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19th Special Forces Group (Airborne)

The 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) is a multifaceted unit with primary responsibilities in the Southeast Asia area of operation. The Group's Headquarters and Headquarters Company and Support Company, along with elements of the 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group are located in Utah, as part of the Utah Army National Guard. The other units assigned to the Group are geographically spread across 8 States: Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Ohio, Rhode Island, Colorado, California, and Texas, being part of those states' Army National Guards. The 190th Chemical Detachment (Reconnaissance) and the USAF's 181st Weather Flight also supported the Group.

The mission of the 2 Army National Guard Special Forces groups is to plan and support special operations in any operational environment. Special operations are conducted independently or in coordination with conventional forces. Special operations forces differ from conventional forces in that they are specially organized, trained, and equipped to achieve military, political, economic, or psychological objectives using numerous means. Special operations forces support the theater combatant commands to achieve national security objectives in peacetime and war, and these forces are an integral part of the theater commander's peacetime strategy.

The 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) had a twofold mission: a federal mission to provide trained soldiers and units to designated commands to conduct special operations in support of a federal mobilization; and, a state mission to support state and local agencies in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. As such, the Group's focus was on strength and readiness. Inactive Duty Training (IDT) or weekend drills were utilized to conduct training, which sustained or enhanced perishable individual skills. Annual Training was utilized for team, section, and company level training. The commander's training strategy was to utilize Joint Chief of Staff (JCS) sponsored, Joint Combined Exchange Training program, Combat Training Center, and Utah National Guard exercises to hone the collective skills of Special Forces soldiers.

In November 1990, the Department of Defense developed budget guidance that directed the inactivation of 3 Army National Guard and 3 Army Reserve Special Forces battalions. The Department of Defense subsequently rescinded the inactivation plans for the 3 Army Reserve battalions pending the results of the Command's joint mission analysis. Conferees for the 1993 Department of Defense Appropriations Act included in their report the expectation that the Army Special Operations Command would maintain existing Army National Guard Special Operations units through Fiscal Year 1993 and rejected any plan or initiative to expand the active component special operations forces to replace these National Guard units. The conferees further noted that in the Fiscal Year 1992 Defense Appropriations Act, Congress had limited any conversion of National Guard missions to the active components. The Command's analysis validated the need to inactivate the 6 battalions, in the 11th Special Forces Group (US Army Reserve) and 19th Special Forces Group (Utah Army National Guard). Instead, the 11th and 12th Special Forces Group (Airborne), both US Army Reserve units, were inactivated on 15 September 1995.

In 1999, Headquarters and Headquarters Company and the Group's support company assumed their tactical configuration (as the Special Forces Operational Base) as an experiment during IDT. This rigorous IDT program was focused on honing skills that culminated at Fort Lewis, Washington as a portion of the JCS sponsored Exercise Ulchi Focus Lens. As a demonstration of the Group's capability to conduct collateral training for uncommitted elements of the Group during SFOB operations, a Static Line Jumpmaster Course was conducted for 58 special operations soldiers from both active and reserve components during operations at Fort Lewis.

The Group's support company's parachute riggers supported heavy cargo parachute operations in Aviano, Italy, between 10 and 24 April 1999. Over 500 parachutes and parachute rigger technical support were provided to the RIARNG International Parachute Competition held between 15 and 18 July 1999. Medics, doctors, and dentists provided medical assistance and relief for victims of Hurricane Mitch between 1 and 19 August 1999. Elements of the Group provided medical support to Joint Task Force - Full Accounting, a part of the recovery of MIA remains from the Vietnam War.

Fifty members of the US Special Operations Command, including members from the the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), gathered in Mongolia in mid-to-late 2001, to conduct joint, combined exchange training with the Mongolian Civil Defense Forces. Jumps performed out of a Combat Talon II over Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia culminated 2 weeks of instruction that included disaster assistance response, medical cross training, and animal relief airdrops.

In early December 2001, dozens of members of Utah's National Guard were called to active duty to head to the Middle East. More than 50 members of the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) were activated. Within a week the group was in Fort Knox, Kentucky. From there, they were deployed to an undisclosed location in the Middle East.




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