ROBERT CHAREST MASTER SERGEANT, UNITED STATES ARMY (RETIRED)
In 1961 Robert “Bob” Charest, volunteered for Special Forces. He completed Airborne School in April of 1962, immediately followed by the completion of Commo School and SF Branch Training in December of 1962.
Right after training, he was sent to the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Okinawa. Sent TDY on a six-month Mobile Training Advisory mission in Vietnam in July of 1963, he was assigned to A432 stationed in Boun Beng of II Corps. The team was responsible for off-island training with the Jari Montagnards. During this period in Vietnam he received 3 Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star with “V” for valor.
Robert Charest transferred to the 10th SFG(A) in Bad Toelz Germany, serving with B Company ODA-19 from 1964 through 1967.
In 1967, he was chosen to lead a top-secret mission to Libya. He made two solo trips into Libya to coordinate with the US Embassy. After his two excursions into Libya he was given the green light to take a small team with him back to Libya disguised as Civilian Communications Contractors dressed in civilian clothing. For the next 6 weeks they covered all of the Libyan Army Bases from Tripoli to Benghazi. While there, he was approached by two Libyan Officials one of which was the Libyan Army Chief of Staff, who informed him of an underground movement within the military that called themselves “The Black Boots; movement, and underground effort within the military to overthrow King Idris, King of Libya. The rebellion was led by a young man, named Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi. After the officials then asked Charest to become a paid informant, to spy on the underground movement, he and his team aborted the mission and returned to Stuttgart. Although Charest briefed the higher headquarters in Stuttgart of the plot, nothing was done.
In 1967, Charest began his second tour in Vietnam with B-56 Project (SIGMA) Military Assistance Command Vietnam – Studies and Operations Group (MACVSOG). During that year he was wounded for the fourth time. His actions were submitted for the award of the Silver Star while on a Hatchet Team. He was written up for a Silver Star and told it would be delivered to his next duty station, but it never arrived and he never received it. Thirty years later, Charest finally received the award, although it had been downgraded to a Bronze Star with “V” device. Efforts continued to have the award reviewed and upgraded, and in July of 2021, he was finally awarded his Silver Star.
Completing this tour in Vietnam, he attended German language training at DLIWC California. As he was also fluent in Russian, he was assigned to Detachment(A) Berlin, serving on Team One Scuba Team he was assigned to 1969-1972. Returning to Southeast Asia, he was assigned to A Company, 46th SF CO in Thailand on ODA-33. On July 2, 1973, Charest was awarded the Soldiers Medal for actions taken while involved in movement of ammunition from Camp Nam Pung Dam to Nam Phone Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. Then, Sergeant Charest’s vehicle, which was loaded with ammunition, caught fire in the village of Ban Sa Amphoe Yang Tolat, Thailand. With complete disregard for this own safety, Charest immediately acted to prevent the fire from spreading to the structures in the village and causing injury to innocent villagers. In spite of the extreme heat, exploding ammunition and shrapnel, he drove the burning vehicle and reversed it approximately 200 meters out of the village. Through his heroic and unselfish actions, Charest preventing extensive property damage and injury to Thai nationals.
When 46th SF Company closed, Charest returned to Detachment(A) Berlin, Germany, remaining in station for five years form 1973-1978.
In late 1978, returning stateside and retiring in 1981 from the 10th SFG(A) in Fort Devens, Massachusetts, Robert Charest took a job with Vinnell Corporation in Saudi Arabia; however a grenade accident from a panicked Saudi National Guard trooper in 1981 and evacuation back stateside ended his tour.
Attending the University of New Hampshire, he received his Bachelor’s degree.
In 1985, Bob received a phone call from CSM Jeff Raker who was stationed at Fort Bragg, NC. He informed him about positions for former SF-qualified personnel to work at SWCS. Bob parachuted in for his interview curtesy of CSM George Moskaluk 10th Special Forces, Fort Devens MA. Bob was interviewed an accepted on the spot as Senior Instructor/Advisor with the Commo Committee at the US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS). He worked for SWCS as a GS-9 SeniorInstructor/Advisor for the next 17 months.
This job was followed by one with FEMA/MERS first as a Senior Operations Officer, then and a GM-13 Security Manager.
Robert Charest, although fully retired in 1992, has remained active in the Special Forces community. He served as President Chapter 72, Merrimack NH for five years and led the effort to establish a substantial memorial dedicated to the 10th Special Forces Group at the Boscowan Veterans Cemetery consisting of an original 10th Special Forces flagpole and memorial stone.
Bob was an independent organizer for gatherings for local Green Beret functions starting 2005 and in 2008 transformed into Detachment”A” functions. He now hosts annual Detachment(A) reunion gatherings which attracts a large number of former members of Detachment(A) from all over the world; developed a Detachment(A) web site, established Detachment(A) SFA Drop input and keeps Detachment(A) members informed about Detachment(A) related news.
He served on the Veterans of Special Forces (VSF) board of officers as Director/Treasurer.
He served as Project Manager for the establishment of a Detachment(A) exhibit at the JFK museum. Many Detachment(A) artifacts were collected and catalogued.
He served as Project Manager for the Detachment(A) memorial stone project.
Charest was inducted as a Distinguished Member of the Regiment on 5 April 2012, his birthday.
Military History Service Dates
JULY-56-MAY-31-81, Rank: E-8
Awarded Special Forces Prefix, Suffix of #3# on 9-Jan-64 1st-SF OKI-APO-331
Special Forces MOS: O5B-11F
Special Forces Units, Assignments and Inclusive Dates
Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956-1990
Published 17 February 2017
The massive armies of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies posed a huge threat to the nations of Western Europe. U.S. military planners decided they needed a plan to slow the juggernaut they expected when and if a war began. The plan was Special Forces Berlin.
Their mission should hostilities commence was to wreak havoc behind enemy lines, and buy time for vastly outnumbered NATO forces to conduct a breakout from the city. In reality it was an ambitious and extremely dangerous mission, even suicidal. Highly trained and fluent in German, each man was allocated a specific area. They were skilled in clandestine operations, sabotage, and intelligence tradecraft, and able to act as independent operators, blending into the local population and working unseen in a city awash with spies looking for information on their every move.
Special Forces Berlin was a one of a kind unit that had no parallel. It left a legacy of a new type of soldier expert in unconventional warfare, one that was sought after for missions such as the attempted rescue of American hostages from Tehran in 1979. With the U.S. government officially acknowledging their existence in 2014, their incredible story can now be told.
This USASOC Update covers the Detachment “A” stone laying ceremony that took place on 30 January 2014, at the USASOC Memorial Plaza. The stone laying ceremony was held in order to commemorate the valorous achievements of Detachment “A”. For information on this story visit the official USASOC Website
Special Forces Association Convention 2022 (SFACON 2022)
The Special Forces Association Convention 2022 (SFACON 2022) celebrated the 70th anniversary of Army Special Forces (SF). The distinguished visitor committee (seminar team) selected topics to highlight SF’s tactical, operational, and strategic activities. SFACON 2022’s symposia took place at the Antlers Hotel in downtown Colorado Springs between September 21-24, 2022.
SFACON 2022’s De Oppresso Liber Symposium Series included nine seminars: The Original Mike Force (Vietnam 1965 / Operational-Tactical vignette), Task Force Dagger (Afghanistan 2001 / Operational vignette), Task Force Viking (N. Iraq 2003 / Operational vignette), El Salvador (1980s / Strategic vignette), Shok Valley (Afghanistan 2008 / Tactical vignette), FOB Ghazni (Afghanistan 2013 / Tactical vignette), The Originals Panel (1952-53 Strategic vignette), Det-A / SF Berlin (1956-1990 Strategic vignette), and 1st SF Command (current day).
Topic: Det-A / SF Berlin (ca 1956-1984 / 1984-1990)
Date of presentation: September 24, 2022 from 0900-1015 MT via Zoom
Presenter: MSG (Ret) Robert Charest. He served two tours with Det-A and hosts the Det-A website.
Summary: In 1990, the Special Forces cased its final unit colors in Berlin, bringing to close 34 years of clandestine Cold War activities. Former Det-A veteran MSG (Ret) Robert Charest reviews the various phases of this one-of-a-kind unit with a truly elegant mission. He describes the Berlin based 39th Special Forces Detachment Alpha – Berlin, aka Det-A’s 1956-early 1970s Unconventional Warfare design, the addition of its Counterterrorism mission, and the 1984 transition to the 410th SF Physical Security Support Element – Berlin, aka PSSE-B. LTC (Ret) Mitch Utterback joins the session to describe PSSE-B.
Here is a video tribute to some of the original Detachment “A” members.
Former Detachment “A” member Georg Moskaluk created and produced this video while on assignment in Afghanistan.
Georg Moskaluk, was a former Detachment “A” member having served in Berlin. He also served as the Command Sergeant Major of the 10th Special Forces Group (A). Additionally, Georg served in the 5th Special Forces Group (A), 6th Special Forces Group (A), and MACV SOG.
This video production contains material in whole from audio and video materials supplied by (GMVP) Georg Moskaluk Video Production, and is protected by copyright and trademark laws. No material (including but not limited to the text, images, audio and/or video) can be reproduced for profit.
Non-profit duplication and exhibition is permitted. Modification of this video production or use of the materials for any other purpose is a violation of GMVP, and other sources’ copyright, trademark and other proprietary rights.
Special Forces Association Chapter 363, hosted a speaking engagement at the Poinsett Club in Greenville SC on 19 July 2022. Guest Speakers were Major General Jim Guest and MSG Bob Charest. Chapter President Todd Carpenter officiated the event.
A special honor was bestowed on Bob Charest, former member of Detachment “A” and MACV/SOG, as he was presented the Silver Star by Major General James Guest, 55 years after his actions in September of 1967.
Written by Chris Feudo former member of Detachment “A”
‘These are the men of the Green Beret, and more so, men of Detachment A These are men, America’s best – the epitome of the American fighting man 100 Strong they stood and glared, deep within Cold War Berlin Ready to fight to defend against, the awaited threated Red Menace’
These are the men of Detachment A, one of the top six covert units in the USA They spoke and looked like any of their foes, with however, The training and weapons more lethal than all Involved with some of the most sensitive actions of the cold war
They did things that others would never do Could never do, mentally, emotionally or physically They did things that men could dream only of Things that require a commitment found nowhere else
These were exceptional men, bred from warriors’ blood Men of integrity, of honor and truth, duty bound Masters of their profession, full trust and confidence of their Brothers in Arms Theirs is more than a job or an occupation, it is the very way of life
They have been awake in Berlin, clandestine and known, since 1956 Never exceeding 100, but targeted by 10,000 and the Stasi alike For they thought that we were thousands, instead of the robust force multiplier 100 Deactivated in ‘84, the 39th Special Forces’, covert name Detachment A, its colors retired
Their missions, always classified, still remain unknown and absent from historical annals Many have survived, others have passed on, with names inscribed at Arlington On the black granite walls at the Vietnam Memorial, or local cemeteries, most important They will be remembered within our very essence
They will always be alive within our heart and soul, forever cherished as human cohort Their memories, their feats, their friendships, and their very legacy will forever not be lost They have sacrificed all in their service to our beloved country, For Freedom is NEVER Free
Must be fought for, protected, and then handed on to the next generation to do the same
‘These are the men of the Green Beret, and more so, men of Detachment A These are men, America’s best – the epitome of the American fighting man 100 Strong they stood and glared, deep within Cold War Berlin Ready to fight to defend against the awaited threated Red Menace’