Local News

Elite Fighting Force Trained at Fort Bragg

Posted April 10, 1998

— They're considered the nation's elite soldiers. The Army's special forces are often sent into the most hostile international situations. Many of those soldiers are trained behind a blanket of secrecy right here at Fort Bragg.

Commanders offered WRAL a rare glimpse of just what these highly trained forces are capable of.

Normally the operations take place under the cover of darkness. This demonstration was conducted during the light of day so guests and other soldiers could see the missions first hand.

In the first scenario, paratroopers are sent behind enemy lines to secure a landing zone to create a refueling point for aircraft, a mission that was conducted frequently during Desert Storm. The soldiers guarding the refueling expect enemy fire. Specialist David Bowen of the First Ranger Battalion explains: As you saw when we came off the bird, we had to mount the 50 caliber up there, and that's the most casualty producing weapon we had on the vehicle next to the 240. And you're up there, and you've got 2 men mounting that gun-- one of them gets shot, somebody else has to pull with security, somebody else has to help him mount that gun.

In the second scenario, a plane is shot down behind enemy lines with a pilot surviving. Special Forces are called in to find the pilot, provide him with medical aid and then fly the survivor and the others out safely. They too expect enemy fire.

"It's always going to be dangerous," says Captain Harry Woodmansce. "All the training is dangerous, but we concentrate on the training. After training the danger kind of slides off to the side, but it's always in the back of your mind no matter what you do."

Those in charge of training say the role of the Special Forces has changed over the decades, and now the soldiers must be smarter. Colonel Remo Butler recalls how it used to be: When I was a young Lieutenant in Special Forces, our mission was primarily unconventional warfare, and I've seen that evolve to nation building and peace keeping and other missions.

Colonel Butler says Special Forces soldiers are now more important than ever because they are forced to make decisions on the ground-- decisions that could ultimately have international repercussions.

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