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Special Forces (Green Berets)


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Special Forces (SF), known commonly as “Green Berets,” are the U.S. Army’s specialists in guerrilla warfare, counterinsurgency and other aspects of unconventional warfare. Created in 1952 in the Regular Army, they were expanded to the Army National Guard (ARNG) in 1959, including in West Virginia.

The first Special Forces operational detachments (OD) were activated in Beckley and Huntington on March 1, 1959. The Beckley OD was the command element until a new one was created in Charleston in October. The ODs were consolidated under 16th Special Forces Group (Airborne) (SFGA) in May 1961, with headquarters in Charleston, two companies in West Virginia, and a third company in Wilmington, North Carolina. These early changes illustrated a persistent theme of the ARNG SF program—recurrent organizational instability.

A major nationwide realignment of SF assets led to the inactivation of 16th Group in February 1966, with all WVARNG SF units being consolidated in a new Company F, 19th SFGA, headquartered in Utah. An expansion came in September 1972, when the Army introduced a battalion echelon into the group structure. In this new structure Company F was divided to form 2nd Battalion headquarters in Charleston and a company in Huntington (later Tri-State Airport). New companies were also authorized in Charleston and at Camp Dawson.

The battalion headquarters was relocated to Tri-State Airport in October 1978. Company A was briefly transferred from Charleston to Beckley, then lost to the Rhode Island ARNG in March 1979. The last major reorganization came in September 1996, when Company B was lost to the Ohio ARNG.

WVARNG SF is currently composed of Headquarters 2nd Battalion, 19th SFGA, and support units at Tri-State Airport, and Company C at Camp Dawson. The battalion also commands Company A in Rhode Island and Company B in Ohio.

State Green Berets frequently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during the Global War on Terrorism. More recently, they have deployed to Eastern Europe to bolster our NATO allies in the face of reemergent Russian expansionism.

Written by Merle T. Cole

Sources

  1. Cole, Merle T. and Robert V. Luther III. West Virginia Army National Guard Special Forces, 1959- 2019. Beckley: SF Association Chapter 68, 2020.