By Maj. Craig Broadwater Ret. BG Craig Broadwater (Deceased) 2/19th SFG(A) Pre-1986 West Virginia was chosen to be one of the first states to be authorized Special Forces units in the Reserve Component structure. This became a reality to the delight of some World War II and Korean War veterans when on 1 March 1959, the National Guard Bureau authorized The Adjutant General of West Virginia to organize two Special Forces units. These were designated the 101st Special Forces Operational Detachment (FC) and the 102d Special Forces Operational Detachment (FB). The 101st SF Det. Was activated in Beckley and the 102d SF Det. Was activated in Huntington. The 101st SF Det. (FC) in Beckley was originally formed from members of HQ and HQ Co. 2d Squadron, 150th Armored Cavalry Regiment. The 102d SF Det. (FB) in Huntington was formed with members of Battery C, 468th field Artillery Battalion. At the beginning these “strange” new units were met with some skepticism. However, as time passed, the “Mountaineers” became more interested in these Special Forces units and soon their ranks were being filled, and more new units to follow. On 15 December 1959, the 170th Special Forces Operational Det. (FD) was organized in Charleston, WV, thereby giving the State capitol its first “Green Berets”. These units were organized as a small “Group” and did not have a collective unit designation. The SFOD (FD) was in fact a small Group headquarters. The SFOD (FC) was comparable to the C-team and SFOD (FB) to a B-team. Additionally, the SFOD (AA) was an administrative detachment and the SFOD (FA) was the A-team. Thus, West Virginia had the 166th SFOD (AA) and 10 SFOD’s FA, being 165th, 167th, 168th, 169th, 171st, 172d, 173d, 174th, 175th, and 176th, all in this small Group. On 28 April 1961, these SFOD’s were redesignated as the 16th SF Group and organized effective 1 May 1961. The 16th Group HHC was located in Charleston, with Co A in Beckley, Co B in Huntington and Co C in Wilmington, NC. Minor reorganizations took place on 14 August 1961, 28 February 1962, and still another on 30 April 1962. During these early glory days, officials from the Kennedy administration attended and watched the 16th SF Group during their Annual Training at Camp Dawson, Kingwood, West Virginia. Secretary of the Army Cyrus Vance was one of these officials. With another reorganization on 15 June 1962 and in April 1963, the “B” Detachment and two A Detachments in Beckley were inactivated and personnel transferred to Charleston Units. The April 1963 reorganization was a major overhaul. At this time, HQ and HQ Co. remained the same. Company B, in Huntington, was redesignated as Company A, 16th SF Group, with Detachments in Parkersburg, Charleston, Clarksburg, and Camp Dawson. Company B, 16th SFG (-) 1st SF (ABN) was allocated to the State of Maryland. Thus, West Virginia had SF units four years before Maryland received SF units. Additionally, the unit that Maryland used to form their SF Company was the Guerrilla Force during AT 1962 at Camp Dawson, Kingwood, West Virginia. In October 1963, the 16th Special Forces Group went through another reorganization with minor changes in personnel and equipment. Meanwhile, the units continued to send personnel to schools and to sharpen the SF skills. At that time the 16th SF Group wore the Reserve SF flash, a teal blue center with a white border. From 1959 to 1963, the companies had sent several hundred students to the Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and performed excellently in the field. Training time was spent in developing SF techniques. During this period, the 16th Group deployed detachments to Europe to operate with the Army Special Forces in Germany, Many skills were learned from the 10th Special Forces Group (ABN) at Bad Toldz, Germany. In 1963, a composite detachment from West Virginia was flown to Driex Air Force Base just north of Paris, France, for isolation, briefing and briefbacks. The detachment was then infiltrated into South Bavaria by parachute from Driex, a distance of some 800 miles. They were met on the ground by elements of the 10th SF Group and a guerrilla force composed from troops of the 89th Infantry Division. While on this operation, these troops received training in all phases of guerrilla warfare. They were subjected to some intensive pursuits from the aggressor elements which were composed of a mechanized infantry battalion, a helicopter company, and a dog platoon from the British Army. In 1965, several detachments were sent to Alaska for AT. These teams received training in artic warfare and went north of the Arctic Circle in the Brooks Mountain Range. Veterans of this trip still talk of the “dead-reckoning” navigation across the frozen, featureless snow lands in -40 F. degree temperatures. Special Forces organization remained fairly stable until 1966 after Congress had prevented the Department of Army from merging the Army Reserve and National Guard. In the shuffle, West Virginia lost its Special Forces Group Headquarters as the 16th Group was inactivated on 10 February 1966. Only Company A was to remain of the detachments in the different cities. Company A then became Company F of the 19th SF Group with the Group Headquarters in Utah. Company F was stationed in Charleston with operational B detachments in both Huntington and Camp Dawson. On 1 September 1972, Company F was reorganized into the 2d Battalion, 19th SFGA. Company A was located in Charleston with Company B stationed at Huntington and Company C at Camp Dawson. In 1976 Company A moved to Beckley. Then in January 1979, the 2d Battalion underwent its most recent reorganization as Company A was sent to Rhode island, which had just lost a battalion. In 1965, West Virginia was fortunate in getting as part of the State Staff HQ, a Special Forces Augmentation Detachment. This detachment was charged with operating a Special Forces equipment site at Camp Dawson, with duties for SF units in the eastern part of the U.S. to include a parachute rigging section. This detachment originally wore the Reserve SF flash and then changed to the 19th Group solid teal blue flash. In the late 1970’s this detachment wore an unauthorized dark blue flash with two gold diagonals, the traditional colors of the Mountaineer State. In 1982, this detachment lost its SF status and merged into the Facilities Command at Camp Dawson. A modern equipment building was completed in 1986. Today, this Section maintains an SF equipment pool to include HALO, SCUBA, and winter warfare items as well as the rigger shop. The West Virginia Army National Guard parachute demonstration team, “The Cardinals” operates from this section and also has members from Company C for its free-fall jumps. Although the 1960 AT was spent at Fort Bragg, West Virginia SF units have spent the majority of their AT’s at either Camp Dawson or Camp Williams, Utah. The 2d Bn has sent several detachments to South Korea for joint training exercise with ROK SF units. The first came in 1977 when Company C sent an SFOD-A to participate in Team Spirit in the spring and an A-team in the fall to participate in Operation Foal Eagle. Then in 1980 the 19th Group participated in Foal Eagle, as Company C sent an SFOD-A, with the 2d Battalion sending a number of support troops for the SFOB. The 19th SFG(A) started orienting its training in the Pacific area with the conduct of its Golden Laser operations. In 1985, the 2d Battalion conducted an unconventional warfare exercise in Hawaii. Guan and Saipan are scheduled for 2d Battalion in 1986. Additionally, Company C and Company B sent detachments to participate in Brimfront-83 at Camp Richardson, Alaska. SOCOM evaluators were pleased with the performance of the 2d Battalion detachment, which operated along with the detachments from the 7th SFG(A). On November 5, 1985, the entire 2d Battalion was called to State active duty for Operation Recovery after the worst flooding disaster in West Virginia history. Camp Dawson along the Cheat River was completely under water, and Company C assisted in recovery efforts in this area. Company B and HHD went to the Harpers Ferry area and assisted in recovery efforts along the Potomac River. Governor Moore singled out two members of Company C who recovered from the Cheat River and returned to its owners a money box containing $32,000, “as indicative of the integrity and high moral character of the men in the National Guard”. Many weekend fly-aways have taken the 2d Battalion to Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Camp Rudder, Florida; Camp Santiago, Puerto Rico; and the Virgin Islands for training. The C-130’s of the 167th and 130th, both Air National Guard units located in West Virginia, have provided the wings for these trips. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Post-1986 The 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) includes 6 Green Beret teams, a headquarters and headquarters detachment, and a support company. The Battalion, part of the West Virginia Army National Guard, had subordinate units spread over 3 states, but headquarters in Kenova West Virginia. C Company and the Battalion's support company, were also in West Virginia, in Kingwood and Kenova respectively. Some 200 were based in Kenova, while another 100 are based in Preston County. The troops were trained in "a variety of unconventional methods, reconnaissance, extraction, those types of things. They were often used to augment existing conventional forces as a complement to those forces. The West Virginia unit was combat ready and had been deployed to Egypt and Haiti.
Other subordinate units were in Ohio and Rhode Island. A Company was located in Middile Town, Rhode Island, part of the Rhode Island Army National Guard. B Company in Columbus, Ohio was part of the Ohio Army National Guard.
In May 1995, units of 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) were mobilized to reinforce 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) for peacekeeping operations in Haiti. Company B, 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Operations Group deployed with 6 Special Forces Operational Detachment As to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and then to Haiti.
In Bosnia and Kosovo, unconventional warfare elements of 10th Special Forces Group advised NATO coalition forces and provided liaison control elements to Task Force Falcon and Task Force Eagle. After hostilities ended between various ethnic factions, 10th Special Forces Group and conventional NATO elements maintained the peace and facilitated and supported reconstruction and reconciliation. Operational Detachment As from A Company, B Company, C Company and Detachment 1 mobilized and deployed to Kosovo between 2000 and 2002. There they augmented 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 10th Special Forces Group, providing valuable experience and civilian skills to the peace building effort. In December 2002, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) assumed the Special Operations Command and Control Element mission at Camp Bondsteel. They were subsequently replaced there by Company A, 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group.
In late November 2001, the 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group learned it would be deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom for up to a year. Its destination was not initially revealed. About 300 members of the 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group got orders to ship out in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The unit was to go to another location in the United States to complete processing before they were called overseas to support the war on terrorism. 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was mobilized and deployed to Uzbekistan to establish a forward operating base supporting operations in Afghanistan.
In June 2002, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) mobilized and deployed to Kuwait in support of US Central Command Operation Desert Springs. After relieving Company A, 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Camp Doha, Special Forces Operational Detachment B 950 took on the Advanced Operational Base mission subordinate to the Special Operations Command and Control Element to Coalition Forces Land Component Command. Five Special Forces Operational Detachment As conducted foreign internal defense, liaison and control element and unilateral training missions prior to the build up of US Forces for Operation Iraqi Freedom. In October 2002, Company A, 1st Battalion 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) relieved B 950 and subsequently led coalition forces north from Kuwait to Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was mobilized in October 2005 and conducted pre-mission training with 10th Special Forces Group in Colorado and Wyoming. In January 2006, 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom in support of Forward Operating Base 102 under the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Arabian Peninsula. For 7 months the citizen-Soldiers of National Guard Special Forces trained, advised and assisted their Iraqi counterparts. They conducted numerous missions and raids leading to the successful capture and detention of terrorists and insurgents.