by Angela Walter.
A Special Forces mountain team assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conducted their annual mountain requalification training in the wilderness of Colorado and Montana from October to December.
U.S. Army Special Forces train extensively year-round in a wide variety of unconventional warfare abilities. Each Special Forces Operational Detachment – Alpha (SFOD-A) specializes in a specific area of expertise, requiring every member of the team to become well-versed in their respective specialty by completing annual requalification training. For the mountain teams of 2nd Battalion, that means a few long months shaking the dust off their climbing ropes and sharpening their ice axes.
“We start the training by establishing baseline skills in basic mountaineering tasks,” said the detachment’s operations sergeant. “It expands from multi-pitch rock climbing to high-angle rescue operations in summer conditions to ice climbing and alpine skiing in winter.”
The teams also train extensively in moving over snow-covered terrain using snowmobiles and back country skiing techniques. Due to a high risk of avalanches, avalanche training is also an integral part of this skill set.
“This training is what gives us the ability to conduct year-round operations in mountainous terrain,” said the detachment’s commander. “The training is intense and demanding, but is necessary for successful mountain operations.”
The company sergeant major for the detachment briefly joined the team for training in Montana, returning to his own background of mountain expertise while getting an up close look at the team’s training.
“This is what makes a mountain team. Annually, this is what they have to do to demonstrate to the command team and to themselves that they have the skills and understanding to accomplish the mission in a mountainous terrain,” said the sergeant major.
Mountaineering differs from other specialties in that it often involves longer, slower, and more deliberate movements that encompass a wide range of necessary skills. Moving through mountainous terrain can span multiple days and multiple different environments with varying weather conditions.
Mastering the skills it takes to move quickly and efficiently over this unforgiving landscape is not only important to the SFOD-A’s mission success, but to their ability to pass on their knowledge and skills to our indigenous partners around the world.
“It’s amazing to see how it has evolved,” the sergeant major continued. “The equipment’s gotten better, the training for the guys has gotten better, and so, too, has their knowledge and skill; as it should. We should always be getting better at what we do.”
While training in Montana, the team took the chance to see where their roots first sprouted. In 1942, the First Special Service Force was formed at Fort Harrison, MT, where they were trained in unconventional mountain warfare and cold weather survival in support of important, high-threat missions during World War II. The First Special Service Force became the foundation on which our modern special forces were built.
“The training in Montana gave us the chance to see exactly where and how our lineage started,” said the operations sergeant. “It shows the significance of mountain warfare from then to now, and how it’s still important for us to train in these environments today.”
The mountains of Colorado and Montana are not the only challenges the team has faced. In the last two years, the team has spent a total of twelve months on deployments to Afghanistan. In real world operations, everything the team does in the training environment at home is the difference between mission success and mission failure downrange.
“Although our operations in a training environment are different than in a combat zone, our operational requirements remain the same,” said the operations sergeant. “Our ability to successfully shoot, move, communicate, and medicate downrange serves as the foundation on which we can expand and refine our skills as a mountain team at home.”
The 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) is regionally aligned to Europe with operational missions ranging from the beaches of the Black Sea to the mountains and snow of the high north regions of Norway. While focused on Europe, the group continues to support enduring rotations to Afghanistan.
This story is a reprint of “Green Berets Return to the Heart of the Mountains for Annual Training”, by Sgt. Angela Walter, 10th Special Forces Group, 13 Dec 2019. Posted on DVIDS on 13 April, 2020.
Photo: Green Berets from the 10th Special Forces Group conduct their annual mountain requalification training in the wilderness of Colorado and Montana in October to December 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Angela Walter, 10th SFGA, December 13, 2019.)