Green Berets are historically some of the Army's toughest
Soldiers. They've been to hell and back since the days before the
beret, since World War II when small teams of Soldiers conducted
unconventional warfare behind enemy lines, often under the umbrella
of the Office of Strategic Services. Special operators fought
guerrilla warfare in Europe and the Pacific and later in Korea and
Vietnam. (President John F. Kennedy authorized the green beret in
Now-Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brad Fowers with Afghan fighters and
warlords, who opposed the Taliban (2001). Fowers served on one of
the first Special Forces detachments from the U.S. Army Special
Operations Command's 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) to arrive
in Afghanistan following 9-11. Their mission was to destroy the
Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaida sanctuary in Afghanistan. They
scouted bomb targets and teamed with local resistance groups. (Photo courtesy of
U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brad Fowers)
During Operation Desert Storm, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf described
Special Forces as "the eyes and ears" of the conventional forces and
the "glue that held the coalition together". Green Berets in
Afghanistan were instrumental in the fall of the Taliban. They've
also provided humanitarian assistance, trained indigenous forces and
performed special reconnaissance missions around the world.
Among the most essential components of such missions is
relationship-building, the working with local allies to overthrow
corrupt regimes like the Taliban. It involves embedding in local
militia units, sharing their accommodations, eating at their
communal meals. It involves drinking tea, taking horse rides along
steep mountain trails. It's sharing their hardships, bathing in icy
rivers, and sleeping in a cave or under a truck in the mountains in
freezing November weather.
"I find the best way to start out
is, even if you don't know a language fluently, showing an effort
that you want to learn the language," said Chief Warrant Officer 2
Brad Fowers, a Special Forces Soldier who served on one of the first
Special Forces teams to go into Afghanistan in 2001. "Picking up on
cultural nuances, you know, the placing of a hand on the chest, head
gestures, picking up on all of these things and kind of giving that
back when you communicate with a partner force just shows a lot of
Building trust, whether it's by showing local
fighters they can rely on America, that there will be bombs,
ammunition and humanitarian supplies to support them, he said, "is
everything. I think that was really highlighted in Afghanistan ...
You have a handful of Americans there. At any time, that town can
fold on you. You only have so much ammunition. You're just as
reliant on them as they are on you."
Fowers noted that, for
the missions they undertook, they packed only what they could carry.
Yes, there were supply drops, but most of their weapons were locally
procured, such as Soviet machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
In fact, the Afghans taught the Americans a few things about
surviving in the harsh Hindu Kush mountains and jerry-rigging their
November 11, 2016 - Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brad Fowers poses in front of De Oppresso Liber, or the Horse Soldier, a 16-foot bronze statue honoring the work of Special Forces Soldiers in Afghanistan at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in the last months of 2001. Recently rededicated, the statue stands near ground zero in New York. Fowers served as a junior weapons sergeant on Operational Detachment A 572 in 2001. (Photo
by Cheryle Rivas, U.S. Army Special Operations Command)
"Their field craft was amazing," he explained. "They
could make a vehicle last for months, [even] with the
environment they put it through and the harsh treatment of
it. I learned a lot from them on vehicle maintenance. They
would take out the air filters and blow it out with the
exhaust pipe or things like that ... They definitely know
how to survive in their environment.
"We needed them
as much as they needed us. It was a pretty neat experience
to go through. I was very surprised at how much support came
from the small villages ... They definitely put their best
foot forward and helped us in any way they could."
Never, he said, underestimate the power of will. It can
overcome the severest privation, the harshest oppression.
"You show me a population with a will and I'll show you a
population that can overcome anything.
biggest part of it: The people have to want what they're
after. It doesn't matter how much money or equipment or
training you throw at a partner nation. If they don't have
the will, it's not going to be successful. They have to have
the will for it.
"In '01, the Afghans definitely had
the will. They were ready to go against the Taliban with
pick axes and whatever they could find in the tool shed. Of
course, giving them some equipment and training goes a long
way, but it's all for naught if they don't have the will to
By Elizabeth M. Collins, Soldiers, Defense Media Activity
Army News Service
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