What is a Green Beret?


“These Special Operators often deploy abroad on long-duration missions in remote, high-risk areas. Mission success does not come without risk; they often endure casualties, yet these soldiers ask for nothing in return.”

– Willy Stern, Founder, The Legion Fund

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What Is It That A 5th Group Green Beret Does?

If the answer were simple, the Army recruiters would have a simple elevator pitch. Other branches have obvious appeals. SEALs are the toughest dudes in the room and get to kill all the bad guys with cutting edge weaponry. Marines look sharp in their dress blues and swords. Aviators fly snazzy jets off aircraft carriers.

Green Berets?

Not so simple.

On any given day, they may throw on a Brooks Brothers suit and brief an Ambassador on cutting-edge policy issues from the front lines of, say, Iraq. They might go out on a lethal kill-or-capture mission in up-armored Humvees in the dead of night and wipe out a nest of insurgents who never saw them coming.

They might be training an indigenous force in Syria to fight ISIS, and do so entirely in Arabic. They might travel many days through the jungle to neutralize a high-value target with a single sniper shot.


A Green Beret – Summed Up

Here is the composite Green Beret, complete with all the inherent contradictions that go with the nuttiness and magic of the job.  (The Warriors themselves would be embarrassed by our description since it’s not how they think of themselves).


James Bond, without the posh Eton accent.

A Multi-Lingual Peace Corps Volunteer

who has a passion for helping others in their own country, but who also knows a dozen different ways to kill an insurgent, and employed several of these techniques on his last deployment in the Middle East.

A cultural anthropologist

who also knows how to jump out of a C-17 transport aircraft at 18,000 feet with his trained Belgian Malinois dog (both wearing oxygen masks!) and can launch underwater SCUBA attacks with a serrated Mk-3 dive knife on an underwater mission.


A skilled veterinarian, optometrist and paramedic

who is also trained to scale vertical mountain peaks with 75 pounds of gear in his rucksack, so that he can get eyes-on enemy combatants at a remote mountain village, and call in an air strike.

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Specially trained US Army Soldiers that are renowned for their ability to deploy in small teams, operate independently, and conduct their mission in austere environments.

Special Forces units perform seven doctrinal missions:

  • Unconventional Warfare
  • Foreign Internal Defense
  • Special Reconnaissance
  • Direct Action
  • Combating Terrorism
  • Counter-proliferation
  • Information Operations

These missions make Special Forces unique in the U.S. military, because they are employed throughout the three stages of the operational continuum: peacetime, conflict and war.

Are you starting to get the picture?

A 5th Group Green Beret must be brilliant, subtle and lethal. He must speak at least one Mid-East language and be deeply immersed in cultural training and critical thinking.

Training a Soldier to go on target, kick in doors and inflict lethal violence in a kinetic environment can be done relatively easily.  Teaching Soldiers a foreign language and training them in nuanced thinking so they can link up with surrogate forces to conduct guerrilla warfare with less-than-traditional oversight can also be accomplished. The magic of the Green Berets is that they can do both missions

Trained killers with nuanced minds. The Green Beret is the living embodiment of what the military calls “full-spectrum mission operators.

The motto of U.S Army Special Forces — the formal term for the Green Berets — is “The Quiet Professional”. They are trained to blend in. They don’t write books. They don’t self-promote. They don’t get in bar fights. They don’t all have huge biceps. They prefer cowboy boots and faded jeans to uniforms. They wear beards. They are rule-breakers by nature but have strong moral compasses.

The Green Beret’s corporate culture demands of all in its community an “aw, shucks, we don’t talk about ourselves” attitude. About the tackiest thing a Green Beret could do is to write a book about his own accomplishments. He knows his peers would shun him as a shameless self-promoter.

Or worse.

Sit next to a Green Beret on an airplane, and he may spin a tale for you about how he’s an Army clerk or a chow hall cook. They are all about understatement in dealing with the outside world. In their own world, they value competence, confidence and humility, tinged with a commitment to public service and, of course, a healthy dose of patriotism.

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