All posts by DetASnake

Jeff Raker Honor

CSM Jeffrey H. Raker Heritage Room

The 6th Battalion/2nd SWTG is creating a heritage room dedicated to those who served in Berlin which will be named after our own former Detachment(A) CSM Jeff Raker tentatively to be named:

The 6th Battalion “CSM Jeffery H. Raker” Heritage Room

The Heritage Room to be named after Detachment(A) member Jeff Raker; is a well-deserved honor to one of the most respected Sergeant Majors to have ever existed in Special Forces.

For those of us serving in Detachment(A) in the late-70s, we remember well the dark time in Detachment(A) when the Deputy Brigade Commander relieved our commander in front of our morning formation inside of the Detachment(A) building.  He then proceeded to order us to wear uniforms, get haircuts, and placed a big Detachment(A) airborne sign outside of building.  He replaced the CO and XO with individuals that had no Special Forces experience, but novice airborne qualified who were available within the Berlin Brigade. 

During this dark period in Detachment(A) history we lost all our Safe Houses and everything we all did to achieve our mission.  Instead, we became the training cadre for the 6th Infantry – EIB training, Scout Swimming etc.  Detachment(A) had no real Seargeant Major to fight for us at the time.

Then along came SGM Jef Raker.  Bottom line:  he immediately assessed the situation, saw the problems, and took over working with the Berlin Command SGM himself and Terry Swafford, gave briefings to the new Berlin Brigade Commander, and overnight we were back in civilian clothes doing our real mission.  He restored our unit.

After this ordeal, SGM Jeff Raker’s efforts made Detachment(A) history up to Eagle Claw along with Colonel Stanley Olchovik.

The 6th Battalion/2nd SWTG have requested attendance by former unit members (i.e. those who served in Berlin) in order to break the site in correctly.

The date has not been set but will most likely be between 10 Mar and 20 May 2024. Stay tuned to Jim “Styk” Stejskal updates which will be posted here as they become available.

Profile: Detachment “A” Member John Silk

Written by: Carl Gregory, Veteran United States Army

𝐓𝐡𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐦𝐲 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞, I’ve been fortunate to have five great friends who profoundly influenced who I am today. As we approach Veterans Day weekend, I want to pay special tribute to one of them, my warrior friend 𝐒𝐞𝐫𝐠𝐞𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐌𝐚𝐣𝐨𝐫 𝐉𝐨𝐡𝐧 𝗣𝗮𝘂𝗹 𝐒𝐢𝐥𝐤!

 

His name embodies valor and dedication, epitomizing the resilience and bravery of those who have served in the United States military’s most challenging and covert units. Born in 1942 in Arlington, Massachusetts, Silk’s remarkable journey started with his ROTC days at Pennsylvania Military College and unfolded into a distinguished military career that spanned more than two decades.

His time in Vietnam as a Special Forces RECON 1-1 and 1-0, particularly the twenty-five highly classified, deniable, cross-border missions into Cambodia with MACVSOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group) Project SIGMA, marked a significant chapter in his life. MACVSOG was a highly classified, multi-service United States special operations unit that conducted covert unconventional warfare operations before and during the Vietnam War. Established in 1964, it carried out cross-border operations in Laos and Cambodia, along with maritime operations against North Vietnam. The personnel serving in MACVSOG, like Silk, were engaged in highly dangerous and secretive missions, involving deep reconnaissance, direct action, sabotage, and gathering intelligence behind enemy lines. 

In the face of overwhelming odds, with an extraordinary casualty rate exceeding one hundred percent, where over half of its members were either killed or went missing in action, MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group) demonstrated exceptional courage and commitment. Remarkably, every member of this unit had volunteered, bearing the scars of battle and sustaining injuries, sometimes multiple times, throughout their service. Their sacrifice and bravery are a testament to their unwavering dedication to their mission and country. In recognition of these remarkable sacrifices and their steadfast dedication to duty, MACV-SOG and the individual members were deservedly honored with the Presidential Unit Citation (equivalent to the Distinguished Service Cross individually) at a ceremony held at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, on April 4, 2001.

Following his valorous service in Vietnam, Silk continued to exemplify the exceptional skills and bravery synonymous with the Special Forces, during his tenure with Detachment A in Berlin, Germany. Detachment A was a covert unit of 90 Special Forces soldiers, known for their involvement in some of the most classified and sensitive missions of the Cold War. The unit, which existed from 1956 to 1984, specialized in unconventional warfare, sabotage, intelligence, guerrilla operations, anti-terrorism, sniper, and SWAT operations, often working closely with the Central Intelligence Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies. Silk’s role in such a unit underscores his extraordinary capabilities and the trust placed in him for missions of critical importance.

His military accolades, reflecting his exceptional service, include the Distinguished Presidential Unit Citation, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, and numerous others. These honors not only signify his bravery and skill but also his dedication to his country and fellow soldiers.  Sergeant Major Silk also holds a reserve commission as an Army Captain.

Silk’s life post-military has been equally remarkable, serving in law enforcement and as a skilled gunsmith, carrying the same spirit of service and expertise into his civilian life.

In addition to his extraordinary military and post-military career, John P. Silk’s impact extends into the realm of personal relationships and mentorship, illustrating the depth of his character and his commitment to nurturing the potential in others.

Our friendship, spanning over four decades, has been a testament to his unwavering loyalty and steadfastness. Silk, embodying the true spirit of a Green Beret, has always been more than a friend; he has been a mentor and a guide. His impact is profoundly evident in his influence on my daughter, Destiny Dawn Gregory. As she embarked on her journey to excel in the Vernon High School Army JROTC and her aspiration to join a US Military Service Academy, Silk has been an instrumental figure, sharing his wisdom, experience, and encouragement.

Just as he trained and guided our allies with skill and dedication during his time as a Green Beret, Silk applied the same level of commitment to mentoring me when I served under him in the 101st Airborne Division and for the past two years in the twilight of his life mentoring my daughter Destiny Dawn Gregory. He has truly been an inspiration and a guiding light, among several, behind her success, quietly working behind the scenes, and instilling in her the values of discipline, resilience, and the pursuit of excellence. His mentorship has been an important factor in shaping her into a young leader to become the Battalion Commander of her high school Army JROTC battalion in the incredibly short period of just 1 1/2 years, ready to face challenges with the same bravery and determination he has shown throughout his life as she reached for the stars for the last two year to obtain a congressional nomination and to be accepted into one of our nations prestigious military academies. 

Destiny made a deliberate and thoughtful decision to not include SGM Silk’s academy recommendation letter in her applications. He is currently too unwell to navigate the complex submission process. However, the wisdom and guidance she received from him transcend the value of a written endorsement. The lessons imparted by SGM Silk are more than mere words on paper; they are lifelong treasures that will serve her well throughout her life.  See the letter in the photos.

This aspect of Silk’s life – his role as a mentor and friend – is as commendable as his decorated military career. It reflects his belief in the power of passing on knowledge and fostering growth in the next generation, ensuring that the legacy of commitment and service continues.

This tribute to SGM John P. Silk is more than just a recounting of his service; it’s a celebration of the spirit of a warrior who represents the best of American values – courage, commitment, and unwavering dedication to duty. His legacy is not just in the medals and commendations but in the lives he touched, the missions he accomplished, and the indomitable spirit he embodies.

List of Awards

Presidential Unit Citation (Individual Award Equivalent to the Army Distinguished Service Cross)
Silver Star
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Meritorious Service Medal (1st OLC)
Air Medal
Army Commendation Medal (1st OLC)
Good Conduct Medal (8th Award)
Army Occupation Medal (Berlin)
National Defense Service Ribbon
Vietnam Service Ribbon (6 Campaign Stars)
Humanitarian Service Medal
NCO Professional Development Ribbon (Numeral 5)
Army Service Ribbon
Overseas Service Ribbon (Thailand)
Vietnam Campaign Ribbon (With Year Device)
Combat infantryman Badge
Master Parachutist Badge
Military Freefall Parachutist Badge (HAL0)
Scuba Divers Badge
Special Operations Divers Badge
Air Assault Badge
Expert Marksmanship Badge (M-1) (M-14) (M-16) (45 Ato)
Thai Parachute Badge/with Fourragere
Vietnamese Parachute Badge
German Parachute Badge
Special Forces Tab
Overseas Service Bars (4)
Service Stripes (24 years service)
Meritorious Unit Commendation
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation
Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation

Chronological List of Assignments

1960-1962
Cadet, United States Army ROTC, Pennsylvania Military
College, Chester Pennsylvania
MAR-APR 1962
Basic Combat Training, Fort Dix, New Jersey
MAY-JUNE 1962
Advanced Individual Training, Fort Gordon, Georgia
JULY- AUG 1962
Jump School, Fort Benning, Georgia
1962-1963
Rifleman, Bravo Company, 327th Infantry Battle Group. 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky
1963-1964
Student, Special Forces Training Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
1964-1965
Light Weapons Leader, 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
1965-1966
Heavy Weapons Leader, Detachment B-31, Phoug Vinh, Vietnam
1966-1967
Light Weapons Leader, 46th Special Forces Company Thailand
1967-1968
RECON Team Leader, B-56 Project SIGMA, Vietnam
1968-1973
Team Sergeant, HALO Detachment, 10th Special Forces Group, Fort Devens, Massachusetts
1973-1976 
Heavy Weapons Leader, Detachment A, Berlin Brigade, Germany
1976-1977
Operations Sergeant, Scuba Detachment, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces, Fort Devens, Massachusetts
1977-1979
First Sergeant, Headquarters Company, United States Army Garrison, Fort Devens, Massachusetts
1979-1980
Chief Enlisted Advisor, United States Army Readiness Mobilization Region Nine, Presidio of San Francisco, CA
1981-1982
First Sergeant, Headquarters and Headquarters Company 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky
1982-1983
Chief Instructor, Headquarters. 1st United States Army ROTC Region, Fort Bragg. North Carolina
1983-1986
Administration Sergeant Major, Headquarters Company. United States Army Garrison, Fort McPherson, Georgia
February 28, 1986
Retired from active duty

Silver Star Award

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
HBADQUARTERS, UNITED STATES ARMY VIETNAM
APO San Francisco
96375
AWARD OF THE SILVER STAR
GENERAL NUMBER ORDERS 5712
1. T0 320.
The following AWARD is announced.
STAFF SERGEANT
United States
SILK, JOHN P 
RA1 1403904
Detachment B-56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, APO 96240
Awarded: Silver Star
Date action: 9 July 1968
Theater: Republic of Vietnam
Reason: 
For gallantry in action while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam: Staff Sergeant Silk distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 9 July 1968 as an assistant patrol leader on a reconnaissance patrol. Moving through dense jungle, the patrol encountered a well-camouflaged and fortified enemy base camp. Entering the camp, they came under a fusillade of automatic weapons fire from an enemy force of unknown size, killing two allied soldiers and wounding two more. Disregarding his safety, Sergeant Silk exposed himself to the withering hail of automatic weapons fire to crawl fifty meters to administer first aid to the seriously injured soldiers. After moving the wounded to a covered position, he organized the remnants of his lead element and established a base of fire which enabled the remainder of the patrol to withdraw. Sergeant Silk then remained in an exposed position to direct artillery and helicopter gunship fire on enemy targets, His actions allowed the patrol to reorganize and assault the enemy emplacements. Encountering heavy resistance, the patrol withdrew to a secured landing zone. Again braving intense enemy fire, Sergeant Silk and three allied soldiers covered the withdrawal, thereby enabling the patrol to be safely extracted. Staff Sergeant Silk's gallantry in action was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Editor’s Note by Bob Charest

I first met John (Slick) Silk in 1967 in Vietnam, B-56 Project Sigma, where we both served from 1967-1968.

We then both served together on the same team, Team 1, in Detachment “A” Berlin Germany in 1973 – 1976. Later, we again met at Fort Devens, MA in 1978 -1981 where we both eventually retired. We both remain close friends and keep in touch today.

The following photo was taken by John Silk.

Back Row L-R:  Kevin Monahan, Bob Charest, Richard Lahue,
Ralph Ormes, Willy Headon, Ron Bruce

Front Row L-R:  John Silk, Ernie Kirk, Frank Midell,
Lee Dickerson, Paul Piusz, Spanky Airhart


	

Robert P. Olson Original Member of Detachment “A”

Robert P. Olson Original Member of Detachment “A”

Written by:  Bob Charest as told by Bob Olson

Robert P. Olson served in Detachment “A” Berlin from April 1958 to September 1959.  Bob Olson is one of the “Original” members.  This is a narrative and some of Bob’s recollections of his time serving in Detachment “A”.

 

After attending Brown for two years, Bob decided to join Special Forces.  He spent a year and a half in basic and Special Forces training where he acquired a myriad of skills including demolitions and parachuting.  From there he went to Bad Töltz Germany.  Bob had spent approximately three days at Bad Töltz and was sent off to Berlin – to this day Bob says, “I don’t know why.”

Bob arrived at Detachment “A” (DET-A) in the spring of 1958.  It was not DET-A then, it was The Security Platoon, DET-A became their name later that year.

Things were vastly different back then.  Dwight D. Eisenhower was President, and Nikita S. Khrushchev was Premier of the Soviet Union.  The Third World War and the threat of nuclear war was something everyone talked about and took very seriously.

School kids were trained to hide under their desks or “duck and cover“ which was a Federal Civil Defense Initiative instructing children how to react during a nuclear attack.

Berlin was broken into four quarters, the US, the French, the English and East Berlin.  Khrushchev had announced that since the allies were way behind the Iron Curtain, that they should get out promptly or be thrown out.At that time, the odds were heavily stacked against the US.  The US had about 30 tanks in Berlin and the Russians had about 3,000.

With Berlin city divided into four sections – American, British, French, and Soviet, the Brits had sent a Commando Unit, the French Foreign Legion Paratroopers and then there was the US equivalent – DETA comprised of approximately 53 or 54 Special Forces Green Berets.  There were approximately four “A” teams (later two more teams were added).  All were paratroopers.  Each team was assigned to a sector.  Bob was assigned to the French sector.

Detachment “A” was set up specifically to delay a Russian attack across Western Europe that may have sparked the Third World War.

The unit was established contrary to the Potsdam Agreement which divided Berlin after WWII as were the other units.

In the event of World War III, and with overwhelming numbers of Soviet forces expected to surge into Western Berlin, DET-A’s main mission was to conduct sabotage operations against strategic infrastructure such as railroad lines, and other vital targets, by blending into the city, creating havoc behind enemy lines, assisting and/or leading guerilla fighters behind enemy lines, and at all costs buy the allies as much time as possible to allow them to raise a counter-offensive.

For example, blowing up the railroad lines surrounding Berlin so the Russians would have difficulty moving troops and equipment toward Western Europe.  Russian troops would have to be supplied through the rail network that ran through Berlin.  DET-A would have to blow up that entire network and then run for a submarine that they were assured was waiting for them.  The submarine was six to seven hundred miles away in the Baltic Sea.  There were no formalized escape plans, you were basically on your own to make it to the pickup point.

There was little chance that anyone associated with DET-A would have survived such an attack, for most, it would become a ‘suicide mission’. The secondary mission was to train other troops, i.e., Brits etc. in Escape & Evade – if a war began.  Its everyday mission included: training allied troops, reconnaissance, and where possible, driving the Russians to distraction.

The demographics of this group were unique.  Of the fifty plus of DET-A probably half were foreign born.  Many of them were recruited under the Lodge Act of 1950.

 

The group consisted of American WWII veterans who had had stormed Normandy Beaches and fought across Europe, many who fought in Korea, ex Nazi soldiers (who fought against them) ex-French Foreign Legion paratroopers who had survived Diene Bien Fieu by lying underwater in a swamp breathing through reeds, at least one Gypsy and at least one middle class kid from Westchester.

Until they were needed to activate and carry out their main mission, they trained and did other various activities.  For example, they would build “topos” – Topographical maps – of these areas on ping pong tables and visit them occasionally.  They would attend classes including German language, Morse Code, and demolitions.

 

 

Training was varied, everybody taught something.  For Bob it was math – mathematical formulas to be applied to demolitions applications.  Bob recalls SF history of which he remembers only that the concept for an SF team was born in the Balkans during WW2, when a guerilla leader named “King Kong” needed weapons, radios and people who could operate them, doctors to help with basic things (like birthing babies) and demolitionist or like Bob who in addition to teaching math taught about how to blow bridges although they wouldn’t let him try.

 

They jumped into Bad Tölz about every three months and spent anywhere from one to four weeks training.

Their winter exercise was rigorous and involved ‘extreme’ skiing in the Alps and other ongoing Special Forces-related training.

 

One problem in Berlin was that there was no way of knowing who anyone was.  There was a bar called The Boyar thought to be Russian on the KuDamn, with fabulous vodka, Champaign, music and caviar.  Bob remembers standing at the bar one night talking to an extremely well-dressed man who was obviously Russian (he may have swept out the embassy or been the head of the KGB, for all Bob knew).  They drank a lot and swore brotherhood, forever.  Then Bob pointed out that tomorrow we might be blowing each other’s heads off.  He said,” yes, but that will be tomorrow – have another Vodka.”

Another time Bob was having trouble sleeping on the train, so he stepped out to see the sun rise.  There was a guard, he was probably in East German uniform, but Bob remembers him clearly as Russian some 60 years later.  He took out a Camel and then in a rare moment of soldierly brotherhood said –“ Papirosa” he said, “maybe a Lucky Strike”.  They had used up their mutual language capability, so they smoked in silence.  Bob warns “If  anyone ever offers you a Papirosa, don’t take it – international peace is not worth it”.

One image that brings back Berlin the most for Bob is the Tower and wire.  Back then there was no wall, rather a maze of fences, barbed wire, and towers.  Bob spent more nights than he wanted to sleeping under one of those towers – nobody got shot, at least not them.

Many of the women Bob knew or interacted with was in somebody’s pay, most were probably being paid by both sides.  Bob noted the promise of sexual paradise with Black Headed Criss on a night she knew they were parachuting into the mountains.

A friend once showed Bob a menu from Christmas dinner for their barracks (which they shared with an administrative group) they ate there.  It had the names of all the people who attended.  Then, they attended but their names were not on the menu, apparently, they did not exist.

Bob recalls having Crepe Suzettes for breakfast and introduced a friend of his to snails; The best food in town was at the French Foreign Legion Officers Club.  Someone asked Bob if he had ever jumped out of an airplane.  He told them about 30 or 40 times – they were very impressed because they only counted combat jumps.

Some of Bob’s fellow team members were involved with a highly sensitive operation which involved ‘The Wolf’ the head of the East German Intelligence.  Though it did not come to fruition, it was a very intense time and one example of the dangers of their mission, and what they were up against.


Bob recalls some of his Detachment “A” members that he served with in those early years.  The dates in parenthesis represent the time served in DET-A.

Leonard R. “Pappy” Barnett – (1958-1960).”with an 8th grade education taught me everything worth knowing about life.”

Harry E. Brown (1956-1961) – Bob spoke with Harry many years later when he was a lawyer in California. ” A really good guy”.  Bob recalls attending Harry’s Morse Code class during his time in DET-A which proved to be a challenge, and “Harry was insistent that I learn.”  Harry was also a ski instructor, and combat helicopter pilot.

Kenney Crabtree (1958-1960).  Ken left a little ahead of Bob to get a job on some railroad – Bob predicted he would last 3 months (he lasted 2).  He was an E5 at the time, made Lieutenant Colonel and was killed on 15 April 1984 along with an American embassy official, by a terrorist bomb in Southwest Africa.

Dunlap, Henry – “Big Dunlap, who was I remember was formerly a Florida state policeman.”

Laurice Dunlap (1956-1960, 1962-1965) –“ Lil Dunlap, as opposed to big Dunlap, whom I last saw at the 1999 conference.  I remember little Dan lab explaining to me that it is possible to sharpen a knife on a piece of cardboard.”

Gerhard E. Frick (1958-1960) – “Only outspoken Nazi among us”.

Roland Goodman (1958-1960) – It is believed he went on to the CIA.

Roland R. Graves (1958)

Michael E. Ladue – Served in Detachment “A” during the time of the Cold War.  Later, Mike was deployed with Air America Airlines in Southeast Asia, the U.S. Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency, all in this same area.

Maj Roman Piernick was their commander – (1958-1961).  Bob only remembers that he announced in front of the German cooks that they would have new native clothes, and then raised hell when it was discovered that the Russians found out about it.  “Enough said.”  He also decided Bob was promising so he promoted him to Sergeant.  Somone discovered that his MOS of 51613 meant that he had to be a Specialist, she he wore Sergeant stripes for a couple of months.

Max Randleman – Team Sergeant (1956-1959) –  Bob states that “Max Randleman was probably the best soldier I ever met, and I had a lot to choose from.  Kind, intelligent and brave.  Max won the  soldiers medal while we were in Berlin for pulling somebody out of a burning building.  He was from WWII, a MSG and the leader of Team 1 – Bob having served on Team 4.  Max was highly decorated and added the soldier’s medal to his collection while Bob was there.  Mike Ladue just missed one.”

Thaddeus R. Pluta (1958-1960) – “On one jump Pigpen Pluto’s chute roman candled and Mike caught him – they talked briefly,  Pigpen opened his reserve and Mike let him go, thereby missing a Soldiers Medal. Pigpen was our radio operator.  Pigpen was undamaged.”

Daniel E. Sandy (1959) Team Sergeant.

Wilbur R. Stanbridge Team Leader (1958-1960) – “was our team leader he was a fine man.”

Robert R. Smith (1958-1960) “Railroad Smith”.

Johnnie L. Smith (1958-1960)

Donald E Thompson (1958-1960 ) “Lonesome Tom”.

“The men who served in Detachment “A” got no special recognition or compensation.  Someone (who was a Classist said that we were the Spartans at the Bridge, all we could do was hold things up a little) but the Athenians stayed home with their wives.”

Bob and the other ‘Original’ members of Detachment “A” capture the very essence of the Special Forces legacy and character; those members who knew absolutely what could happen and served despite the most certain deadly consequences should they be activated.

Bob served as a ‘quiet professional’ and for over 60 years was unable to speak about his service in Detachment ‘A”.  He is one of the ‘Originals’ and , one of the select few who served in this highly historical unit – Detachment “A”.


Here is a link to an article about Bob published by his local newspaper.

Detachment “A” Berlin Get Together September 2024

What:

Detachment “A” Get Together

This function is dedicated to the history of Detachment “A” Berlin, 1956-1984,  and as a special tribute to some of the original members of Detachment “A”:  Chuck James, Bob Olson, Albert Slugocki, Tom Twomey Jim Wilde, and other original members.

When:

Thursday 12 September – 15 September (checkout) 2024

Where:  

Greenville, SC


Contact Host/POC Detachment “A” for full information

Dedicated to the history of Detachment “A” Berlin

Robert Charest Bio

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
  • SF-Tab-27-JULY-92
  • Special Forces MOS: O5B-11F

Special Forces Units, Assignments and Inclusive Dates

  • 1962 SF-Training-Group
  • 1963-1964 -1ST SFGP-OKI-TDY-ODA-432, June-63-Jan-64-Vietnam-CHEO-REO, Montagnard (Jari) Camp Boun Beng
  • Left Oki-July, 64 for 10TH Special Forces Group. B. Company, Lenngries, Germany ODA 19 and 18
  • 6 months Russian Language School, Lenngries Germany
  • Left for 5th Group Vietnam. Project Sigma 67-68 Ho-Ngoc-Tau, 11F Intelligence Sergeant.
  • Later CCS South SOG.
  • Went to language school DLI Monterey Ca. For German-68-69.
  • Assigned to Detachment “A”, Berlin Brigade – 69-72.
  • Then assigned to 46th Company, Thailand Nam-Pung-Dam. 72-73.
  • Team Sergeant 11F ODA39
  • Reassigned back to Detachment “A”, Berlin Brigade 73-78.
  • Retired from Readiness Region 1 Infantry Team, Fort Devens, MA 1981

Awards and Decorations

  • Silver Star
  • Soldiers Medal
  • Bronze Star with “V” for Valor
  • Purple Heart 4 Awards
  • Scuba Badge Dive Instructor Special Forces
  • Master Parachutist
  • CIB
  • Foreign Jump Wings: German, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese
  • Thai Paru Badge
  • HALO Wings
  • Air Medal
  • Vietnam Cross of Gallantry w/Palm
  • Vietnam Civil Action Medal 1st Class
  • Meritorious Service Medal
  • Army Commendation Medal 3 Awards
  • Unit Presidential Citation B-56, Project Sigma
  • Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment

Other

  • Detachment”A” Host/POC – The Man who Brought Detachment “A” in from the Cold
  • President of Special Forces Association Chapter 72 for 5 and ½ years: 1997-2000 and 2001-2002
  • Life Member of Special Forces Association(SFA) – D-599L
  • Life Member of the Special Operations Association(SOA) – 646-G
  • Veterans of Special Forces Association Director/Treasurer
  •  Life Member of JFK Special Forces Museum

Civilian

  • Vinell Corporation Military Contractor
  • JFK Special Warfare Center Instructor
  • FEMA/MERS Senior Consultant

Hobbies and Interests

  • Formula 1, Indy Car, Sky Diving, Scuba, Skiing, 4TH Degree Black
  • Belt TaeKwon-Do

Education

  • B.S. in General Studies, A.S. Business Management
  • A.S. in Science

Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956–1990

James “Styk” Stejskal Special Forces Berlin book

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.

Special Forces Association Convention 2022 Detachment-A MSG (Ret) Charest

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.

Click here to read Bob’s Bio

Click here to read Bob’s Distinguished Member of the Regiment (DMOR) citation

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.

This is a link to the PDF for SFACON 2022 De Oppresso Liber Symposium Series Summary, 31 OCT 2022

This YouTube link accesses the entire compendium:(71) Special Forces Association Convention 2022 De Oppresso Liber Symposium Series – YouTube

 

Assignment: Kabul, Afghanistan 2003-2004

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.