Category Archives: History

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

By Drew Brooks Staff writer

Posted Jan 31, 2014 at 12:01 AM Updated Jan 31, 2014 at 7:05 AM

Douglas Curry, left, and Warner Farr, right, look at the stone dedicated to Detachment A in the memorial garden in front of the Army Special Operations Command.

For nearly 30 years during the Cold War, some of America’s top soldiers toiled in secret.

Their missions, always classified, are still largely unknown and absent from the history books.

But Thursday, on Fort Bragg, those soldiers were publicly honored for their service and sacrifice.

Detachment A Berlin Brigade was a clandestine unit of about 90 Green Berets based in West Berlin. They wore civilian clothes, spoke fluent German and stayed on high alert 24 hours a day.

Officials with U.S. Army Special Operations Command dedicated and unveiled a memorial stone for the unit at Meadows Field Memorial Plaza.

They also formally cased the unit’s colors – the flag used to identify the detachment – for the first time.

The ceremony was attended by dozens of veterans of Detachment A, as well as leaders from the Fort Bragg special operations community.

“No force of its size has contributed more to peace, stability and freedom,” Army Special Operations Command officials said.

Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commander of Army Special Operations Command, said the memorial was in a place of honor.

As a captain, Cleveland trained in West Berlin with members of Detachment A. On Thursday, with the Army Special Operations Memorial Wall as a backdrop, he said it was an honor to oversee the ceremony unveiling the memorial, saying the unit was held in high regard.

Detachment A has a proud legacy, Cleveland said, and faced “untold risk – fraught with uncertainty.”

From 1956 to 1984, Detachment A was involved in some of the most sensitive operations of the Cold War, even as the country teetered on the brink of World War III, he said. Its members created techniques that are still in use today.

All the while, the men were surrounded by the Soviet Union at all times.

“Detachment A was literally in the eye of the Cold War hurricane,” Cleveland said.

“Well done,” he added. “You are truly without equal.”

The men of Detachment A were specially chosen Special Forces soldiers. Many were immigrants from Germany or eastern Europe, brought in for their cultural expertise.

“They were very brave men and took on some tough missions,” said retired Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, who commanded Detachment A from 1970 to 1974.

Veterans of the unit described a tight-knit group that was constantly aware of the threats around them.

“We all knew it was a suicide mission,” said Bob Charest, a retired master sergeant who served with Detachment A from 1969 to 1972 and 1973 to 1978.

Charest said the unit effectively operated 110 miles inside enemy lines.

If war had started, he said, they would have easily been wiped off the face of the earth.

In a history of the unit written by Charest, he outlined the unique and diversified team.

“Detachment A was a highly trained, one-of-a-kind unit,” Charest said. “No one knew much about it during its existence.”

They carried non-American documentation and identification and trained at the highest standards, Charest wrote.

The men carried out secret missions to sabotage railways in the early days of the Detachment and later focused on anti-terrorist, sniper and swat combat.

The unit also participated in Operation Eagle Claw – the failed attempt to rescue hostages held by Iran in 1980.

“We were the Delta Force of Europe,” Charest wrote.

Detachment A also helped the CIA, and its equipment reads like it comes from a James Bond novel.

“One-shot cigarette-lighter guns, vials filled with metal shavings for destruction of turbines, noise suppressed weapons for elimination of specific targets,” lists Charest.

Veterans of the unit said Thursday’s ceremony was special, and a unique opportunity to publicly honor the little-known detachment.

“We never got credit for anything because we didn’t exist,” Charest said.

Retired Lt. Col. Eugene Piasecki said the unit was so secret that officials didn’t know who he was when the unit began turning in equipment ahead of its deactivation in 1984.

Piasecki said closing the unit was the saddest day of his life.

“I knew when I closed the door I would no longer serve in a unit like that,” he said.

In the years since the end of the Cold War, Detachment A has been unclassified, but until recently, one mystery remained.

Where were the unit’s colors?

The blue flag that represented Detachment A was unique from the start.

Originally, the unit was denied colors because of its secretive nature. But Detachment A officials appealed to the Berlin Brigade -which technically did not have the authority to issue colors – and was approved. That relationship is why Detachment A’s flag is infantry blue as opposed to Special Forces green.

When Detachment A was shuttered in 1984, the colors went missing, Piasecki said.

The flag’s whereabouts remained a mystery to most Detachment A veterans until November, when it was discovered at a local Special Forces Association chapter.

On Thursday, the flag was officially cased by Piasecki and Army Special Operations Command Sgt. Maj. George Bequer.

The colors were then presented to Cleveland, who said they would find a place of honor within Army Special Operations Command.

The memorial, featuring the image of a crumbling Berlin Wall, was the culmination of a nearly year-long effort, officials said.

Jimmy Spoo, a retired chief warrant officer 4 who served in Detachment A from 1981 to 1984 and most recently spurred efforts to build the memorial, said Army Special Operations Command’s memorial plaza was an incredible tribute and it was only fitting to add a memorial to the detachment.

Dozens of Detachment A veterans made donations to pay for the memorial and excess money – about $2,000 – was donated Thursday to the Green Beret Foundation, a charity that helps Special Forces soldiers and their families.

Staff writer Drew Brooks can be reached at brooksd@fayobserver.comor 486-3567.

The following article was posted by Stars and Stripes

 

Remove featured image

 

DetAProgram

Stormcloud

Stormcloud

Detachment “A” participated in “Operation Eagle Claw” the attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis on 24/25 April 1980 by rescuing 52 diplomats held captive at the United States Embassy and the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, Iran.

Detachment “A” was responsible for the pre-mission reconnaissance of the targets by successfully infiltrating a team into Tehran on several occasions and contributed an element to rescue three hostages held in the MFA.

When the first mission was aborted a second attempt was planned for later that year, but was cancelled when negotiations proved successful.

Stormcloud was the code-name for Det “A’s” portion of the mission.

A Thumbnail Look at Detachment (A) Berlin Special Forces 1956-1984

Detachment (A) Berlin Special Forces 1956-1984

A thumbnail look at Detachment(A) Berlin Brigade
Compiled/Written by: Bob Charest Detachment(A)
 Team 1 Scuba, Detachment(A) Team 3 Team Sergeant (1969-1972) Detachment(A) Team 2 , Detachment(A) Commo Chief 1973-1978

History Overview

In 1956, six modified Special Forces Operational “A” Detachments from the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) stationed in Bad Tölz were relocated to West Berlin as the 7781 Army Unit (also known as 39th SFOD) and embedded within HQ and HQ Co., 6th Infantry Regiment. Each team was composed of one Master Sergeant and five enlisted team members. The overall OIC was MAJ Maltese and his XO, CAPT Barton. After several moves in 1958 the unit found its final home at Andrews Barracks, West Berlin, assigned to HHC, US Army Garrison, Berlin, with its new name – Detachment “A” (DET-A). DET(A) was a clandestine unit constantly on high alert status 24 hours a day. In 1962 DET(A) was separated from the Garrison and became Detachment(A), Berlin Brigade, US Army Europe, which it remained until deactivation in 1984.

Detachment (A) was a unique and diversified, unconventional classified unit. With staff, the unit numbers were approximately 90 men. Detachment(A) encompassed all the Special Forces missions over its existence: unconventional warfare, stay behind, direct action, and anti-terrorist. For example when I arrived in 1969, they operated under the cell concept. Then in the late sixties transitioned to six, 12-man “A” teams, each having its own mission requiring different and multiple skill sets including scuba, HALO, etc.

A certain breed of troop were instrumental in Detachment(A)’s missions. They brought in depth knowledge of other nations, language capabilities and other much needed skills and knowledge essential to Detachment(A). Some of these men were products of the Lodge Act, and many of these troops still had families behind the Iron Curtain. Men like Peter Astalos who served in the Romanian and German armies during World War II; Martin Urich who participated in the largest tank battle of World War II “Kursk”, and many more.

Photos of Martin Urich

In later years during the Cold War another breed of men were joining the Special Forces originating from all over Europe. Men such as MG Sidney Shachnow born in Kaunas Lithuania, imprisoned for three years during World War II, joined Special Forces in 1962 and served for the next 32 years in Special Forces rising through the ranks to become a Two Star General. He was the Commander of Detachment(A) in the early 1970s.  Hermann Adler, Team 3 Leader 71-72, born in the Sudentenland, Czechoslovakia.

Photos of Sidney Shachnow and Hermann Adler

After MG Shachnow’s departure from Detachment(A), his replacement was relieved of duty in front of our morning formation by the Berlin Brigade DBC. He was replaced along with several other key individuals who were not Special Forces qualified. Under their direction we were all put back in uniforms. Our Detachment(A) sign logo now had a big Airborne logo appended to it. We were assigned various duties to train the Infantry units of the Berlin Brigade, i.e., EIB training, Scout Swimmer, etc. Their NCO’s looked to us as cadre. These command changes had a detrimental impact on the unit and compromised DET(A)’s mission.

The unit then got a new commander. Colonel Stanley Olchovik, who was born in Czechoslovakia, was an accomplished linguist and had extensive Special Forces operational experience.

CSM Jeffrey Raker, another standout born in Germany, was also assigned to Detachment(A) . He volunteered for Special Forces in 1963, and rose up to Command Sergeant Major. He served as the Sergeant Major of Detachment(A) from 1977-1981.

Photos of CSM Raker and Stanley Olchovik

Colonel Olchovik and Sergeant Major Raker restored Detachment(A) to its primary classified missions. Under their leadership the unit was able to regroup and achieve 100% language qualification, and hone its unconventional warfare and special operations skills. They set up training with the Bundesgrenzschutz GSG9, SAS, and Special Berlin Police units. SGM Raker selected and trained Detachment(A)  individuals who made the reconnaissance to Iran to plan Operation Eagle Claw – Iran Hostage Rescue Mission 1979.

He then selected the Detachment that was to rescue the hostages held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Operation Storm Cloud.

CSM Raker served over 30 years in the Army.

It was men like these that made Detachment(A) what it was– a clandestine unit of Green Beret commandos on high alert 24 hours a day operating in the Cold War era.

Becoming a member of the unit required the potential candidate meet the highest of standards. Those standards were rigorously set and enforced. The slightest infractions were not tolerated. The members of this unit were selectively trained, language qualified SF soldiers, many former German and Eastern European immigrants who brought much needed culture, geographical and language skills to this assignment. They dressed in mostly civilian clothing purchased in both West and East Germany and carried if required, non-American flash documentation and identification. Their missions were always classified.

Physical training was wide-ranging and progressively intense.

For example, on Monday, it was the daily dozen plus a one-mile run. Tuesday, the same but a 2-mile run which progressed through Friday to a 5-mile run. Four times per month we performed a four-mile cross-country run through the Grunewald Forest. Another example, a month in Southern Germany where we trained for winter warfare, which consisted of both downhill and cross-country skiing equivalent to extreme skiing. Specialized demolition training was a required skill for our various targets in Berlin. Some attended the CIA specialized demo course at Harvey Point, NC. We also conducted intense special internal demolitions by our demo personnel.

DET(A) participated in all the Flintlock exercises along with our sister unit 10th SFGP(ABN) located in Bad Tölz Germany in various ways sometimes as assets, Guerrilla Chief as well as participating in communication exercises. We would combine our Scuba training with 10th SFGP in Bad Tölz, Germany.

Each month, we conducted our airborne operations staging and flying out of Berlin Tempelhof AFB and jumping into Bad Tölz, Germany.

Some of the tools of the trade used were coal filled with C-3 for the earlier sabotage of the rail ring surrounding Berlin. One-shot cigarette-lighter guns also known as stingers, vials filled with metal shavings for destruction of turbines, noise suppressed weapons for elimination of specific targets. A myriad of weapons and vehicles were available. All of our scuba gear was German Dräger. This included a Dräger one-man portable decompression chamber.

Other tools included dual passports, or dual nationalities, GS ID cards for specific reasons. Diplomatic passports walk on water IDs for exploring boarder areas in all sectors. Vehicles utilized included both US and German registration. We used German weapons, i.e., Walther MPK 9mm that fit in a briefcase.

Area studies were conducted to gain a solid understanding of the culture, languages, history, geographical data, and target acquisition.

The status of forces agreement with the four powers occupying West Berlin specified no elite forces. However, the allies the British, Russians, and the U.S. etc., had their own elite forces.

We participated in NATO escape and evasion exercises and exclusive DET(A) city exercises in Berlin, which included dead drops, live drops, primary meetings, surveillance, and in-city communications. DET(A) had a city course that we taught to the 10th SFGP personnel as well as SEAL Team Two from Crete.

DET(A) knew that the KGB had us under constant surveillance and possessed dossiers on all of us. Part of our city training was against the Soviets surveillance of us.

Unit members wore civilian clothes, spoke fluent German, and grooming standards were relaxed, i.e., long hair.

Bob

 

Bob Charest Example of Relaxed Grooming 1977

During the mid 70s our mission was changed to anti-terrorist, sniper, and swat combat in cities. We were the Delta Force of Europe.

In 1978 DET(A) was tasked by the CIA to dig up several cache sites positioned throughout Berlin for stay behind operations and check the conditions of the equipment in them, i.e., weapons, demo, commo, medical, and to recommend replacements.

Detachment”A” was deactivated 1 October 1984 and the doors locked on 17 December 1984.