The process of becoming a Green Beret is, unsurprisingly, a long and arduous one. It begins with a monthlong preparation course, to help already-trained soldiers become better prepared for the markedly more difficult physical and mental duress they'll undergo. Following preparation is the selection process, a 24-daylong affair that aims to root out the less-qualified soldiers from those who have a chance to complete the Special Forces training program.
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Because their job demands that they be able to perform well in and adapt to changing environments, Green Berets are often college-educated, some to a post-graduate level. Many enter training already bilingual. This will serve them well during instruction, as they're not only exposed to grueling physical tests, but are also trained in the culture, language, customs, geography and traditions of the area that will ultimately serve as their Areas of Operation (AO).
Green Berets will be assigned to one of five AOs, which coincide with the five divisions of U.S. military involvement throughout the world:
- U.S. European Command - Africa, Western and Eastern Europe, North Asia
- U.S. Northern Command - All of North America up to the Arctic Circle and Northern Central America
- U.S. Pacific Command - South Asia, Australia, Greenland, Indochina, all Pacific Islands
- U.S. Southern Command - Central and South America and the Caribbean
- U.S. Central Command - Northeast Africa, the Middle East and part of Eurasia
During training, Green Berets are also exposed to the kind of conditions and treatment they might endure if caught by the enemy. In mock-POW camps, they are hooded, blindfolded, mistreated and pushed to the breaking point. Green Berets receive SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training to help them remain one step ahead of the enemy or to escape when caught. They're trained in weapons, navigation, scuba diving and parachuting. But instruction can't predict everything that may come up in the field. So a Green Beret receives perhaps his most important training -- how to adapt and think on his feet.
During training, each recruit's natural talents will be honed, and they will be trained in a specialty (more on that on the next page). But they're also cross-trained in one another's skills so that, in a pinch, Green Berets can fill in for each other. This illustrates how vital each skill set is that, when combined, makes up a highly specialized Green Beret detachment, or unit.
Once Green Beret recruits are fully trained, they're assigned a detachment most likely composed of the same people with whom they have undergone training. Six detachments and a Company Headquarters, which directly manages operations, make up a company. Special Forces companies, along with a commander and a group support battalion -- which offers supplies, logistics and analysis to the detachments -- make up a Special Forces Group, SFG. As of 2007, there are five Green Beret Groups throughout the world:
- 1st SFG - stationed at Ft. Lewis, Wash., with an AO of East Asia and the Pacific
- 3rd SFG - stationed at Ft. Bragg, N.C., with a AO of West Africa and Caribbean
- 5th SFG - stationed at Ft. Campbell, Ky., with an AO of Southwest Asia and Northeast Africa
- 7th SFG - stationed at Ft. Bragg, N.C, with an AO of Central and South America
- 10th SFG - stationed at Ft. Carson, Co., with an AO of Europe and Western Asia
In the next section, we'll learn about the basic structure of Green Beret detachments and the position each soldier occupies within a unit.