2019 Detachment“A”/PSSE Special Forces Berlin Get Together After-Action Report
The 2019 Detachment “A”/PSSE Special Forces Berlin Get Together held in Asheville, NC from 12 September 2019 – 15 September 2019 was outstanding and truly special. The 2019 Detachment”A”/PSSE Special Forces Berlin was incredible and truly special, one of the best yet. They just keep getting better.
Many thanks to all the folks that contributed to this year’s function which was extra special this time. Sid Williams contributed enormously to this function in both time and effort. His support is greatly appreciated. He also kept the bar stocked which was no small task. Many thanks also to Gil Turcotte as well for his contributions to this function. Mercer “Mac” Dorsey, Ron Braughton, Chris Feudo, Gil Turcotte, John Lee, Pat and Gabbie Walters, all made very generous donations of beer to the bar and food, as did many others. Alan MacRae and the PSSE contributed their time and efforts to help keep things going, many thanks to all of them. Alan will be hosting the 2020 function. John Lee provided us all with the sharp-looking name tags using our Berlin logo. Many thanks from the attendees. Nick Brokhausen was in attendance and he brought along copies of his first book WE FEW: U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam; three of which were auctioned off at the function. Nick has written a new book entitled Whispers in the Tall Grass with an expected publication date of 19 October 2019. All the information about Nick’s second book has been posted to the Special Forces Berlin/Detachment”A” web site.
Betty Amaker from the JFK Museum/Gift Shop was in attendance. Betty brought a large assortment of Special Forces and Detachment”A” items for sale. Sid Williams donated several artifacts for the JFK Museum including: two US Command Berlin telephone directories: US Command telephone directory, Directory of key personnel; copies of Berlin photos from 1935 to a 1963 checkpoint Charlie photo and maps from Berlin from the early days. These artifacts were handed over to Betty who will transport to Roxanne Merritt for processing.
Original Member Recognition
One of our Original Detachment”A” members, James Wilde attended with his lovely wife Rosi. Jim was in Detachment”A” from 1957 to 1963.
Some of the couples we managed to snap pictures.
Bob Charest kicked things off. Bob spoke about members on sick call, and how they were greatly missed; wishing them all well. Bob then introduced Chris Feudo who gave the blessing of the function. Chris gave a meaningful and inspirational invocation. Bob then introduced Alan MacRae who will be the hosting our next function in 2020. The Detachment”A”/PSSE Berlin Special Forces function will be held in Colorado Springs, Colorado in September 2020. Alan gave a detailed presentation to everyone about the next function. Bill Crowley is doing a lot of the groundwork for this function. All this information has been posted to the Berlin Special Forces /Detachment “A” web site so you can find out all about the next function. For full information on our 2020 Detachment“A”/PSSE Special Forces Berlin Function go to the web site. Bob then asked Sid Williams to give everyone a briefing on his efforts with the Veterans Cemetery in Monterey, CA. Sid provided a full status on all the work done for the veterans’ cemetery.
Bob Charest and Nick Brokhausen were having breakfast when Nick came up with the idea to auction off three books and donating the proceeds to our function. He suggested to Bob Charest that he preside over the auction. Right about the time Bob was thinking it over as to who could be drafted as auctioneer instead of himself, along came Ron Bruce at the most opportune time. To make a long story short, Ron was ‘assigned’ the job of auctioneer although somewhat reluctantly having informed us he had no experience in this area. Later that day, the auction began. Ron assumed his role as auctioneer and not only did he perform as well as any trained auctioneer, he excelled; it was performance to behold. Ron was a big hit with the folks. Jeanne Fondas aided Ron by keeping records of all the bids. The bids exceeded expectations having raised over $300.00 for the three books. Many thanks to Nick for his generous donation. Bob Charest gave the money raised by the auction to Alan MacRae for the 2020 function.
Lee Fondas surprised Bob Charest with a special toast. Lee shared a $500.00 bottle of cognac with the troops. He and his wife Jeanne set it up. They prepared special shot glasses for those present and toasted Bob for his friendship, and his efforts and contributions to Detachment”A” and Berlin Special Forces.
Our honored guest MG(Ret) James Guest could not make our function this year, and he was sorely missed. A specially crafted eagle cane was to be presented to Jim at the function by Gil Turcotte who had the woodcarver artist create a personalized eagle cane for Jim. The cane was mailed to Jim’s home.
The annual Detachment “A” function was held at Fort Bragg, NC from Thursday, 8 June 2017 through Sunday 11 June 2017 in memory of CSM Jeffrey Raker.
This was truly a special function at Fort Bragg in memory of our comrade Jeff Raker. It was special in so many ways. We had a great showing for this function and a great time with our Detachment “A” brothers.
This function was originally to be held in Asheville, but Jeff Raker always wanted to have one at Fort Bragg at Moon Hall, so at our last Asheville function in which Jeff Raker attended, I informed him and all of you that our next function would be in honor of Jeff Raker and we would have it at Fort Bragg in conjunction with the SFA Convention. He was thrilled and told me he would be there. Sadly, Jeff passed away in November so I re-dedicated the function to be in memory of Jeff Raker.
Jeff Raker’s wife Minako and their sons and other family members attended. Jeff’s grandson Jeff was also present and while on the Fort Mackall tour Minako and his mother said “One of these days he will be right here at Camp Mackall for the selection course”.
Jeff Raker’s Chicken Friday Plaque New Home
Jeff Raker’s Chicken Friday plaque which he brought to our September 2016 Asheville NC function all the way from Guam has a new and permanent home. The unique nature of the plaque made it ineligible for the JFK Museum. After I notified you all of this, Glen Craig made a recommendation that we donate it to SFA HQ. I thought this was a great idea, so I coordinated with Roxanne Merritt Director, JFK Special Warfare Museum and Cliff Newman Executive Director of SFA who said he would be honored to have it. Many thanks for Glen’s suggestion and many thanks to Cliff Newman and SFA for giving this special artifact a permanent home.
A few members showed up early on Wednesday and we enjoyed time together as usual, including my main point man Gil Turcotte. My other main point man Sid Williams had a flight cancellation so he arrived a day late. Others included John Lee, Chris Feudo, Rick Westbrook, Steve Bright, Lee Fondas, and Bob Charest.
Gil Turcotte brought with him a large eagle-cane based plaque which he is donating to the JFK museum on behalf of Detachment “A” members.
Earlier in the year, Gil called Bob Charest and discussed a concept and idea he had for making of a Detachment “A” plaque. Bob said ‘go for it’. Gil came up the concept and design, hired an artist to construct the plaque, and paid for it. Gil put a lot of thought into this plaque.
One of the many features of this plaque is the space for Detachment “A” members to sign their name along with the dates they served in Det “A”.
A full description of the plaque was written up posted separately on our web site. A copy was sent to Roxanne Merritt JFK Museum Director to accompany the plaque.
Gil honored Bob by requesting that he be the first member to sign the artifact directly under the head of the eagle because “Bob brought Detachment “A” in from the cold and made it prominent”.
All other members present also signed their names and dates served in Detachment ”A”.
The meeting on Thursday featured our distinguished guest speaker MG Jim Guest(Ret) former Commanding General, United States Army Special Forces Command. MG Jim Guest(Ret) has been to all of our functions and gave a pronounced, and notable speech. His speech began with heartfelt remembrances of Jeff Raker with whom he served with for many years and who was his close friend. He said he loved the man as we all did.
After MG Jim Guest’s speech, Gil had CSM Jeff Raker’s son Jeff sign the plaque on his father’s behalf and in his honor.
Gill then caught up with our distinguished guest speaker MG James Guest’s(Ret) and obtained his signature on the plaque.
Gill Turcotte also passed around a get well card for our Special Forces Detachment “A” brother Peter Gould which was signed by fellow Det “A” brothers. We attempted to call him but could not get through.
The rest of the day was spent socializing and having a good time.
Friday started with the Camp Mackall tour, breakfast and lunch all set up and coordinated by our good friend and comrade Jack Tobin along with members of Chapter 6 including my good friend Joe Beasley. It was nothing short of outstanding. Detachment “A” members got the VIP treatment. The commander of the base LTC Wheeler and his XO along other staff set us up for breakfast at the Camp Mackall dining facility. We ate our chow at the outdoor picnic area where the students do the same.
LTC Wheeler and his staff gave us a VIP tour and a formal comprehensive briefing. They spent quite a bit of time with us and we really appreciated the exceptional treatment and the accommodations made for all of us. They spent half the day with us and gave Detachment “A” the red carpet treatment.
This event was well received. I am in the process of generating a special letter of thanks and appreciation to LTC Wheeler and his staff for all their efforts on behalf of all our Detachment “A” members.
The pay-as-you-go lunch was prepared by Jack Tobin and Chapter 6 members. It was a superb spread including BBQ, Beef Brisket, Spiral Cut Ham, Baked Beans, Cole Slaw, Iced Tea, Rolls, Appropriate Sauces and Condiments, and rolls. All proceeds go to the Chapter 6 team house construction fund. Jack said he had a lot of fun cooking up all the food. He is truly a class act.
The main event was the Photo Op Ceremony in Memory of Jeff Raker out at our Detachment “A” memorial stone at the USASOC Memorial Plaza on Friday afternoon. We received the full VIP treatment from USASOC and PAO and a red carpet literally. USACOM recorded the entire event on video, took professional pictures and held video interviews with various Detachment “A” members. They also had Paraglide present to write an article.
The Fayetteville Observer was present to cover the events, and performed many interviews.
When these articles are published, they will be available on the web site.
The two biographer teams Barry Duplantis and Mark Valley along with Keith Jeffreys and his crew were also present to witness this event.
Special thanks to MSG Calvin Castleberry who was my main POC. He worked extremely hard on this event and provided endless professional support. Cal is the epitome of an outstanding SF trooper. I invited him to Moon Hall to socialize with the guys after the Photo Op, and he showed up and spent the entire evening. He enjoyed being with the guys so much that he asked if he could come to our next function, and I said absolutely, he will be on our guest list for next years’ function.
The Photo Op was the highlight of this years’ function. We all gathered at the USASOC Memorial Plaza at our Detachment “A” memorial stone. Notable attendees included: LTG Kenneth E. Tovo, MG Sidney Shachnow(Ret) who was the main guest Speaker, and MG James Guest(Ret) former Commanding General, United States Army Special Forces Command who joined our Detachment “A” members for this special event.
When MG Shachnow arrived on the scene Bob went to greet him and he gave Bob Charest a bear hug that was long and embracing. Bob escorted him to the seated area where MG Shachnow was greeted by MG Jim Guest and many of his comrades. When he was seated, Paco Fontana came over to speak with MG Shachnow who gave Paco a strong embrace and bear hug. Paco’s wife Lisa captured the moment and it is displayed prominently on our web site.
Bob Charest introduced the event and spoke a few words about how this function was being held in memory of CSM Jeff Raker(Ret). He then introduced MG Sidney Shachnow(Ret) former Detachment “A” commander our honored guest speaker. MG Shachnow’s speech was to his usual standard, excellent. He began his speech by recognizing Bob Charest for all the work he did to bring Detachment “A” in from the cold and into history.
MG Shachnow then went on to highly recommend that everyone read Styk’s book. Styk’s book is entitled: Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956–1990. Buy it and read it.
He reminisced and talked about the Detachment “A” unit and all its members as only he can deliver. We were honored that he came out and grateful he was with us.
Bob then called on Gil Turcotte who presented the plaque he designed and had made to MG Shachnow who then donated to the JFK Museum on behalf of all Detachment ”A” members. Roxanne Merritt from the JFK museum was present to receive the plaque which will have its place in the museum.
We invited LTG Tovo and he was due to come to our function, time permitting as he had a prior commitment to preside over a retirement ceremony. We were very pleased that he was able to join us in this historical event in honor of Jeff Raker. LTG Tovo met and spoke with many of our Detachment “A” members.
On Saturday we had lots of time to socialize. Interviews were ongoing by the documentary crew. We all gathered at the German Restaurant for some good German food.
At the lunch, Jeff Raker’s son Jeff stood up and thanked all the Detachment “A” members for the special recognition given to CSM Jeff Raker’s historical legacy and his contributions to Detachment “A” and Special Forces.
The rest of the day was spent socializing at the great outdoor area at Moon Hall.
The two biographer teams Barry Duplantis and Mark Valley along with Keith Jeffreys and his crew conducted numerous interviews and scheduled more. MG Shachnow was among those interviewed. They gathered material for their biographical documentary film which is a collaborative project.
At the SFA convention Bob Charest met up with LTG Kenneth Tovo, Commander of the United States Army Special Operations Command, and thanked him and his staff on behalf of Detachment(A) for their support of this function in honor of Jeff Raker.
Minako Raker also attended the SFA convention with family members and before she departed for Guam she tearfully thanked all Detachment “A” members for dedicating this function to CSM Jeff Raker and his legacy. She once again stated that her grandson Jeff, would one day wear the Green Beret.
Heidi Fedor’s lovely daughter of Howie and Sybille Fedor came to our function beautiful handmade wooden plaques carved by her boyfriend Jeremy. The plaque contained the Special Forces Berlin carving, the Brigade Patch, active dates of Det”A”, Detachment “A” Germany. She presented as a remembrance gift to Det”A” members. She presented one to Bob as well as a token of appreciation which a welcomed surprise, and he will treasure it always. Heidi has also provided lot of photos from our functions. We thank her so much.
The 2017 Detachment”A” Function in memory of CSM Jeffrey Raker was truly an amazing function. The function allowed Detachment “A” and others to honor our friend Jeff Raker in a way he so richly deserved, socialize and have a great time with each other, the way it should always be. Jeff Raker told me long ago don’t change the format, and I have not. I will maintain the brotherhood and our sacred social no frill Detachment “A” functions.
2018 Asheville Function
Next year’s reunion will be held in Asheville NC as usual. I will be sending out the information as soon as it is finalized.
The man who brought Detachment “A” in from the cold
One last wish from CSM Jeff Raker, was to donate the Chicken Friday plaque he received upon his departure from Detachment”A” in 1981, to the members of Detachment”A”.
Chicken Friday was created back in the 1971-1972 era with SGM Tony Kriculi, and MAJ Sid Shachnow. In the 1970s era, Detachment”A” annexed the old HQ & HQ company mess hall kitchen right next door to the Detachment”A” building. It was renovated by Detachment”A” members into a Day Room complete with a bar, which was annexed from the hospital. The Day Room also included a pool table, a parachute canopy over the bar, and beer from Czechoslovakia called “Budvar”, not local beer i.e., Schultheiss and Berliner Kindl. It was improved during the years leading up to the deactivation of the Detachment in 1984.
On Friday afternoons we had a formation and assigned tasks for various cleanup areas, vehicle maintenance, and other such upkeep duties. These activities lasted about two hours which then turned into “Chicken Friday”, a social gathering and bier fest for the rest of the evening. Because of our compartmentalization, and not much downtime among us for socializing, it became a highly anticipated event. Chicken Friday was frequently attended by Navy Seals from Crete, teams from 10th Special Forces attending our classified city training course, and the German Secret Police whom we worked with. Chicken Friday and the fest after, was a really big morale booster for the men of Detachment”A” and helped keep “What happened in the Detachment, stayed in the Detachment”.
At our Detachment”A” function in Asheville on Friday 16 September of 2016, Jeff Raker presented the plaque he received in 1981, to our Chicken Friday. He hand carried this symbolic artifact all the way from Guam, and it came with him first class – 35 years later. After the meeting Kevin Monahan suggested that the plaque be donated to the JFK museum. Bob Charest secured the Chicken Friday plaque to ensure the plaque is transported to Roxanne Merritt, the JFK museum director/curator where she will ensure that it will reside and serve as part of Detachment”A” history.
This historic Chicken Friday plaque presented to CMS Jeff Raker back in 1981 is being donated to the JFK Museum on behalf of all the men from Detachment”A” 39TH Special Forces.
However, the nature of the plaque made it ineligible for the JFK Museum. After I notified you all of this, Glen Craig made a recommendation that we donate it to SFA HQ.
Bob thought this was a great idea, so he coordinated with Roxanne Merritt Director, JFK Special Warfare Museum and Cliff Newman Executive Director of SFA who said he would be honored to have it. Many thanks for Glen’s suggestion and many thanks to Cliff Newman and SFA for giving this special artifact a permanent home.
Jeff Raker’s Chicken Friday plaque which he brought to our September 2016 Asheville NC function has a new and permanent home at SFA.
Chicken Friday 1977
Chicken Friday, 1977 – Left to Right: Billy Krieger, Dennis Hebler, Klemme Lemcke