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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 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.

MG James Guest Presents Silver Star to MSG Robert Charest 55 Years Later

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.

Fox Carolina’s Anna Arinda covered the event. Here is a link to the story.

Ode on Detachment “A”

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’

Click to see interview with Chris Feudo

Recollections of Det-A Wife Marie von Haas

A few recollections of my time (1978-1979) as a Det-A wife

by Marie von Haas

The women who were in West Berlin with the men of Det-A were integral to the mission of the Det. We were almost always a welcome sight when an assignment allowed them to return “home.” Where was home? Wives and children offered a bit of normalcy to their lives. Also, we were great at keeping secrets. Actually, that wasn’t difficult to do because we didn’t know much about what our guys were doing.

We lived in government quarters like all other Americans assigned to West Berlin, an island of freedom surrounded by communism. But our husbands were not like other Americans. I had a neighbor who lived upstairs from us who thought that Bruno was a “German Interpreter.” This was believable since she never saw him in official military attire. Bruno looked like a German, he smelled like a German, and he spoke like a German.

Living in West Berlin meant that we could go to the Post Exchange and Commissary like all other Americans. We could also visit and spend our money in the local German shops. We could drive our own automobiles around West Berlin, or we could ride the U-bahn.
I recall the many shopping sprees into East Berlin. In order to pass through Checkpoint Charlie, we had to make sure to get permission from the proper authorities. Our automobiles were also properly registered to pass through the frontier. God help us if we didn’t return after a day of shopping. On one spree I met Bruno in East Berlin. I left him there to return in the same way that he got there.
As Bruno’s wife I was also a member of the Officer’s Wives Club. I remember playing bridge with Amika Olchovik and other officer’s wives regularly.

A few of us, women of Det-A, played volleyball against other American women. I don’t recall having a team name. The champion team at that time was made up of Army women. They were in much better shape and practiced more than we did. We practiced whenever our coaches were in town. I recall Steve Santoya and Frank Closen yelling at us to “jump higher” to spike the ball. Their idea of volleyball I think was called “Jungle Volleyball.” Our children were often our cheerleaders.


Baseball

Back left corner: Rich Herpers Right corner: Frank Closen
Back l-r: Steve Santoya, Stewart O’Neill, Ron Braughton, Frank Wallace, Bruno von Haas, Jimmy Reeves, Candy Santoya, Becky Closen, Marie von Haas, Mrs. Wallace, Bilha  Herpers
Below left: Mrs. Braughton Below right: Mrs. Reeves circa 1978-79


Back row l-r: Johnnie Moore, Barb Moore, Mrs. Reeves, Jimmy Reeves, Ron Braughton, Frank Closen, Becky Closen
Front row l-r: Rich Herpers, Bilha Herpers, Marie von Haas, Bruno von Haas, Steve Santoya, Candy Santoya, Robbie Robinson, Mrs. Braughton
Far left: John Liner, unknown woman circa 1978-79


Around the table l-r: Holly Closen, Becky Closen, Heather Closen, Frank Closen, Bruno von Haas, Marie von Haas, Ron Braughton, Mrs. Braughton, Candy Santoya, (back of Steve Santoya head) circa 1979


Det-A Wives


In our spare time we created a cookbook. The women and men of Det-A shared their culinary talents by publishing “Detachment Delights” (1979). It contains 142 recipes.

I have submitted a copy to Bob Charest for the Det-A website and click on the pot below to view the cookbook.


DETACHMENT DELIGHTS Recipe Book
Det “A” Berlin 1979
Adams, Mrs. Shirley
Benjamin, Marcia
Bennett, Mary
Betterton, Marilyn
Briggs, lrmie
Chartier, Ursula
Ellis, Terri
Ferguson, Donna
Feudo, Paula
Herpers, Bilha
Krieger, Linda
Lemke, Mai Thi
Lusterman, Kathy
McGinnis, Irmgard
Norman, Ann
Offutt, Jean
0 lchovik, Amika
Olchovik, Stanley LTC
Piusz, Chris
Probart, Judy
Santoya, Candy
Schenkelberger, Betty
Thomas, Ann
von Haas, Marie (Cover Design)
Williams, Marilyn

The women and men of Det-A shared their culinary talents
by publishing a cookbook (1979). It contains 142 recipes.


About the Author

The author, Marie von Haas, has been married to Bruno for 52 years. She is presently completing her PhD in History at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

1975-1978 Bruno served with the 10th SF Group (Abn), Bad Tölz, Germany before becoming commander of Team 6, S.F. Detachment “A” Berlin, Germany at LTC Stanley Olchovik’s request. He took the place of Lt. Powell in 1978.

With sadness we left Germany in December 1979 so that Bruno could fulfill his Infantry Officer obligation, IOAC, at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

DETACHMENT-A: HOW SPECIAL FORCES SOLDIERS OPERATED UNDERCOVER IN COLD WAR BERLIN

Detachment-A Berlin
Detachment-A Team 2 in Garmisch, Germany, for “ski training.” Pictured: Peter Gould, Kevin Monahan, and others. Photo courtesy of detachment-a.org.

DETACHMENT-A: HOW SPECIAL FORCES SOLDIERS OPERATED UNDERCOVER IN COLD WAR BERLIN

By Matt Fratus | January 25, 2022

In September 1969, Bob Charest arrived in Cold War Berlin and reported to Detachment-A, a classified and clandestine US Army Special Forces unit that didn’t officially exist.

The senior communications sergeant would spend nearly all of the 1970s operating undercover and awaiting activation. Charest, a veteran of cross-border operations with MACV-SOG who spoke both German and Russian, understood the stakes at play. If Russia, one of the four divisional powers in Germany, launched an invasion to overtake all of Berlin, Charest and other Detachment-A members would activate and conduct “stay-behind” sabotage missions against strategic infrastructure and vital targets. Without an escape and evasion plan, the team hoped to stall Soviet advances long enough until NATO reinforcements arrived.

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