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3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne)

The Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), as well as the Battalion's support company, are located at Camp Blanding, in Starke, Florida. The Headquarters was located at the Post Headquarters Building, and the support company was located adjacent to the Post Airfield.

Company A, 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was located in Ocala, Florida. It was a sub-unit of 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne). The company was made up of 6 Operational Detachment Alphas (ODA) and one Operational Detachment Bravo (ODB). Each detachment has a specific specialty SCUBA, HALO, Mountain, and was assigned specific wartime missions, Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance, etc. All detachment were regionally orientated to a particular part of the world. All detachment members attended the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course, the Special Forces Qualification Course, and the Basic Language Course.

C Company was unique in that it was split into two locations. C Company (-), in South Florida, and Detachment 1 in West Central Florida. C Company (-) was located at the National Guard Armory in Fort Lauderdale Florida. Detachment 1 was located at the National Guard Armory in Brooksville Florida (near Tampa). Both elements had ODAs that were supported by a consolidated ODB.

Special Forces sergeants must be experts in their individual Military Occupation Speciality (MOS), plus other related duties and specialties important to their far-reaching missions. The Special Forces soldier must also be able to teach these same skills to the people with whom he works. Besides the individual skills of operations and intelligence, communications, medical aid, engineering and weapons, each Special Forces soldier is taught to train, advise, and assist host-nation military or paramilitary forces. Special Forces soldiers are highly skilled operators, trainers, and teachers. Special Forces soldiers are area-oriented, and specially trained in their area's native language and culture.

The operators of 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) portray a wide and varied cross section of civilian professions. The men of 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group offer a seasoned pool of operators. Most members have over 10 years of Special Forces experience and hold civilian jobs such as: Paramedics, Police, Federal Agents, Firefighters, Attorneys, Building Contractors, SCUBA Instructors, Teachers, Language Instructors, Security Consultants, Business Managers, Physical Therapists, Physician Assistants, and Engineers. The merging of these civilian job skills with Special Forces skills makes for a very effective and capable force. Such a wealth of experience further enhances the capability to fulfill the unconventional missions of Special Forces.

Life in a National Guard Special Forces unit sometimes exacted a great toll on the unit members, who were held to the exact same standard as their active duty counterparts. The Guard Special Forces soldiers had to deal with finding time from their civilian jobs to attend mandatory schools, some of which could last nearly a year. Deployments were another consideration. The Guard Special Forces soldier operated way outside the normal "one weekend a month - 2 weeks a year" of regular National Guard duty. The monthly drills and yearly deployments were nearly twice as long as the normal Guard requirements.

National Guard Special Forces units were routinely placed on State Active Duty by order of their respective state Governor. These activations took place during times of state emergencies such as: hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, riots, civil unrest, etc.

Such state emergencies led to the development of the Rapid Impact Assessment Team (RIAT) concept by the State of Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. South Florida experienced one of the worst natural disasters in US history when Hurricane Andrew struck on 24 August 1992, and many hard lessons were learned. The mission of the RIAT Team was to rapidly mobilize and deploy to a disaster area and, jointly with local officials, determine and report immediate victim needs (food, water, shelter, medical, security), and assess and report the associated loss of, or damage to, supporting infrastructure (utilities, communications, transportation, medical facilities, emergency services) following a major or catastrophic disaster.

The RIAT mission was a function of the Florida Department of Emergency Management and was effected by the rapid deployment of Florida National Guard Personnel. Special Forces soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) madke up the actual RIAT Teams. Each team member received specialized training that allowed them to successfully perform the RIAT mission in conjunction with local officials. The ability of Special Forces personnel to rapidly deploy by aircraft or other means was the key to accomplishing the RIAT mission. Special Forces personnel employ high frequency and satellite communication devices to establish and maintain communication during the mission. This allowed the rapid "real time" reporting of on the ground conditions at the disaster or emergency site.

This capability allowed the state emergency management officials to quickly deploy all needed assistance without wasting resources. The RIAT mission was a perfect example of the effective use of Special Forces capabilities. The State of Florida, the Florida National Guard, and 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) set a new standard in disaster response.




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