Company A, 5th Battalion, 19th
Special Forces Group (Airborne)in
Unit Told to Get Ready: The California Troops May Ship Out Within
a Week for a Secret Mission Overseas.
By Sam Stanton, Sacramento Bee
Amid talk of war with Iraq and continued military action in Afghanistan,
about 80 members of an elite California National Guard special
forces unit have been told to get ready to ship out for a secret
The deployment of the 19th Special Forces
Group, which has headquarters in Redwood City and Los Alamitos
and includes members from Sacramento, was ordered last week.
The soldiers may ship out within a week.
No one will say where the soldiers are
being sent, with officials citing the need for secrecy.
"We have approximately 80 members
of Company Alpha, Fifth Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group
(Airborne) who have been activated to support Operation Enduring
Freedom," said Capt. Denise Varner, a California National
Guard spokeswoman. "They will be deploying soon for a classified
Varner said members of the unit are "revving
up now, preparing personal items, legal issues and health issues,
and will be departing soon."
Previous deployments of soldiers from
the 19th Special Forces Group saw its East Coast teams involved
in fighting in Afghanistan, and two members have been killed
Sgt. Gene Arden Vance Jr. of the West
Virginia National Guard was killed in action last April in eastern
Afghanistan when his unit came under heavy fire. Sgt. 1st Class
Daniel A. Romero of Colorado also died last April in an accidental
explosion at a demolition range next to the former home of Mullah
Mohammed Omar, the one-time leader of the Taliban who vanished
from sight after the war began.
Special forces soldiers also have been
helping to train Afghan military units, but officials said that
was no indication the California soldiers would be heading there.
Instead, with the uncertainty about whether
the United States is headed toward war with Iraq, "they
could be going anywhere," one official said.
The California special forces unit is
composed of 12-man "A teams" that can be split into
smaller groups "tailored for specific and unique missions,"
according to a Guard description.
"The group possesses a wide range
of special skills and talents, including airborne, medic, engineer,
communications, weapons and intelligence," the Guard description
says. They can, the description says, "take a force of 500
Afghan troops and shape them into a guerrilla force of battalion
Maj. Frank Cuffe, the unit's commander,
could not be reached for comment Monday.
But military supporters in the Bay Area
already are scheduling a two-day fund-raising effort they hope
will raise at least $1 million to help offset the losses in income
the soldiers will face by leaving their civilian jobs.
"We saw there was a need to help
support the soldiers that are being activated," said former
Army Ranger Capt. Dan Rice, who is now a financial adviser. "The
cost of living in Northern California makes deployment very challenging
"Soldiers that make $100,000 make
$35,000 once they're deployed. Their family stays in the same
high cost-of-living area with the same mortgage."
Organizers of the fund-raisers are planning
a $1,000-a-plate black tie dinner in San Francisco on Oct. 5,
with another effort the next day aboard the USS Hornet that will
cost $25 for adults and $10 for children under 12.
Details about the events are available
online at the Web site http://www.operationenduringsupport.com/
, Rice said. Supporters who will be present include Sen. Dianne
Feinstein, D-Calif., and former GOP Gov. Pete Wilson. The Web
site is expected to be updated later this week to include an
order form for tickets, he said.
Rice said organizers also plan to invite
Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and his Republican opponent, Bill
Simon, to draw attention to the financial burden facing Guard
members who have been deployed in operations linked to the war
"We've been told that the gap between
civilian pay and military deployment pay is $100 million for
the California National Guard," Rice said.
One study done for the Guard in 1998 found
that soldiers who are activated for service see their household
income cut anywhere between 16 percent and 65 percent, creating
a serious financial blow to many.
For the 11 percent of the Guard members
who reported incomes then over $70,000 annually, the potential
lost earnings for a yearlong deployment could total $3.7 million,
the study found.
"This potential loss of income, disruption
of lifestyles, and interruption to continuing education plans
become a serious impediment to recruitment and retention as the
likelihood of federal activation increases," the study found.
This artile appeared in the
August 20, 2002 edition to the Sacramento Bee.
Forces Group: A Breed Apart (2003)
The California National Guard's Team A,
19th Special Forces Group, is playing a unique and vital role
in a terrorist-free world emerging from the rubble of 9/11.
It is ensuring that a new government will
rise and survive from the ashes of the World Trade Towers and
the Pentagon. The 80 Green Berets of the 19th Special Forces
Group helped purge Afghanistan of terrorist influence and assisted
with training an army to sustain the new nation.
The soldiers traded their civilian jobs
as policemen, firemen, paramedics, federal agents, and many other
walks of life to wear beards, civilian clothing, and even dress
in the local Afghan garb, to fight terrorist forces and help
build the military infrastructure necessary to maintain this
new found peace. Company A, 19th Special Forces Group is making
sure that it stays that way by helping build the Afghan Army.Currently,
Special Forces are the `Tip of the Spear' in the Global War against
Terrorism. The men of the California National Guard's Special
Forces are part of this force and are in the fight against al
Quaeda and Taliban forces located throughout Afghanistan and
hiding in the Pakistan Border Mountains waiting for opportunities
The Special Forces' unique and unorthodox
methods-according to Army standards-make them a breed apart.
Many ride on horseback, on motorcycles, armored military vehicles,
old Russian vehicles, and even souped-up trucks patrolling areas
around U.S. Forces and Bases.
The Primary Mission of the men of the
California Army National Guard's Special Forces is Foreign Internal
Defense. While some members protect the local Afghan Militia
Forces while they train in Unconventional Warfare, other members
of the company are assisting the local Afghan Militia Forces
with its regional security. The majority of the Special Forces
have been very busy standing up a new army for a new nation.
The Afghan National Army will be responsible for the security
of the young government, which is no small task in an historically
Team As task is even more formidable because
of Afghanistan's numerous tribes and many languages. The teams
must communicate with all these groups in order to train them
in basic soldiering skills, unit tactics, planning, and operations.
The unit has learned to overcome this challenge and has found
creative ways to interact and deal with the daily tribal feuds,
inter-clan rivalries, family vendettas, and other related situations.
Team A had to recruit mature Soldiers
who can operate at the grass roots level and who can communicate
the strategic significance of implementing U.S. Foreign Policy.
This maturity is critical in order for these Host Nation Forces
to maintain the peace and avoid international incidents. As they
develop and progress, they will live up to their nickname: "Diplomat
The California National Guard Green Berets
cannot talk about all their missions. They are conducting a wide
array of operations in support of the U.S. mission to fight terrorism
and rebuild the Nation of Afghanistan. Some of these missions
are classified and cannot be disclosed, in order to protect the
soldiers and their families back home.
The California National Guard's 19th Special
Forces Group realizes the special significance of its skills.
Using both their military skills and civilian experience, the
members are helping create a nation and a 9/11 legacy. Their
contributions are helping to make the world more free from terrorism,
while ensuring that those who perished on September 11th, 2001
did not die in vain.
originally appeared in the August 2003 is of The Grizzly
To Hell and
By Maj. Stan Zezotarski,
Public Affairs Officer, Headquarters, State Area Command
The 19th Special Forces Group, or the Green Berets, with teams
in Redwood City and Los Alamitos returned home in early June
after spending six months in
Afghanistan striking a major blow against global terrorism.
The heroic unit earned more than 40 Bronze Stars and sustained
two wounded in action casualties during their service. Its 85
members were divided into small teams and worked throughout the
entire country of Afghanistan. They trained and accompanied company
and battalion-sized Afghan units on several missions ranging
from surveillance and reconnaissance to combat engagements, according
to Sergeant First Class Kenneth Stearn, unit administrator for
the 19th Special Forces Group.
There were times when the only hot water they had came
from pots that they were cooking with on cook stoves, said
Stearn. But thats the kind of missions that the Special
Forces have been doing as long as they have been in existence.
These missions often required the Green Berets to operate in
rugged terrain, sometimes crawling into deep caves, or maneuvering
between steep, rocky cliffs. They were constantly exposed to
danger. Two of these warriors, Sergeant First Class Michael Lyons
and Sergeant First Class Christopher Martin, sustained wounds
on December 17, 2002 while on a mission in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan.
They had just finished
business in a busy marketplace and were leaving the area in a
Waza Russian jeep. After stopping at a congested
traffic stop, terrorists, armed with AK-47s and homemade hand
grenades, seized the opportunity to launch an attack on the soldiers.
The soldiers escaped with their lives but sustained wounds after
a hand grenade crashed through the vehicles windshield
and exploded. Lyons and Martin received purple hearts and a ticket
Their road home, however, ran through New York City where the
California National Guard soldiers joined special forces soldiers
from other units in appearances on numerous television shows.
Their New York tour also included a visit to ground zero,or
the site of the World Trade Center, where Americas War
on Terrorism began.
originally appeared in the August 2003 is of The Grizzly
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