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Origins - Army Special Operations

As early as 1670, a special class of men 'ranged' the American frontier, protecting settlers. But their tactics of secret march, ambush and wilderness survival were not formally established until the French and Indian War, when Robert Rogers prepared a list of rules and concepts stressing readiness, security and tactics. Known as Rogers' Rangers after their commander Major Robert Rogers, they were the first of America's unconventional forces. Though the era they lived in was simpler than the present age, the skills necessary to become an elite soldier were the same. Rogers' Rangers fought in terrain that normal men shunned. They crept up on an enemy with the stealth of a slithering snake, and delivered blows with the lethality of a Cobra bite. "Move fast and hit hard," Rogers told his men, and they obeyed, thereby setting the standard for generations to follow. The tradition continued during the American Revolution with Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox who led daring guerrilla raids on British forces in South Carolina and Georgia. His troops harassed the enemy with a success out of all proportion to their small numbers because Marion used the element of surprise to its greatest potential.

In the Civil War, Colonel John Singleton Mosby of Virginia formed a band of Confederate raiders that became the terror of Union generals. Operating from the outskirts of his enemy's capital, Mosby and 300 select volunteers cut off communications and supplies, wrecked railroads and raided headquarters behind enemy lines. Because of his stealth and uncanny ability to avoid capture, Mosby came to be known as the Gray Ghost. Well-trained and well-disciplined, Mosby and his men set a model for guerrilla warfare: weaken the enemy's front line, weaken the enemy's infrastructure and win the support of the people. Mosby accomplished the latter by protecting the local population from plundering Union soldiers and by sharing their captured wealth with those in need.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:34:41 ZULU