with the 5th SFG(A), was awarded the Soldier's Medal for providing emergency response support to a civilian plane crash.
On July 12, 2010, Lewis witnessed a single-engine aircraft's catastrophic crash at Horace Williams Airport in Chapel Hill, N.C. After the plane came to a halt, Lewis scaled a perimeter fence and ran more than 600 yards to the crash site to provide aid to the survivors. He found that the pilot was killed on impact but that the co-pilot was partially ejected from the wreckage and had suffered double below-the-knee amputations. Lewis saved the co-pilot's life by applying improvised tourniquets to his legs and remaining with him while he was medically evacuated to a nearby hospital.
The Soldier's Medal is awarded to any member of the United States armed forces or of a friendly foreign nation who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Army at the time of the heroic act, distinguished himself or herself by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy. The same degree of heroism is required as that of the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross, and performance must involve personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy.
Like Lewis and all SFQC graduates before them, the members of this graduating class will soon report to their first operational Special Forces assignment with one of the Army's five active-duty or two National Guard Special Forces groups. In these assignments, the will work with host nations, regional partners and indigenous populations to shape the foreign political and military environments in order to prevent war.
"We live in a time of great consequence and change," Higgins said. "Committed around the globe, the military continues to fight while simultaneously disengaging and reducing force structure. There has never been more of a demand for Special Forces."
"Whether it's destroying terrorist networks, stabilizing lawless regions or conducting humanitarian relief operations, rest assured you are trained and ready, and I have no doubt you will continue to bring honor and glory to our regiment," he said to the graduates. "To navigate through the uncertain conflicts of tomorrow, we must be able to defer, deter and defeat aggression, not only by ourselves, but by, with and through our allies and partner nations."
"America's Army is the best-manned, best-trained, best-equipped, best-led and most decisive land force in the world," Higgins said. "And the very best in the U.S. Army is its Special Forces."