Monday, August 16, 2010

In the News: Fort Carson's secretive Green Beret community is getting larger

Over recent months, the Army's 10th Special Forces Group has quietly begun assembling a new operational battalion -- which, when complete, will consist of about 300 mission-ready Green Berets.

The move is part of the first major Special Forces expansion in 20 years, which began in 2008 to address the growing need for Green Berets and their small-team tactics against insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

All five Green Beret groups were tapped to receive a fourth battalion, the Army Special Operations Command said when it announced the expansion.

At Fort Carson , where Army infantry units deploy and return with fanfare, the Green Berets have shrouded their movements in secrecy and avoided media glare.

That's an occupational necessity for a unit that deploys in small teams for classified operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Although the post has been generally low-key about its fresh arrivals, the new battalion is hardly a state secret.

"Other groups have stood up a fourth battalion, this is our turn and there will be others," said 10th Special Forces Group spokesman Lt. Col. Steve Osterholzer.

The 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell , KY. , got the first additions in August 2008.

The 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg , N.C. , stood up a new battalion last summer.

The 10th Group plans to publicly announce the new battalion at an Aug. 19 news conference at Fort Carson.

The new Soldiers will bring Fort Carson 's contingent of Green Berets to three operational battalions. A fourth operational battalion under 10th Special Forces Group is based in Stuttgart , Germany .

Osterholzer said the new battalion is about 70 percent complete.

"We've taken a blend of experienced (Special Forces) Soldiers from other organizations and balanced them in with new Soldiers straight out of the qualification course," he said.

Osterholzer said training began "a good number of months ago," with cold-weather mountain warfare drills and urban combat exercises.

To accommodate the new arrivals, Fort Carson will in all likelihood need to add a barracks in the 10th Group area, Col. Robert McLaughlin, the garrison commander, said in a recent interview.

Until then, the unit will have to improvise by filling rooms left vacant by Soldiers who are deployed, he said.

"We're able to shuffle so that our population can be billeted," McLaughlin said.

From an economic standpoint, the new arrivals are good news for the rest of the Pikes Peak Region, said Brian Binn, president of military affairs for The Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.

"If you add any number of Soldiers, then you add to the economic base," he said.

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