ArmyMilitary Life

Celebrating the Army Special Forces Birthday

The United States Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets, was established as a basic branch of the U.S. Army on April 9, 1987 after operating in countless conflicts globally since 1952 – when it was formed under the command of Col. Aaron Bank as the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). The name Green Berets was coined due to their distinctive rifle green beret—authorized by President John F. Kennedy in 1961.

Army Special Forces
Green Berets assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct a raid during a routine training mission April 08, 2019 at Camp Mackal, NC. The Green Berets focused on utilizing new communication systems and casualty care during the training mission. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Steven Lewis)

History of the Army Special Forces

Historically, the U.S. used guerrilla-type forces during missions dating back to the Alamo Scouts. During the Korean War, Philippine guerilla commanders formulated an unconventional warfare doctrine that would ultimately be used for the establishment of the Special Forces. The unit’s first deployment was to Bad Tolz, Germany. By the Department of the Army General Order No. 35, the branch was officially established as a basic branch of the U.S. Army on April 9, 1987.


U.S. Army Special Forces are trained to engage in unconventional warfare or lead clandestine guerilla forces. The unit has nine doctoral missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, direct action, counter-insurgency, special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, information operations, counterproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and security force assistance. As such, soldiers must have expert language skills and be well-versed in local and regional culture.

Organizational Structure of the Army Special Forces

Currently, the Special Forces are divided into five active duty and two Army National Guard groups. These groups are the 1st Special Forces Group, 3rd Special Forces Group, 5th Special Forces Group, 7th Special Forces Group, 10th Special Forces Group, 19th Special Forces Group and the 20th Special Forces Groups. Each group has a specialized regional focus.

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The Green Beret

Wanting to establish a distinct look for the Special Forces Groups, Captain Frank Dallas had rifle green berets produced for the 10th and 77th groups. After the new headgear was worn at Fort Bragg, the beret was banned by the Post Commander. Five years later, under the authorization of President John F. Kennedy, the green beret was adopted exclusively by U.S. Special Forces. This created a bond between the Green Berets and President Kennedy. So much so, that a green beret was placed on his coffin during the 25th anniversary of his death.

This day provides an important reminder to celebrate those who are often first on the ground or leading behind enemy lines. Happy Birthday to the Green Berets!


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