Special Forces and Pack Animals – Info and Pubs

An Army Special Forces Soldier guides his pack animal during training. (Photo U.S. Army, 2017)
An Army Special Forces Soldier guides his pack animal during training. (Photo U.S. Army, 2017)

Pack animals have been used by U.S. special operations forces (SOF) many times in the past. Today’s U.S. Army Special Forces are no different. Horses, donkeys, and mules have all been used effectively to carry SF Soldiers and their equipment in many parts of the world. Most people are very familiar with the scene of U.S. Army Special Forces (with the occasional USAF combat controller) riding on horseback with the Northern Alliance in the mountains of Afghanistan in the fall of 2011 just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

SF used pack animals in Fall 2001 in Afghanistan
Special Forces and USAF combat controllers rode horses with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in Fall 2001. (Photo U.S. Army 2001)

Over the years Green Berets have attended various military and commercial (civilian) courses where they learn the techniques of riding, caring, and managing horses and pack animals. U.S. Army Special Forces teaches pack animal operations in its advanced mountaineering course. The U.S. Marine Corps provides instruction in horsemanship and pack animal operations at its Mountain Warfare Training Center. In addition, U.S. SOF (especially Army SF) will send their personnel to civilian courses that teach horsemanship and use of pack animals on a frequent basis.

Use of pack animals in Haiti by Special Forces in 1995.
SF Soldier preparing the load for pack animal for a days-long patrol into the Haitian mountains in spring 1995. (Photo of author 1995).

Additional Reading on Pack Animals:

[1] ATP 3-18.13, Special Forces Use of Pack Animals, 2014. This SF guide provides information for the training, caring for, and loading equipment on pack animals – mules, donkeys, and horses.

[2] FM 31-27, Pack Animals in Support of Special Operations Forces, Headquarters, Department of the Army, February 2000. This manual provides guidance for training Army special operations forces (ARSOF) personnel in the techniques of animal pack transport and for organizing and operating pack animal units. The proponent of this publication is the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS).

[3] FM 3-05.213, Special Forces Use of Pack Animals, HQ DA, June 2004. This manual was replaced by ATP 3-18.13 (see above).

[4] Joseph Trevithick has a detailed article about SOF and pack animals. Read “U.S. Special Operators Are Ready to Ride Into War on Horseback Again”The Drive, June 19, 2017.

[5] “Advanced Horsemanship Training for SOF”Military.com, 2017. This article informs us about the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California. The MWTC has an advanced horsemanship training course that teaches SOF personnel the necessary skills to enable them to ride horses and maintain pack animals.

[6] Chip Reid, Inside the horseback training for U.S. Special Forces, CBS News, May 25, 2015. A story about U.S. Special Forces attending the two-week long course for horseback riding at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center.

[7] Dave Chace, Special Forces Advanced Mountain Operations School announces course dates, Army.mil, SWCS Public Affairs Officer, May 21, 2012. This article mentions that Special Forces teaches horsemanship and animal packing operations at the advanced mountaineering course.

[8] Jim Michaels, New Horsepower for war zones: Special Forces saddle upUSA Today, June 22, 2014. Author spends time at and writes about the USMC MWTC.

About John Friberg 201 Articles
John Friberg is the Editor and Publisher of SOF News. He is a retired Command Chief Warrant Officer (CW5 180A) with 40 years service in the U.S. Army Special Forces with active duty and reserve components.