Small Wars Journal

“DET-A”: Applied Unconventional Warfare In Berlin and Beyond in the Cold War

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 6:06pm

“DET-A”: Applied Unconventional Warfare In Berlin and Beyond in the Cold War

Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite 1956-1990 by James Stejskal. Available at Amazon here.

Reviewed by David S. Maxwell

James Stejskal has performed a great service to not only Special Forces but to the national security community by researching and writing this highly readable and anecdote filled history of one of the most unsung military organizations in the Cold War.  Little has been written about this organization save for an article in VERITAS The Journal of US Army Special Operations History (which unfortunately is not published online which I hope some USASOC commander will eventually rectify) and stories on niche websites that focus on special operations. This is due largely to the classified nature of the unit and its work I searched Google as well as the major on line general and academic reference sources and I can find no other book on the subject of DET-A.

Of course the history of the unit and its activities are important and the book is worth the read just for that.  The general public as well as students of history and security studies would both enjoy and benefit from reading this book.  The stories of how the organization was established and evolved, its Cold War exploits in and around Berlin, its advanced skills training and operations, even testing the special atomic demolitions munitions (SADM) concept, and its deployment of soldiers to Tehran in support of Operation Eagle Claw all make for good reading and relevant lessons for today.  And it is those lessons that make this a must read for anyone in Special Operations and should be read, tabbed, annotated, and marked up by every Special Forces soldier in the Regiment.  Special Operations leaders and practitioners as well as policy makers and strategists should read the final chapter, “A Casualty of Peace” and ask what if we had not deactivated DET-A at the end of the Cold War?  What if we had maintained this unit and established others like in it in the post-Cold War World?  Why ask this question?  Because DET-A was the unit throughout the Cold War that conducted “applied unconventional warfare” and was the best example of this quote that has been attributed to Robert Gates (though the source cannot be confirmed it is located here).

"Unconventional Warfare (UW) ... remains uniquely Special Forces'. It is the soul of Special Forces: the willingness to accept its isolation and hardships defines the Special Forces soldier. Its training is both the keystone and standard of Special Forces Training: it has long been an article of faith, confirmed in over forty years of worldwide operations, that "If you can do the UW missions, you can do all others." The objective of UW and Special Forces' dedication to it is expressed in Special Forces' motto: De Oppresso Liber (to free the oppressed)."

The foundation for all that DET-A did rested on its UW training, education, and expertise.  While the detachment trained for unconventional warfare should war in Europe break out between NATO and the Warsaw Pact it also conducted operations that were successful because the foundational training in and focus of unconventional warfare.  Because of its forward stationing, the intensive training on the full range of SF combat skills, intelligence, and tradecraft the soldiers of DET-A can truly be called masters of “applied unconventional warfare.”

No mission illustrates this capability better that the detachment’s contribution to Operation Eagle Claw.  Although there has been little chronicling of this effort and it was overshadowed by the tragedy at Desert One and our failure to rescue the hostages it is worthy of study in how an investment in personnel with UW capabilities overseas can be at the right time and place to conduct operations to support critical national missions.

This is important because in 2010 in the ARSOF Capstone Concept there is the recognition that the Army Special Operations Command should invest in this type of capability and specifically recognized DET-A as well as other forward deployed Special Forces detachments (though each had different missions specific to their region):

“Historical ARSOF personnel investment overseas is best represented by, but not limited to, such organizations as Special Forces Detachment A in Berlin, Special Forces Detachment K in Korea, and the 46th Special Forces Company in Thailand, as well as long-term presence in Central and South America working for Chiefs of Mission. The advantages of an investment line of effort in IW are the opportunity to develop cultural and environmental skills as well as to build and sustain relationships and gain access and mutual understanding of challenges in the region.” (Page 8, but no longer available and superseded by subsequent Capstone Concepts).

Even more important is the UW discussion in the US Army Special Operations Command’s Special Operations Support to Political Warfare White Paper (available here.)  DET-A is arguably the best example of proactive fashion unconventional warfare:

“UW in a proactive fashion is not a revision or evolution of the traditional Unconventional Warfare addressed above; rather it is an approach advocates the use of UW activities to “prevent fires” through small footprint, scaled application of force campaigns in order to develop persistent influence among potential UW constituencies; deepen understanding of significant individuals, groups and populations in the Human Domain of the potential UW operational area; and build trust with SOF’s likely UW partners in regions before U.S. leaders are constrained to react to crises.”

“Finally, and with true strategic benefit, proactive application of UW increases the likelihood of producing effects associated with coercive UW without the need to execute all phases of UW itself. By holding out the possibility of achieving traditional UW effects with a particularly small footprint, and by laying the groundwork for a more robust, better-informed conduct of UW or C-UW should the need arise, UW in a proactive fashion is therefore a fundamental component of Strategic Landpower doctrine of “rebalancing… national security strategy to focus on engagement and preventing war.”   

If we are to conduct proactive unconventional warfare in the Gray Zone of competition and conflict the 21st Century we would do well to study DET-A and its lessons of applied unconventional warfare  There are myriad tactical lessons for Special Forces units – one of the main ones being how to conduct advanced skills unconventional warfare training in the unit.  The main strategic lesson is that to be proactive we need to invest in the people and organizations like DET-A, ensure they are forward deployed for long duration, and are prepared for the uncertainty of conflict we face in the foreseeable future whether it is terrorism, hybrid warfare, political warfare, or state on state warfare.

I strongly recommend this book and I intend to use it in my Georgetown course Unconventional Warfare and Special Operations For Policy Makers and Strategists because this is one of the best examples of applied unconventional warfare in special operations history.

David S. Maxwell is the Associate Director of the Center for Security Studies in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.  He is a retired Special Forces Colonel.

About the Author(s)

David S. Maxwell is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Previously he was the Associate Director of the Center for Security Studies in the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University.  He is a retired US Army Special Forces Colonel with command and staff assignments in Korea, Japan, Germany, the Philippines, and CONUS, and served as a member of the military faculty teaching national security at the National War College.  He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, the Command and General Staff College, the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth and the National War College, National Defense University.


Outlaw 09

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 4:53am

Bill M....Dave made an interesting comment reference the last chapter or so about the "What if the special teams had been allowed to continue"...??

They would have evolved and adapted nicely along the way into the 21st century providing actually SF a test bed for UW...instead of now trying to reinvent the wheel.

That Army and SOCOM decision to stand down those UW SF units was the same exact stupid mistake made by BIG Army when they stood down the so called CEWI BNs that were originally in the active Army but then moved to the Army Reserve side in the 1993 timeframe.

We are now facing a massive Russian EW/Info war threat and we have virtually no assets.....AND they have just rolled out their second generation EW equipment for combat field testing in eastern Ukraine......then by 1990 the Army had built a massively modern EW training and test site at Ft. Devens for hundreds of millions and then ordered the newest and greatest EW equipment and placed them into selected MI Reserve units to then be only decommissioned and mothballed forever with the idea wars were over for good......AND then decommissioned Ft. Devens thinking they could make a great profit for selling the real estate which was near Boston...but that never ever happened....

Rumors have it the first real Us Army EW equipment is not scheduled until late 2018 if then....some say no sooner than 2020.

In 2015, BIG Army had what about 150 EW officers...BUT all designed to be CIED types....not trained to lead a fully capable EW effort at the Bde or BN levels never mind the Divisions...

AND SF had how many fully trained..experienced and capable to deploy true UW units?

There would have been at least four ready to go....

Outlaw 09

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 12:13pm

As we debate the questions around UW and CUW Russia just keeps on expanding their non linear warfare concept.....

Russia defense minister Shoigu on announcing creation of information operations forces:

"Propaganda must be smart, competent & effective"

Info warfare forces will answer to the Russian GRU and be part and parcel of Spetsnaz.....

Notice the similar early SF days when Psychological Warfare Ops was part and parcel of SF and not a separate entity

Bill C.

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 11:48am

From the United States Army Special Operations Command's "Special Operations Support to Political Warfare White Paper" (referenced by COL Maxwell above):


To prove successful, C-UW must be strategic in conception and scope.

END QUOTE… (See the beginning of Chapter 3, near the top of Page 9.)

If "they" are doing unconventional warfare (UW) now -- in the service of "containment" and/or "roll back" -- much as the U.S./the West did back in the Old Cold War.

And if "we" are doing counter-unconventional warfare (C-UW) now -- in the service of, in our case today, advancing market-democracy -- this; much as the Soviets/the communists did, re: advancing communism, back-in-the-day,

Then, should we be studying:

a. Not "Det A: Applied Unconventional Warfare In Berlin and Beyond in the Cold War" (to wit: UW successfully applied in the service of "containment" and "roll back"). But, rather and instead,

b. Whatever effective counter-unconventional operations the Soviets/the communists were able to place against such units as Det A (to wit: C-UW successfully applied [a] in the service of advancing communism, this, [b] in spite of such UW, etc., obstacles as Det A, etc., might have presented to their such strategic goal)?

Thus, to end as I began above.


To prove successful, C-UW must be strategic in conception and scope.


(This same general guidance to be applied to our "political warfare" thinking as well. Thus, not be to organized, ordered and oriented so to "contain" and/or "roll back" the "expansionist" efforts of the Soviets/the communists. But, rather, to be organized, ordered and oriented so as to advance our own unique way of life, our own unique way of governance, etc.; this, in the face of, and indeed in spite of, the significant "containment" and "roll back" [see, for example, UW above] efforts of our opponents?)

Outlaw 09

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 4:45am

Reference my comments on the Russian GRU Spetsnaz and their non linear warfare doctrine as it supports political warfare...AND WHY SF needs urgently to shift to full scale UW as fast as it can....and yes UW has even a role in state on state combat....…

The Secret U.S. Army Study That Targets Moscow

A quarter century after the Cold War, the Pentagon is worried about Russia’s military prowess again.

By Bryan Bender April 14, 2016

Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster has a shaved head and gung-ho manner that only add to his reputation as the U.S. Army’s leading warrior-intellectual, one who often quotes famed Prussian general and military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz. A decade ago, McMaster fought a pitched battle inside the Pentagon for a new concept of warfare to address the threat from Islamist terrorists and insurgents in Afghanistan, Iraq and other trouble spots. Now, his new mission is more focused. Target: Moscow.

POLITICO has learned that, following the stunning success of Russia’s quasi-secret incursion into Ukraine, McMaster is quietly overseeing a high-level government panel intended to figure out how the Army should adapt to this Russian wake-up call. Partly, it is a tacit admission of failure on the part of the Army — and the U.S. government more broadly.

“It is clear that while our Army was engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq, Russia studied U.S. capabilities and vulnerabilities and embarked on an ambitious and largely successful modernization effort,” McMaster told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week. “In Ukraine, for example, the combination of unmanned aerial systems and offensive cyber and advanced electronic warfare capabilities depict a high degree of technological sophistication.”

In Ukraine, a rapidly mobilized Russian-supplied rebel army with surprisingly lethal tanks, artillery and anti-tank weapons has unleashed swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles and cyberattacks that shut down battlefield communications and even GPS.

The discussions of what has been gleaned so far on visits to Ukraine—and from various other studies conducted by experts in and out of government in the U.S. and Europe—have highlighted a series of early takeaways, according to a copy of a briefing that was delivered in recent weeks to the top leadership in the Pentagon and in allied capitals.

U.S. military and intelligence officials worry that Moscow now has the advantage in key areas. Lighter armored vehicles like those the Army relied on heavily in Iraq and Afghanistan are highly vulnerable to its new weapons. And main battle tanks like Russia’s T-90—thought to be an anachronism in recent conflicts—are still decisive.

McMaster added that “Russia possesses a variety of rocket, missile and cannon artillery systems that outrange and are more lethal than U.S. Army artillery systems and munitions.” Its tanks, meanwhile, are so improved that they are “largely invulnerable to anti-tank missiles,” says retired General Wesley Clark, who served as NATO commander from 1997 to 2000 and has been sounding the alarm about what the Ukraine conflict means for the U.S. military.

Also on display in Ukraine to an alarming degree: Moscow’s widespread political subversion of Ukrainian institutions, part of what experts are now calling “hybrid warfare” that combines military power with covert efforts to undermine an enemy government. Russia has since then also intervened with ground forces and airstrikes in Syria—apparently somewhat successfully—and flexed its muscles in other ways.

This week, two Russian fighter jets and a military helicopter repeatedly buzzed a U.S. Navy warship in the Baltic Sea, despite radio warnings.

McMaster’s response is the Russia New Generation Warfare Study, whose government participants have already made several unpublicized trips to the front lines in Ukraine. The high-level but low-profile effort is intended to ignite a wholesale rethinking—and possibly even a redesign—of the Army in the event it has to confront the Russians in Eastern Europe.

It is expected to have profound impact on what the U.S. Army will look like in the coming years, the types of equipment it buys and how its units train. Some of the early lessons will be road tested in a major war game planned for June in Poland. Says retired Army Chief of Staff General Gordon Sullivan: “That is all designed to demonstrate that we are in the game.”

Among those who have studied the Russian operation in Ukraine closely is Phillip Karber, president of the Potomac Foundation and former Marine who has made 22 trips to Ukraine since 2014. “Few in the West have paid much attention to Russia’s doctrinal pivot to ‘New Generation War’ until its manifestation in Ukraine,” says Karber.

Another surprise, he adds, “is the relative lack of Western attention, particularly given the unexpected scale and duration of the conflict, as well as the unanticipated Russian aggressiveness in sponsoring it.

Karber says the lethality of new Russian munitions has been striking, including the use of scatterable mines, which the U.S. States no longer possesses. And he counts at least 14 different types of drones used in the conflict and reports that one Ukrainian unit he was embedded with witnessed up to eight drone flights in a single day.

“How do you attack an adversary’s UAV?” asks Clark. “Can we blind, disrupt or shoot down these systems? The U.S. military hasn’t suffered any significant air attacks since 1943.”

The new Army undertaking is headed by Brigadier General Peter L. Jones, commandant of the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. But it is the brainchild of McMaster, who as head of the Army Capabilities Integration Center at Fort Eustis, Virginia, is responsible for figuring out what the Army should look like in 2025 and beyond.

Clark describes McMaster’s effort as the most dramatic rethinking since the collapse of the Soviet Union. “These are the kind of issues the U.S. Army hasn’t worked since the end of the Cold War 25 years ago.”

The question is why the U.S. government—and the Army in particular—has once again allowed its attention to be diverted for so long that it has been caught by surprise by a major development like Russia’s enhanced capabilities. While Russian President Vladimir Putin undertook an aggressive military buildup, the U.S. Army actually drew up plans to shrink the active-duty force by some 40,000, from about 490,000 to 450,000 over the next several years.

That plan is now in question. A bill recently proposed in the House of Representatives would halt the reduction. And last month, the Alaska delegation successfully got the Pentagon to back down on its plans to deactivate an airborne brigade. One of the justifications that were cited: a newly belligerent Russia.

There is also a question about whether McMaster is the general for the job. For most of his career, McMaster has been a controversial figure. In a book he published earlier in his career, Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, he attacked the generals of the Vietnam era for not admitting frankly that the war was unwinnable.

Yet later, when McMaster pushed for a complex strategy of counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, critics said McMaster and his fellow so-called “COIN-dinistas” misrepresented and oversold their own war-fighting strategy. Counterinsurgency calls not just for fighting insurgents but for a kind of “hearts-and-minds” campaign to win over local populations through reconstruction, policing and economic progress that usually takes at least a decade.

But the U.S. never intended to stay in Afghanistan or Iraq for that long.

Now reality is taking McMaster in precisely the direction that some of his critics said he and the other COIN specialists needed to focus on more in the first place: orienting the Army to what it does best, confronting conventional adversaries. The question is whether the U.S. military is able to adopt a realistic approach to Russian aggression without getting the nation into World War III.

Oddly enough, the model for the new effort is the Army’s detailed study of a war fought 43 years ago, one that most people have forgotten about. As a guide to this new major review, Politico has learned, McMaster is dusting off the Army’s landmark after-action review of the Yom Kippur War between Israel and Moscow’s then-proxies, Egypt and Syria.
In October 1973, as America's painful odyssey in the jungles of Vietnam was winding down, a war broke out thousands of miles away that would profoundly change the U.S. Army.
Tank losses in the first six days of the Yom Kippur War were greater than the entire U.S. tank inventory stationed in Europe to deter the Soviet Union when Egypt and Syria launched the surprise attack on Israel. In the most recent major armored battles, during World War II three decades earlier, opposing tank armies faced off at an average of 750 yards. In the Yom Kippur War, it was 3,000 yards or more, a far bigger killing field.
In the aftermath, Army Chief of Staff General Creighton Abrams dispatched a pair of generals to walk the battlefields of smoldering armor, obtain damaged Russian equipment and find out what the Army “should learn from that war.”
“The Yom Kippur War had a shock effect on the U.S. Army,” recalls Karber, who participated in what came to be known as the Starry-Baer panel, named for the officers who oversaw it. “It challenged decades of accumulated assumptions.”
What the Army learned from the Yom Kippur War was that “powerful new antitank weapons, swift-moving formations cutting across the battlefield, and interaction between ground formations and the air arm showed how much the world around our Army had changed as we focused on Vietnam,” as one summary of the Starry-Baer report put it. General Donn Starry’s own description of the circumstances four decades ago could easily describe what the Army is confronting today, if the word Vietnam were replaced with Iraq or Afghanistan, and the Soviet Union with Russia.
“Military attention turned back to the nation’s commitment to NATO Europe,” Starry wrote back then. “We discovered the Soviets had been very busy while we were preoccupied with Vietnam. They had revised operational concepts at the tactical and operational levels, increased their fielded force structure and introduced new equipment featuring one or more generations of new technology.”
Fast forward to 2016. After a decade and a half of counterinsurgency operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond—longer than even in Vietnam—decades of assumptions about warfare are once again being re-evaluated. McMaster and other top generals have concluded that while the United States was bogged down in the Middle East, Moscow focused its energies on rebuilding its own forces to potentially counter America’s tactics.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 12:04pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill...but here is the key concept...UW never really changes..what changes are the weapons..technologies and comms...driven by the culture of those driving UW and CUW....

When we look at the new non linear doctrines of say Russia...Iran...China..and yes even AQ/IS yes they are written differently but it is for their cultures and militaries involved.... but the real underlying concept of UW never changes...

If SF is serious truly serious about shifting then it must eat...sleep and live...really live UW.......

What is the core problem is the lack of really good UW instructors who have lived instructors were 77th ....10thSF....Det A....White Star ...5th veterans...those that chased down Che... and along the way SADM instructors....and CIA tradecraft/lock specialists...coupled with a severe dose of the Jungle Warfare School and tens of jumps from multiple types of aircraft....coupled with bringing in Birddog aircraft in the middle of a deep forest on an improvised landing strip.....

BTW those aircraft are in museums not in the current inventory...but perfect for UW....

And my demo training...unlimited against tens of actual targets......with instructors who knew what they were handling...

That simply no longer exists...

What is interesting was the simple fact that SF of that period was building Groups..forward based...constantly recruiting and involved in true multiple wars...all at the same time..and had an assigned strength in the 14K range...

But I have pointed out this as well...SF of that period was largely a group of single men....families could not be afforded due to the pay and those that were married were usually senior NCOs and officers...

So if you were in SF of that was certainly not for the pay.

A married SGT living on post in Bad Toelz or Berlin with jump pay...demo pay....MOS pro pay....foreign language pay was roughly 375 USDs...50 USDs more for combat and you only got housing if you were over 4 yrs in service and you got a car shipped to Europe....

Bill M.

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 10:32am

In reply to by Outlaw 09


To clarify, I'm arguing for more units like Det-A and 46th Co, but tweaked to compete in the 21st Century. SF was originally designed to solve a problem that the USSR and it's proxies posed. It was a brilliant concept, that worked when the CIA and SF worked together. Much of these ideas are still relevant, but Russia, PRC, Iran, AQ, etc. have updated their warfare concepts, we need to do the same. As you said, it is a way of thinking more than organization and doctrine, yet we're trapped in the past by organization and doctrine.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 4:03am

I have repeatedly stated here and will continue to state it....unless SF gets truly back to full scale UW at all levels it is doomed to spin largely in ever increasing circles...

There were a number of serious decisional mistakes made by first the Regular Army as SF belonged at first to the Regular Army then SOCOM itself that they must assume responsibility for.

1. The Iranian op went off like clock work and was never revealed as a major success due to the years of preparation by succeeding personnel assigned to Det A.

2. After the Wall fell...CIA recovered virtually all prepositioned UW caches inside the former GDR...all in great condition and never discovered by KGB or GRU and or the GDR MfS thus proving the Det A could have in fact linked up and gone underground far easiler than many had assumed possible.

3. SADM as/was practiced by Det A and Company A 10th SFA Bad Toelz Germany was ready to successfully deploy if and when needed and SADM was included in a number of major NATO exercises verifying it's blocking abilities.

4. This goes to Bill M's. comment....a little know item is that actually Company A of the 10th SF was built along the lines of Det A, but it did not have the depth of intel tradecraft that Det A had and was tied into supporting and expanding Det A ops in wartime plus carrying out their own UW mission sets independent of Det A.

Failures of SOCOM and a single major hindrance to SF ever getting close again to the Det A and Company A levels of UW in the early 70s.

1. SF was from it's very creation tied closely to the CIA and to the individual Embassy Country Teams responding sometimes as trigger pullers..sometimes as FID sometimes as true UW requirements were needed and the list then goes into the classified world.

This even applied to the 5th SFG in SVN during the period that the 5th was in SVN.

Regular Army will never allow that to ever happen again....and that has actually been proven time and again since then.

2. Secondly, the decisions made by the Regular Army in the mid to late 60s around the concept of Reforger...rear based forward deployed when things got critical actually defeated the purpose of a SF UW effort remaining inside Germany when the 10th was moved back to Ft. Devens. OR the truly stupid decision to pull out of Flint Kaserne to Stuttgart...leaving an swapping an ideal global launch site for a city bound traffic congested location.

These decisions were largely accepted by the then SF as they answered to the Regular Army and had no single major supporting command as SOCOM came later. THEN the 10th was redeployed from Devens to Ft. Carson ever increasing the distances travelled to get back to their AOR AND that was under SOCOM.

3. The SF decisions also around the pullback of the 1st SFG falls into this timeframe as well and they are split today just as is the 10th.

4. The SF pullback of the 8th SFG out of Panama which supported the then amazing jungle warfare center where I spent some long hours at was also a serious mistake...

So in all the "old UW" SF was in fact forward leaning and forward based with the necessary combat force multiplication factors.....and there is no turning back the clock on those decisions.

What many fail to truly understand is that UW is a way of thinking...a way of planning and a way of executing in a dynamically ever changing environment when one is not exactly sure what the environment really is but you have a stated end state you are pushing for.

Right now I drive a uniquely designed internet security company built around the concepts of UW....if one can think UW in the military sense one can think cyber UW and it has allowed us to nail some things long before they become a major internet issue and it allows for analysis of problems we see with a completely different look and feel methodology....

Why because a UW operator must in some aspects think like a criminal in order to survive in an UW environment....meaning when you are the smallest fish in the pond of predators then that small fish must survive by any and all means...and we find thinking like a UW criminal actually helps us in our line of business.

We have a saying...."for all the legal businesses and social media on the internet ...there is an equally criminal counterpart to those legal businesses and or social media...heck they even now have major global Support Call Centers for their products"

Because in the end UW is all about adaptability and survival of the fittest to obtain a declared end state....and this is the most important is a long game....."not a quick win and I am out of here"...

AND is that not what drives most major crime families and organizations?

BTW...I disagree with Bill's comment that Det A or K do not apply to today....

If we look at exactly how Russia has deployed their Spetsnaz both in the annexation of Crimea...their use inside Ukraine during Maidan and then their actual military invasion of eastern Ukraine and now in full combat inside Syria...

I would argue the Russians have in fact learned from Det A.......and implemented their versions of Det A.....since Spetsnaz belongs to the Russian Military Intelligence Service GRU much like Det A and early SF worked strictly for CIA.....

Dave Maxwell

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 11:01am

In reply to by Bill M.


I do not think I have advocated a "repeat" of DET-A, DET-K, or 46th Company but only that there are many important lessons to be learned from them. And to reinforce your argument to Outlaw I would say that the one of the most important lessons to learn is that all three of those organizations were radically different, with very different missions but all with SF soldiers whose training and education were based on applied unconventional warfare. The real lesson is that we should not be taking a cookie cutter approach to how we form, deploy,station, and employ organizations. That however is a more of a pipe dream because we are today locked into achieving "efficiencies" and one way to do that is to create all organizations the same. I would like to see a compromise however (and we still do have some flexibility with e MODIFIED TO&E). We can achieve efficiencies with CONUS-based organizations but those that we deploy and in certain occasions station overseas should be modified in ways appropriate for the mission and the unique political and security conditions that exist.

Good review Dave, I look forward to reading the book. I thought one item you mentioned was still classified, but I understand the book was properly cleared, so the Iran mission will make that much more interesting.

While I disagreed with much of what the author who penned the trilogy articles on "What Wrong with SOCOM," in SWJ wrote, the point about SF being too conventional had a germ of truth of it. While those in command are hesitant to break up Battalions due to adherence to bureaucratic management processes, more than ever we need persistent SF presence at the ODA or Company size in various countries. They need to learn the language, develop relationships with locals, keep their finger on the pulse, and be prepared to provide a range of options to theater commanders or national leadership we wouldn't otherwise have. UW would be on option, most likely it would be options that require UW skills.

However, this shouldn't be a repeat of Det A, 46th Company, or Det K, those models have less utility today than they did when they were designed, but they serve as stepping stones to evolve SF from the Cold War into the 21st Century. As Parag Khanna wrote in his book, Connectography,

Quote "America's top diplomats forgot that standing on the shoulders of giants doesn't make one a giant. Today's diplomats are little more than firemen and firewomen who have left little dent on the international arena beyond self-congratulatory autobiographies. So far, this century, America's leaders have scarcely nudged history, let alone shaped it." End Quote

While Parag was blasting our diplomats, the military should embrace this critique as a cautionary tale for our military that is increasingly struggling to effectively apply military power to achieve sustainable political ends.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 12:38am

As someone who was approached after the book was written as James had identified me from the Det A records but only learned where I was after the book was written....thus I was able to fill some important gaps from my period in Det A which was the 67-70 timeframe...which will be added to the historical records along with the book.

I can only second this the book and shift as fast and hard as the current SF can....

The 21st century is becoming far more complicated and difficult and the US Army is not truly prepared for a true non linear war which we already find ourselves in as it is supporting a very active Russian political war aimed at the entire West and whatever one thinks...Putin truly believes he is already at war....and we are not even close to that thought as we tend to define "war" differently than does Putin....