10th Special Forces Group
During a short ceremony June 28, Col. Sean P. Swindell, the 10th Special Forces Group commander, honored both Operational Detachment 0116 and the Service Detachment of 1st Battalion 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) with the Larry Thorne Award for being the best detachments in the Group throughout 2009.
The award commemorates Special Forces legend Larry Thorne — a technically and tactically proficient warrior who was always on the offensive.
“He was a complex yet driven man who valorously fought oppression under three flags and didn’t acknowledge the meaning of quit,” said Swindell. “He earned the Finnish equivalent of the Medal of Honor and fought against the Russians in World War II under both Finland and Germany. After the war, he came to the United States where he joined the U.S. Special Forces as a Lodge Act Soldier.”
Special Forces ODA 0116 lived up to Thorne’s legend during its engagements in Africa, as well as during European partner nation military training and counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan.
“We operated within a great working environment, which led to an extremely cohesive and effective detachment,” said Master Sgt. Rob Elliott, the detachment’s former operations sergeant.
It was in Afghanistan that the detachment really began to understand the complexities of foreign internal defense conducted in a combat environment.
During its second deployment there, the team organized and then provided security for a massive shura in the Kapisa Province that included Department of Defense Agribusiness Development Teams, State Department and USAID experts to discuss pomegranate agriculture development.
The meeting had strategic effects as the ADT provided training to Afghan locals on how to cultivate their fruit more productively, the State Department coordinated with a juice factory in Kabul that would purchase the pomegranates, and USAID set up export visas for growers to showcase their products in India. It provided an outlet for the growers to put their products back on the national and international markets — something that hadn’t been done for the more than 30 years of conflict in Afghanistan.
“Kinetic operations show the enemy that we can hit them hard, but in the long run, they are of limited value. There has to be proof to the people that you’re doing something for them, and it’s the development and governance aspects of the mission that provide the proof,” said the detachment’s commander about their success in Afghanistan.
1/10 SFG(A) Service Detachment
Successful special operations depend upon rock-solid enablers, and the Soldiers of the service detachment had an enormous impact disproportionate to their numbers on the battalion’s overall combat readiness and effectiveness.
“This is one element that supported three combatant commanders,” said Swindell. “They supported SFODAs operating in isolated and austere environments providing vital support necessary to conduct not only combat operations, but also develop the capacity of NATO SOF and Afghan partners.”
The service detachment provided direct support to detachments conducting combined training events for host nation partners within both Europe and Africa. Its Soldiers also supported combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“You hear me talking about being exceptionally enabled,” said Swindell, as he spoke to one of the service detachment mechanics.
“You’ve created that environment. I’m looking for mechanics that can fix everything in the motor pool and then whatever vehicle that you’re working on, whether it be a Hilux in Africa, a Stryker in Iraq or an MRAP vehicle in Afghanistan,” he said.
As Swindell and his command team addressed 1st Battalion following the ceremony, he charged the men to continue the legacy of Maj. Larry Thorne. He spoke of adaptability, self-discipline and of maintaining the offensive in everything that they did.
“Larry Thorne epitomizes what a Green Beret is and what we all need to become,” concluded Col. Swindell. “He was self-disciplined and he’s the model of what I expect from a Green Beret — something we all need to strive for.”