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Home > USASFC > 5th SFG (A) History


5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) History

5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) derives its lineage from the 1st Special Service Force, a combined Canadian-American regiment during the Second World War. The force was constituted on July 5, 1942, in the Army of the United States as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment, 1st Special Service Force.

Activated on July 9, 1942, the unit trained at Fort William Henry Harrison, Montana. The force participated in the Italian Campaign, and saw action in Southern France before being inactivated on February 6, 1945.

The 5th SFG (A) was constituted on 15 April 1960 in the Regular Army and designated Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 5th SFG (A), 1st Special Forces.

On September 21, 1961, the 5th SFG (A) was officially activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Just one year later, elements of the 5th SFG (A) began serving temporary tours of duty in the Republic of South Vietnam, with the full deployment of the group by February 1965. From its operational base at Nha Trang, the group deployed throughout the four military regions within South Vietnam. The group's operational detachments established and manned camps at 270 locations throughout South Vietnam, training and leading indigenous forces of the Civilian Irregular Defense Groups. Additionally, Soldiers from the group led units of indigenous forces conducting reconnaissance, and direct-action missions throughout Southeast Asia.

Although one of the smallest units engaged in Vietnam, the group colors fly 14 campaign streamers from that conflict, and its Soldiers are among the most decorated Soldiers in the history of our nation. Eighteen Medals of Honor were awarded to Soldiers of the 5th SFG (A) (nine posthumously). The group was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, two Valorous Unit Citations, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry (with palm) and the Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal, First Class.

On March 5, 1971, the colors of the 5th SFG (A) were returned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where the group remained until June 10, 1988 when the group colors were cased at a ceremony marking its departure from Fort Bragg. The colors were officially uncased on June 16, 1988.

The 5th SFG (A) added to its rich history of combat operations during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The group was called upon to conduct operations in Southwest Asia in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The group deployed in August 1990, and returned in April 1991. During this time, the Group conducted Foreign Internal Defense operations in support of the Saudi Arabian land forces and provided Coalition Support Teams to every allied contingent among the coalition; becoming what Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf would call "the glue that held the coalition together." The group also conducted Special Reconnaissance, Direct Action, and Combat Search and Rescue Missions.

For their service during Operation Desert Storm the group was awarded the Valorous Unit Citation on June 11, 1993.

Following Operation Desert Storm, the group conducted extensive security and humanitarian missions in Somalia and was called to support operations in Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo.

In the wake of September 11, 2001, the group was called upon to play a major role in the war on terror. The 5th SFG (A) was the first American unit deployed into Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. From October 2001 through April 2002, Special Forces detachments of the 5th SFG (A) conducted unconventional warfare against Taliban and Al Qaeda forces. Within six months, the 5th SFG (A), a regimental-sized force, effectively destroyed the popular base of the Taliban government and toppled the terrorist-sponsoring state of Afghanistan. The group was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its extraordinary accomplishments during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Immediately after redeploying to Fort Campbell, the group began preparations for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Within six months, elements of the Group deployed back into the theater of operations. In January 2003, the entire group completed deployment back to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. Upon the commencement of combat operations, the group conducted the full array of Special Forces missions from Theater Ballistic Defense in the Western Desert to unconventional warfare in Southern and Central Iraq. These efforts facilitated the defeat of Saddam Hussein's regime.

From the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the fall of the Baath Regime in 2003 through the final withdrawal of U.S. Forces and the end of Operation New Dawn in 2011, 5th SFG (A) has provided the full spectrum of Special Operations in support of Coalition Forces and the Iraqi government. The pinnacle of these achievements are evident in the thousands of successful operations targeting terrorist and insurgent networks through the training and development of the most capable and effective Iraqi Military, Police and Special Operations Forces. Special Forces Soldiers have proven again to be our nation’s ultimate combat multiplier, building skills and capabilities with multiple partner nation security forces across the CENTCOM area of operations, always prepared to execute the most hazardous and sensitive special operations when and where directed.

Recently, elements from 5th SFG (A) have returned to Afghanistan to train and advise Arab units participating in the international coalition. Additionally, detachments remain deployed throughout the CENTCOM area of operations, building, training and conducting sensitive Special Forces missions with partner nation and opposition forces throughout the Middle East.

As Soldiers of the group continue to serve on battlefields around the world, they uphold the highest of standards as paragons of the Special Forces motto: De Oppresso Liber, "to free the oppressed”.


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