Category Archives: DET-A Recognition

The Man Who Brought Detachment “A” In From The Cold

When Bob Charest realized that Detachment (A)’s history was fading away into the historical dust bin, he started an effort to bring Detachment(A) in from the cold.  With this most important goal at stake, and with the knowledge of how important this unit and its members were to the Special Forces history he began an endeavor that took years of hard work and dedication to accomplish the one goal in his mind:  to bring Detachment(A) in from the cold; to finally bring about the recognition that was so richly deserved to the Detachment(A) unit and its members.  He could not let this unit fade away.

He began by organizing Detachment(A) functions.  They started out very small but grew each year and have become very successful.

He then created a new Detachment(A) web site and domain, dedicated exclusively to Detachment(A).  In conjunction with this, he wrote and published the article “A Thumbnail Look at Detachment(A) Berlin Brigade in 2012.  Then things just took off.  He continued organizing and hosting Detachment(A) functions with increased numbers and success.

The Thumbnail Look at Detachment(A) Berlin Brigade was circulating for some time, and the Special Forces Association(SFA) got hold of it and published the article in the 2013 Winter edition of the Drop Magazine.

Bob also worked with the SFA and was able to obtain a section dedicated to Detachment(A) in the Drop Magazine.

The Detachment(A) functions continued to grow with members getting together to share stories about serving in Detachment(A).

Bob organized several projects to continue to bring Detachment(A) in from the cold which were all team efforts including representation of Det-A in the JFK Museum, collecting Det-A artifacts, and managing the project that brought Jimmy Spoo’s Memorial Stone idea to fruition.  He made it a team effort which allowed all Detachment(A) members to contribute to the Memorial Stone, which they generously did.  He coordinated with SFA to manage the contributions.  The project was fast and furious, collecting all the money that was needed and then some.  All monies over the necessary funds were donated to the Green Beret Foundation.

The Detachment (A) Memorial Stone Dedication Ceremony was hosted by LTG Charles Cleveland, Commanding General for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) on 30 January 2014.

The Memorial Stone ceremony was covered by the local copy press and was also televised.  It was a major success and a real team effort.

Bob then continued his efforts and wrote another article for the  VFW Magazine entitled: “In the Eye of the Cold War Hurricane, Detachment  A Berlin Brigade”  which was published in the November/December 2014 issue.

It was at one of the Detachment(A) functions that James “Styk” Stejskal indicated that he would like to write a book about Berlin Special Forces.  Mike Mulieri was also inspired to write a book about Detachment(A).

In the meantime, to keep the momentum going with the goal to bring Detachment(A) in from the cold, Bob worked with WeAreTheMighty.com and published the article:  This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War.  The article was published on 1 February 2015. 

Another article was then published by WeAreTheMighty.com which featured Detachment(A):  The 6 most-secret units in military history which was published on 14 June 2015 followed up with a video.

Bob also worked with two highly established authors and writers who wanted to write books about Detachment(A).  These two projects were put on hold because fellow Detachment(A) member James Stejskal’s book was still in progress and Bob did not want to interfere with his efforts until his book was published.

Bob continued his efforts and worked with SOFREP’s reporter Jack Murphy from SOFREP.com who published a short article about Detachment(A) entitled: Detachment A: the Cold War Sabotage Experts of Special Forces published on 27 April 2016.

Jack was a guest at the  September 2016 Det-A function.  He  interviewed Detachment(A) members for a follow-up article which was published on SOFREP.com in a 4-part series dated from 07 February 2017 – 10 February 2017.:

Detachment A: Clandestine Special Forces Missions from Berlin to Iran

Part 1:  Detachment A: Clandestine Special Forces missions in post Hitler’s Berlin published 6 Feb 2017

Parr 2: Detachment A: Green Berets play cat and mouse with communist agents published 7 February 2017

Part 3:  Detachment A: counter-terrorism and Operation Eagle Claw published 8 February 2017

Part 4:  Detachment A: Final missions, the wall comes down, and the end of an era published 10 February 2017

Jack conducted in depth interviews with Det(A) members and the  articles he published were outstanding.  Jack has been instrumental in bringing to light Det(A)’s legacy to the public with his professional writings.

All of these articles are posted on the Detachment(A) website.

Jim’s book entitled Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956–1990 was published 17 February 2017.  

Our function in Fayetteville NC in memory of Jeffrey Raker in June of 2017 featured a Detachment(A) formation at the Memorial Stone.
This was probably be the last formal formation of Detachment(A).

We also now have a biography in the making. There were interviews conducted at the function. We have two teams of biographers as well as the military professionals.

For many years, and at many functions, Jeff Raker has spoken about Bob Charest bringing Detachment-A  in from the cold.  At the September 2016 function, he honored Bob Charest by recognizing all the projects and efforts  Bob has done for Detachment-A.   He presented a thank you card signed by the Detachment(A) members and here is what he said:

“I am not modest in what I’m going to say right now.  One reason we are all here; one reason Det-A, after all those years Detachment-A got put on the map.  One reason there’s a marker at headquarters, with Detachment-A on it, is because one individual, he did have some help, but one individual went all out and made sure we didn’t die.  That individual is here, and because of that individual, we are all here.  And Bob if you will be so kind and stand up – with this card that we all signed thanking you for keeping us together, thanks Bob.”

For Bob, this was the ultimate honor, one he will never forget, from Detachment(A) members and from one of the best Special Forces soldiers he has ever served with, and a very special friend.

 

Gil Turcotte Detachment “A” Plaque Donation

Background

Earlier this year, Gil called Bob Charest and discussed a concept and idea he had for making of a Detachment “A” plaque.  Bob said ‘go for it’.  Gil came up with the concept and design, hired a woodcarver to construct the plaque, and funded it. Gil put a lot of thought, time and effort into this plaque.

Gil wanted an ‘eagle’ cane for Detachment ”A”.  Eagle Canes are a tradition in many states.  Woodcarvers/artists hand craft each custom cane and donate it to the veteran; in support of our veterans.  Maine shares in this tradition and Gil hired George and Donna Gunning, of Windsor ME.  They carve each eagle cane individually to specifications and donate it to any veteran who has honorably served, no matter how long they served.

Gil wanted the eagle cane to be focal point feature of the plaque.

The woodcarvers did their research about Detachment “A”.  They read the articles posted on our web site and as they learned more about Detachment “A” they became very enthusiastic about the unit and the project.

The overall plaque design consisted of:  the eagle cane mounted on the plaque, Detachment A” items, US Army items and a large area for Detachment “A” members to sign their name and dates they served in Detachment ”A”.

Gil collected all the items he wanted on the plaque then created a mock-up where each item would appear on the plaque.  The entire project took about 4 months.  There was a lot of collaboration and iterations – Gil was very particular on what he wanted.

Gil’s Detachment “A” Plaque Description

The actual wooden plaque is 4 feet long and 2 feet high.  It weighs 40 pounds.  It will be positioned at a 20 degree angle for proper viewing.  Gil described each component of the plaque as follows:

The most distinguishing feature of this artifact is the Eagle Cane.  The cane has an intricate Bald Eagle’s Head carved and painted into the handle representing the national symbol of freedom and independence.  The shaft of the cane consists of the American Flag, the Army Branch of Service emblem, a burned etching of “Detachment ”A” with dates of existence 1956-1984, and the Berlin Occupation Medal.

On the left side there is a burned-in wooden block etched with MG Sidney Shachnow’s name, as he is the best known Commander of Detachment “A”.  In the center there is another larger burned-in wooden block containing the Special Forces Crest, SF Shoulder Patch, American and German Wings, and two Detachment “A” coins one coin for the Head and one for the Tails which were Gil’s own coins.  The head consisting of a parachute, represents the infiltration into Berlin by Detachment “A” members led by MG Sidney Shachnow(Ret).  The tail consisting of a broken wall represents the exfiltration of Detachment “A” out of Berlin as LTC Piasecki(Ret) was the officer in charge of the final 10 days to clear out, sanitize and clean the station.  On the right side of plaque there is another burned -in wooden block etched with LTC Eugene Piasecki’s name.

The far right side of the plaque contains the Taps List with those departed members of Detachment “A”.  It is positioned under base of the cane.  Gil expressed its significance to be that whenever the base of a cane touches the ground it serves as a reminder of our honored comrades and brothers who are no longer with us, and to honor them and never forget them.

The original taps list was sent out for reformatting and printing.  It was originally printed on plain white paper.  The owner wanted to know about the ‘Taps List’.  When Gil explained it to her she ordered it to be re-printed on parchment and refused to accept any payment.

On the back of the plaque Gil wrote:  “Donated by Gil Turcotte, SGM(Ret) 2017”.

The rest of the plaque is reserved for Detachment “A” member signatures and certain dignitaries.  Each member signs their name along with time served in Detachment “A”.

Detachment “A” Plaque Signing

Gil arrived on Wednesday to the 2017 Detachment “A” function in honor of Jeff Raker with the plaque.

Gil Turcott’s plaque

Gil designated that the first signature and the location of the signature at the top of the bald eagle’s head be reserved for Bob Charest.  Gil wanted Bob to have this distinction of being the first to sign because he ‘brought Detachment “A” in from the cold” and “made it prominent by bringing long due recognition for the unit”.  Bob was honored as the first Detachment “A” member to sign the plaque at the head of the eagle.

Members present on Wednesday also signed the plaque including John Lee, Chris Feudo, Rick Westbrook, Steve Bright, Lee Fondas, and Eugene Piasecki who signed under the block containing his name.

On Thursday after MG Jim Guest’s speech, Gil had CSM Jeff Raker’s son Jeff to sign the plaque on his father’s behalf and in his honor.

Gill then caught up with our distinguished guest speaker MG James Guest’s(Ret) former Commanding General, United States Army Special Forces Command and obtained his signature.

Gil continued collecting signatures from all Detachment “A” members present at our function.  He also signed for some members with their permission, who were unable to attend, including Daryl Katz, Peter Gould and Doug Curry.

On Friday, right before our ceremony, Gil got MG Sidney Shachnow(Ret) to sign the plaque under the block containing his name.

Our June 2017 function in honor of Jeff Raker, included the presentation of the plaque.  At the conclusion of our ceremony after MG Shachnow’s speech, Bob Charest called on Gil Turcotte who then presented the plaque to MG Sidney Shachnow(Ret) who then donated it to the JFK Museum on behalf of Detachment “A”.

About the Cane Woodcarvers

At the far right bottom corner of the plaque contains the woodcarver’s names George and Donna Gunning, Windsor ME, 2017.  They did not want to put their logo because they thought it might detract from the plaque but Gil convinced them to place it on the plaque.  They have produced 3,800 canes for Maine veterans at no cost to the veterans.  Donations are accepted to keep the tradition going.  Gil presented them with an autographed copy of Styk’s book Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956–1990 as a gift, along with a donation for their work.

Detachment(A) Display at JFK Museum

JFK Museum
Det-A JFK Museim

At the 2004 SFA Convention in Las Vegas, Bob Charest developed an awareness that  Detachment ”A” seemed to be fading into the shadows of history.

After previously visiting the JFK museum, he noticed that there was no Detachment “A” representation there and thought it would be a great first step into bringing Detachment ”A” back from its disintegrating and forgotten history. Bob had a conversation with Roxanne Merritt the Director of the FJK Special Warfare Museum about creating a Detachment “A” exhibit at the JFK museum.  He did not want Detachment ”A” to completely fade away, and since this seemed to be a place to start, he asked Roxanne if this would be feasible and she agreed informing him that artifacts needed to be collected for the exhibit, and she would design  and plan the exhibit display.

During the intervening years, Bob started hosting small DET-A Get together’ s,  and Detachment ”A” interest reemerged and started to grow and grow.

In 2010, Bob initiated a project with the mission statement:  Detachment (A) JFK Museum Representation.  With the help of all Detachment “A” members, and Roxanne Merrit, he believed it could happen. He called upon Detachment”A” members to donate artifacts to the museum for the exhibit, and he got an exceptional response. Detachment”A” artifacts started arriving the JFK Museum.

In May 2011, at the Detachment “A” Asheville NC Get Together, Bob invited Roxanne Merritt to the function to provide an update on the exhibit.  Many DET-A Members brought their artifacts with them to hand over to Roxanne.  The mission statement prepared by Hilmar Kullek would be used as our focal point.  Harvey Cox produced an 18×18 professional replica of the condensed Mission Statement.  Some of the Det(A) Artifacts pledged:

  • MG Sid Shachnow (Ret): Telephone from Check Point Charlie
  • Kevin Monahan: Three plaques from the DET(A) trophy case
  • Bob Charest: DET(A) Gold Coin
  • Wayne Searcy: RS4 radio
  • Jack Fulp: Trophy from the 1st Para Red Devils Airborne, and a Det A Beer Mug
  • Harvey Cox: Donated his art business services and materials to produce an 18×18 professional replica of the condensed Mission Statement by Hilmar Kullek seen on the DET(A) web site
  • Frank Gallardo: 13” Cloak & Dagger wood statue
  • Bruno von Haas: East German Flag that flew over the Brandenburger Tor in Berlin given to Bruno by friend and Berlin Chief of Police in 1989 when the wall went down
  • Mike Linnane: Special Forces DET(A) patch.
  • Larry Coleman: DVD with pictures of DET(A)
  • Hilmar H. Kullek: Wooden Maneuver Display – Flintlock 1972, Beer Mug – Kampfschwimmerkompanie Eckernfoerde, Beer Mug – 1956 – 1984 CKB
  • Doug Snow: Berlin Perimeter sign

Along with many other donated items.

Roxanne Merritt was instrumental in the establishment of the Detachment “A” exhibit as were all Detachment “A” members.
Detachment “A” now has a small Detachment “A” Berlin exhibit within the SF Historical displays.

 

 

Exclusive Article On Detachment(A)

Jack Murphy from SOFREP News wants to write an article exclusively about Detachment(A) in Berlin to include its many missions during its existence.  This will be a  follow-up article to the short article he wrote and published on 27 April 2016 entitled Detachment A: the Cold War Sabotage Experts of Special Forces.

This follow-up article will contribute to the history Detachment(A) and most importantly to its history in Special Forces.

He would like to hear from Detachment(A) members, so if you are interested please contribute any and all of our many missions and stories to him.

This is the main reason I started this 10 years ago as we were dying on the vine.  Detachment(A) is one of the most distinguished units Special Forces ever had, yet we officially did not exist.  Some of the most qualified Special Forces troops ever created served during the existence of Detachment(A).

Bob Charest

 

Use this form to contact Jack Murphy.

Jack Murphy is an eight year Army Special Operations veteran who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group. Having left the military in 2010, he graduated from Columbia with a BA in political science. Murphy is the author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, Direct Action, and numerous non-fiction articles about Weapons, Tactics, Special Operations, Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism. He has appeared in documentaries, national television, and syndicated radio.

Detachment A: the Cold War Sabotage Experts of Special Forces

Detachment A: the Cold War Sabotage Experts of Special Forces

Article by Jack Murphy from SOFREP News

27 April 2016

Imagine American Special Forces soldiers traveling around Baghdad in civilian vehicles, speaking the local language, carrying false passports, and operating under a cover as they case targets and dodge foreign intelligence agents. Today, such a thing is an impossibility, a much sought after capability that Special Forces has been unable to attain in recent years. Yet, this is exactly what Green Berets did in Germany during the Cold War as a part of small unit known as Detachment A.

Nearly lost the history books, Det A members lived off of the local economy and worked out of Andrews Barracks, as well as safe houses in and around Berlin. Coming into existence in the 1950’s, their primary responsibility was to be a stay-behind force in the event that the Soviet Union invaded Western Europe. Once the Soviet Army had invaded, these Green Berets would then activate, launching an unconventional war behind enemy lines before escaping and evading their way back to friendly lines.

A big part of what made this mission possible was the Alien Enlistee Act of 1950, sponsored by Henry Cabot Lodge. The idea behind the so-called Lodge Act was to create a sort of American foreign legion, the ultimate Unconventional Warfare unit made up of men who defected from the USSR and its satellite states.

With their in-depth knowledge of enemy nations and foreign language capabilities, they could be trained in Infantry and Ranger tactics before having their skills polished with instruction in sabotage and other forms of Unconventional Warfare. “I felt like I was in a foreign Army,” Bob Charest, a former member of Det A said upon realizing that there were almost more German names in the unit than American ones.

Traveling on Berlin’s bus system, Det A members avoided East German and Soviet intelligence officers as they cased targets that they would strike in the event of a Soviet invasion. One of their main targets was the ring of rail road tracks that circled Berlin. One technique they developed was to use explosives camouflaged as blocks of coal. Once shoveled into the engine of a locomotive by an unsuspecting train engineer, both would be blown sky high.

The mission of Det A changed with the times, its members adapting to the shifting geo-politics of the Cold War. By the mid-1970’s, Det A began working closely with Germany’s GSG-9 counter-terrorism police unit. For the Green Berets, their main concern was terrorists hijacking an American registered aircraft in Berlin. Transitioning from the unconventional warfare mission to direct action, they trained extensively to conduct aircraft take downs. “We developed plans that the pilots never even knew how to get into that aircraft,” Charest added.

From maintaining CIA caches filled with arms and supplies, to developing plans to target Soviet infrastructure, execute aircraft take downs, recover downed pilots, and more, the men of Detachment A conducted the quintessential Special Forces mission which encompassed direct action, unconventional warfare, intelligence gathering, and reconnaissance behind enemy lines.

Modern Special Forces soldiers would be well served by studying the past successes of a unit like Det A. Their mission was so effective that at the end of the Cold War it was discovered that the Soviets believed there to be 600-700 Det A members in Berlin ready to engage in guerrilla warfare. The joke was on them of course, Det A never numbered above 90 men at any given time.

Jack Murphy is an eight year Army Special Operations veteran who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group. Having left the military in 2010, he graduated from Columbia with a BA in political science. Murphy is the author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, Direct Action, and numerous non-fiction articles about Weapons, Tactics, Special Operations, Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism. He has appeared in documentaries, national television, and syndicated radio.

Memorial Stone Dedication

The Detachment (A) Memorial Stone Dedication Ceremony was hosted by LTG Charles Cleveland, Commanding General for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) on 30 January 2014.

The Detachment”A” Memorial stone is in place and the colors were retired with dignity and honor. The dedication ceremony was outstanding, as was the Chicken Friday’s free event, both food and beers. Lots of folks had to cancel due to the weather, however the event was well attended, including Juan Renta, Rocky Farr, Ron Braughton, Jeff Raker, Carl Beene, Gene Piasecki, and many others.

The following article was posted by the Fayetteville Observer

The following article was posted by Stars and Stripes

 

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