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Green Beret final Training Test: “It will look and sound like a war in 19 NC counties. It’s supposed to”


This was our final test to earn entry into Special Forces (Green Berets). It’s called Robin Sage.

The short version is that your 12 man A-Team receives a mission. The team plans the mission which requires a great deal of thinking and finally memorization of details of the plan. The team then conducts a “brief back” to the commander and other involved commanders and parties.

For Robin Sage, the mission is to parachute into the fictitious country of “Pineland.” (North Carolina has a lot of pine trees.)

So you fly in low at night, probably rumbling in a C-130 (we did, anyway), and jump into the darkness. A lot of people get hurt on night parachute jumps. Unfortunately, for some people this jump ends their Green Beret career before it starts. During my test, all teammates made the jump with weapon and heavy gear with no dramas.

Our team leader was a Canadian special forces captain. His codename for the mission was Maple. My codename was Miser. He was a great officer during SF training.

The first task is to get off the DZ (drop zone) stash the parachutes (really turn them in), and get away. Then make an encrypted call back with status. (None of this is classified — it’s all in non-classified manuals.)

We then linked up with “guerrillas,” who in our case were Soldiers from non-combat jobs, so they had practically no combat training other than knowing their way around an M-16. Whether they could hit something with it was another question.

Long story short: we train them for a short while, hit some targets, get very, very hungry, and work to keep them motivated. For some “guerrillas” this is great fun to play with almost Green Berets, but for others it’s like a punishment assignment.

Making matters more interesting is that the broad area of the exercise is deeply populated by veterans of elite units. Green Berets, Delta Force, Rangers, various airborne units like 82nd, and some of them still like to play Soldier. Some of them take sport in trying to track you down to mess with you, and others to play guerrilla-friendly like they are on your side and give you information, but they might be lying so, you know, they make it realistic.

Our team did not encounter any vets but some did seem to be tracking a small patrol I was leading but we managed to avoid them. Basically I was given a “G” (guerrilla) or two to do a recon, and we came up on a muddy road that we had to cross. I said wait. We ain’t crossing that muddy road to finish this recon.

We stopped in a hidden position were we could watch the road and I started checking the map for a way to cross without leaving obvious tracks. While I was figuring what to do, a small car came down the muddy road and some guys got out and started walking the road — obviously looking for tracks!

I thought, either:

1) They live around there and are playing with us.
2) Are trying to steal our weapons (we are warned that militias stalk the students to steal their gear and rob them of weapons)
3) The Green Beret instructor set us up.

They got back in the car and left.

So, I called the mission and we quietly headed back to base. That was a significant event that I had to report to the team leader immediately. Obviously someone was looking for us.

Anyway, I got my Green Beret shortly after that, and within a few days was in jail for murder! Unbelievable. Anyway, that’s life. (Charges were dropped and I stayed in Green Berets four more years.)

It would be interesting to live around there and go hunting for A-Teams during Robin Sage. Great fun and makes it more realistic when the population engages.

Several years later, we did a similar exercise in the country of Luxembourg. We were stationed in Germany but planned the mission in Spain, then flew to UK and landed and got straight into a blacked out bus and stayed in a “safe house” with blacked out windows. Then parachuted at night into Luxembourg to conduct the mission. We linked up with “guerrillas” who were Luxembourgish Soldiers. They had high morale so that part was easy.

We were told that there had been announcements in their media for farmers and others to help find us, and alert authorities if they caught a trace. They were making it realistic. Man were we hungry. I was ready to start stealing chickens. Nobody is strong enough to carry all that gear and enough food.

An airplane parachuted supplies and so that was a happy night.

Then we got a radio message about some reactor accident in USSR. Radiation was coming our way. Lovely. Chernobyl.

Michael Yon

Michael Yon is America's most experienced combat correspondent. He has traveled or worked in 82 countries, including various wars and conflicts.

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