3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces Regiment
The 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces Regiment was first constiuted on 5 July 1942 in the Army of the United States as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 1st Battalion, Second Regiment, 1st Special Service Force, a combined Canadian-American organization and activated on 9 July 1942 at Fort William Henry Harrison, Montana. The unit served in 6 campaigns during the Second World War with the 1st Special Service Force: Aleutian Islands, Naples-Foggia, Anzio, Rome-Arno, Southern France (awarded a streamer with arrowhead indicating participation in the initial assault), and Rhineland. At the end of the Second World War, the unit was disbanded on 6 January 1945 in France.
The unit was reconstituted on 15 April 1960 in the Regular Army. It was concurrently consolidated with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Ranger Infantry Battalion (first organized on 21 May 1943), and the consolidated unit was redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces. The Group was activated on 5 December 1963 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with its organic elements constituted between 18 February and 1 September 1964 and activated between 10 March and 25 September 1964.
The Group was inactivated on 1 December 1969 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. While inactive, the lineage and honors of former Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Ranger Infantry Battalion were withdrawn from the Group on 3 February 1986. That unit was subsequently consolidated with former Headquarters and Headquarters Companies, 1st, 4th, 5th, and 6th Ranger Infantry Battalions, former Headquarters, Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Infantry Battalion, and Headquarters, 75th Infantry, and consolidated unit was redesignated as Headquarters, 75th Ranger Regiment, which thereafter had a separate lineage.
The 3rd Special Forces Group was reactivated (less 2nd and 3rd Special Forces Battalions) on 1 July 1990 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. 2nd and 3rd Special Forces Battalions were activated on 16 October 1991 and 17 October 1992, respectively. In the mid-1990s, the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) had as its responsibility all of the Caribbean and all of the western part of the continent of Africa. The reactivation of Fort Bragg's 3rd Special Forces Group brought to 5 the number of Special Forces groups on active-duty status. Each group had 3 battalions, a group support company, and a headquarters company. The companies had 6 Operational Detachment Alphas, or "A-teams," assigned to them. The ODA was the heart and soul of SF operations.
US special forces trained African military forces to respond within 30 days of when a regional humanitarian disasters might strike. The goal of the African Crisis Response Initiative was to create effective, rapidly deployable units that could operate together in a humanitarian or peacekeeping operation. The program began in Senegal and Uganda in late July 1997 with the arrival of about 120 US troops of the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) and XVIII Airborne Corps, both out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, was the first US Special Operations unit to conduct African Crisis Response Initiative training. The American teams started 60-day training programs on 1 August 1997, for about 750 host nation soldiers in each country. Later in 1997, US teams were scheduled to train similar forces in Malawi, Ethiopia, and Mali. The US training teams used peacekeeping doctrine based on international standards. Training each battalion was to cost the United States about $3 million, including $1 million in mainly nonlethal US equipment, primarily communications gear such as hand-held radios. As of mid-2002, more than 5,500 African troops had been trained under the program.
Approximately 70 soldiers from the US Army's 3rd Special Forces Group headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, accompanied by a Belgian military training element, along with US support troops deployed on 1 April 1998, to begin training a battalion-size unit in Ghana. Other African nations that had joined the US in an ACRI partnership included: Senegal, Uganda, Malawi, Mali and Ethiopia. After the ACRI training program began in July 1997, the 3rd Special Forces Group trained forces in Senegal, Uganda, Malawi, and Mali.
In July 1998, 9 members of Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 364, C Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) deployed to Trinidad and Tobago to instruct 24 Trinidadian Special Operations Group soldiers. The ODA deployed as part of the Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program. Under a JCET, Special Forces traveled to foreign countries to train host-nation forces. Their training objectives included developing their own language skills, learning the area, cultural immersion, and improving both their training skills, and their proficiency in the Special Forces Mission Essential Task List.
In November 2000, teams of Special Forces soldiers and military medical personnel deployed to create more stability in West Africa. Operation Focus Relief, a US State Department initiative, was designed to improve the effectiveness of the Nigerian military in helping United Nations initiatives in West Africa. The brunt of the training, military officials acknowledged, was geared toward handling the Revolutionary United Front, a group of vicious Sierra Leonean rebels that had battled UN peacekeepers and the Sierra Leone government over diamond fields in the country. About 250 members of the 3rd Special Forces Group Airborne from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, taught Nigerian troops how to use mortars, light anti-tank weapons and M60 machine guns.
Training had been halted for about 10 days in October 2000 when roughly 80 unknown Nigerian soldiers arrived unexpectedly to take part in the mission. The operation was suspended while US State Department officials checked if any of the new soldiers had been accused of past human rights abuses. The United States only would train soldiers who have passed the human rights abuses background check. The Nigerians, who had been criticized in the past for tolerating human rights abuses, were receiving instruction on how to handle civilians and prisoners. The training culminated in mid-December 2000, when 750 Nigerian soldiers held a coordinated company-level attack and defense simulation. The $20 million training program was part of $66 million in military aid and training the United States extended to Nigeria.
In August 2001, about 200 US Army Special Forces soldiers concluded training 2 battalions of soldiers in Ghana and Senegal in peacekeeping skills as part of Operation Focus Relief. During the second phase of Operation Focus Relief, the deployed soldiers equipped and trained the African soldiers so they could help conduct peacekeeping missions in other African nations. Most of the participating US soldiers were from the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) and US Army Special Operations Command, both at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Additional soldiers from US Army Europe also participated. Ghanaian and Senegalese battalions received about 1,500 sets of individual equipment, including rucksacks, canteens and new uniforms and boots. The US military also armed the soldiers with M16 rifles and light machine guns, and equipped them with 2½-ton cargo trucks, medical supplies and communications equipment.
Members of 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, were tasked in May 2002, with training several battalions of the New Afghan National Army at the Afghan Military Academy in Kabul, Afghanistan, before commissioned and noncommissioned Afghan officers assume responsibility for training future Afghan soldiers.
The Group was redesignated on 1 October 2005 as the 3rd Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces Regiment. In late 2007, US defense officials were reportedly in the process a creating a special operations component command to support the newly created Africa Command (AFRICOM). This entity became known as Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA). The focus of the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) by that time had become those parts of Africa not included in the US Central Command area of resopnsibility and it was expected that it would become an element of SOCAFRICA.
3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) activated its fourth battalion on 18 August 2009 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The activation continued the expansion that included one new battalion for each of the 5 active duty groups. The activation of 4th battalion satisfied a global need for Special Forces by providing more soldiers to support ongoing missions around the world. In the months ahead, 4th Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) was expected to begin to share in the responsibilities to support operations in the African theater, as well as eventually deploying as a fully capable Special Operations Task Force to the Afghan theater in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
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