Robin Sage, a 19-day exercise, is conducted four times a year. The training occurs on both public and private land, encompassing 10 counties and nearly 4,500 square miles.
At the heart of special forces training is the 1st Special Warfare Training Group, which conducts the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course, Special Forces Qualification Course and all advanced special forces skills training such as language training and regional studies. Aspiring special forces soldiers who make it through Special Forces Assessment and Selection next attend the Special Forces Qualification Course, or "Q" Course, which is divided into three phases. Depending on their specialties, soldiers will spend from 18 months to two years in training. Of the more than 2,000 candidates starting the assessment course annually, only about 850 are selected to attend the qualification course, and only some 600 will graduate the "Q" Course.
Following the Special Forces Qualification Course, all special forces soldiers attend a three-week survival, evasion, resistance and escape course and regionally orientated language training. Then it's off to one of the operational special forces groups. The school continues to enhance the special forces mission by providing advanced training in subjects such as close-quarters combat, military free-fall or underwater operations.
Phase I teaches small-unit tactics and land navigation. It's in Phase I that students learn the skills needed to conduct missions.
Training intensifies in Phase II, in which special forces students focus on their individual "trades": medical, weapons, engineer or communications. Officers attending Phase II receive an overview of these specialties, but their training concentrates on mission planning. Weapons sergeants must learn to use more than 50 U.S. and foreign weapons, from handguns to shoulder-fired missiles. Medics spend the longest time in training, during which they join future Air Force pararescue and combat control team members, Marine recon medics and Navy SEALs to learn vital lifesaving and intervention techniques that will earn them certification as emergency medical technicians.
Instructors bring students of different specialties together in Phase III to form notional Operational Detachment Alpha teams which must navigate unconventional warfare missions that bring together the general and specialized skills they have acquired up to this point.
Phase IV is Exercise Robin Sage, during which the 12- to 15-man Operational Detachment Alphas complete a grueling unconventional warfare scenario that encompasses all that they have learned.
Students are transported to Company F, 1st Bn at Camp MacKall where they form student SFODAs and put their knowledge and skills to use in the Robin Sage Field Training Exercise (FTX). Robin Sage is a 19-day problem-solving FTX. During this unconventional warfare exercise, the students are required to apply the lessons learned from previous months of Special Forces MOS training and field training. This exercise involves the students, counterinsurgent and guerrilla personnel (other service members), auxiliary personnel, and cadre. This scenario stresses realism because the student SFODAs must train a mock guerilla force in a hostile environment using civilians in the surrounding community as the auxiliary. This exercise ranges over approximately 50,000 square miles. By the conclusion of Robin Sage, the students have been placed in many situations where they were required to use MOS and leadership skills, and their abilities were tested to work in adverse and ambiguous conditions.
An officer was killed and another soldier injured 23 February 2002 in a training exercise near Fort Bragg when a sheriff's deputy shot them in what has been called "a tragic case of mistaken identity and fatal misunderstanding." 1st Lt. Tallas Tomeny, 31, was killed when Deputy Randall Butler from the Sheriff's Office in Moore County, N.C., shot him after an attempt to subdue him with pepper spray failed. Sgt. Stephen Phelps, 25, also shot by Butler during the incident, is listed in fair condition at First Health of the Carolinas in Pinehurst, NC. The two soldiers thought Butler was a participant in the training exercise known as Robin Sage.
The use of local law enforcement in Robin Sage is not uncommon. The use of civilians allows for realistic portrayal of a native population during Robin Sage, which takes place in the notional country of "Pineland." "Some of the auxiliary are in fact police officers
When he pulled them over, Butler noticed the soldiers were carrying a bag with a partially disassembled M-4 carbine rifle. Tomeny and Phelps were wearing civilian clothes at the time to avoid detection during their mission. Deputy Butler acted with the belief that he was in imminent danger and responded according to his training. The soldiers were convinced that the police officer was role playing in the exercise, and they were acting as part of a legitimate training exercise.
Robin Sage differs greatly from conventional Army training exercises. This exercise is unique within the Army - not only in its setup, but in the fact that it has been consistently validated by operational success on the part of Special Forces soldiers around the world, in Afghanistan, Somalia, and countless operations that are never publicized.
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