When Bob Charest realized that Detachment (A)’s history was fading away into the historical dust bin, he started an effort to bring Detachment(A) in from the cold. With this most important goal at stake, and with the knowledge of how important this unit and its members were to the Special Forces history he began an endeavor that took years of hard work and dedication to accomplish the one goal in his mind: to bring Detachment(A) in from the cold; to finally bring about the recognition that was so richly deserved to the Detachment(A) unit and its members. He could not let this unit fade away.
Bob Charest, an eight-year veteran of Detachment(A) 1969-1972 and 1973-1978, launched this endeavor as an independent look into the Military History of Detachment(A), 39th Special Forces, Berlin 1956-1984.
He began by organizing Detachment(A) functions – Detachment”A” members were scattered all over the world. They started out very small but grew each year and have become very successful.
He then created a new Detachment(A) web site and domain, dedicated exclusively to Detachment(A). In conjunction with this, he wrote and published the article “A Thumbnail Look at Detachment(A) Berlin Brigade in January 2012. Then things just took off. He continued organizing and hosting Detachment(A) functions with increased numbers and success.
The Thumbnail Look at Detachment(A) Berlin Brigade was circulating for some time, and the Special Forces Association(SFA) got hold of it and published the article on their website Home – Special Forces Association in the 2013 Winter edition of the Drop Magazine.
Bob also worked with the SFA and was able to obtain a section dedicated to Detachment(A) in the Drop Magazine.
The Detachment(A) functions continued to grow with members getting together to share stories about serving in Detachment(A). These functions were gatherings of the Detachment”A” folks, and the format and motto was simple: come as you are, pay as you go, BYOB and no agendas, no frills, and no politics. Jeff Raker told him never change this format.
Bob organized several projects to continue to bring Detachment(A) in from the cold which were all team efforts including representation of Det-A in the JFK Museum, collecting Det-A artifacts, and managing the project that brought Jimmy Spoo’s Memorial Stone idea to fruition.
Bob made the Memorial Stone project a team effort which allowed all Detachment(A) members to contribute to the Memorial Stone, which they generously did. He coordinated with SFA to manage the contributions. The project was fast and furious, collecting all the money that was needed and then some. All monies over the necessary funds were donated to the Green Beret Foundation.
He also worked with USASOC and General Shachnow on ceremony activities including speakers, guests, press and many other ceremony details. He also ensured that special recognition was attributed to Major Hermann Adler who was unable to attend.
Bob also worked with two highly established authors and writers who wanted to write books about Detachment(A). These two projects were put on hold because fellow Detachment(A) member James Stejskal’s book was still in progress and Bob did not want to interfere with his efforts until his book was published.
Jack was a guest at the September 2016 Det-A function. He interviewed Detachment(A) members for a follow-up article which was published on SOFREP.com in a 4-part series dated from 07 February 2017 – 10 February 2017:
Detachment A: Clandestine Special Forces Missions from Berlin to Iran
Part 1: Detachment A: Clandestine Special Forces missions in post Hitler’s Berlin published 6 Feb 2017
Parr 2: Detachment A: Green Berets play cat and mouse with communist agents published 7 February 2017
Part 3: Detachment A: counter-terrorism and Operation Eagle Claw published 8 February 2017
Part 4: Detachment A: Final missions, the wall comes down, and the end of an era published 10 February 2017
Jack conducted in depth interviews with Det(A) members and the articles he published were outstanding. Jack has been instrumental in bringing to light Det(A)’s legacy to the public with his professional writings.
All of these articles are posted on the Detachment(A) website.
Jim’s book entitled Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956–1990 was published 17 February 2017.
Our function in Fayetteville NC in memory of Jeffrey Raker in June of 2017 featured a Detachment(A) formation at the Memorial Stone. This was probably the last formal formation of Detachment(A).
There was work performed for a project towards a biography of Detachment(A). Barry Duplantis and Chase Millsap collaborated on this project. There were interviews conducted at the function. The two teams of biographers as well as the military professionals worked together on this project. These efforts resulted in videos of some of our Detachment”A” members which are published on the Detachment(A) website. Barry Duplantis conducted video interviews with Detachment”A” members and Barry Duplantis along with Chase Millsap generated the Detachment”A” Intro video 1956-1984.
Next, Bob unexpectedly found out that many Detachment”A” members also served in the SOG unit so he published the Who’sWho in Detachment”A”/SOG on 7 Feb 2018.
The Who’s Who In Detachment”A”/SOG list was followed up with an article Bob Charest wrote on 5 Apr 2021 entitled Det-A and SOG which was published by SOA in their 1 May 2021 Newsletter.
Many of the articles have been updated over the years as well. Thanks to all the gifted contributors who worked with Bob to provide exceptional articles and other media-related information about Detachment”A”.
For many years, and at many functions, Jeff Raker has spoken about Bob Charest bringing Detachment-A in from the cold. At the September 2016 function, he honored Bob Charest by recognizing all the projects and efforts Bob has done for Detachment-A. He presented a thank you card signed by the Detachment(A) members and here is what he said:
“I am not modest in what I’m going to say right now. One reason we are all here; one reason Det-A, after all those years Detachment-A got put on the map. One reason there’s a marker at headquarters, with Detachment-A on it, is because one individual, he did have some help, but one individual went all out and made sure we didn’t die. That individual is here, and because of that individual, we are all here. And Bob if you will be so kind and stand up – with this card that we all signed thanking you for keeping us together, thanks Bob.”
For Bob, this was the ultimate honor, one he will never forget, from Detachment(A) members and from one of the best Special Forces soldiers he has ever served with, and a very special friend.
Another Special Forces legend Major General James Guest also recognized Bob’s efforts with this message when recognizing a new chapter being formed in the Upstate South Carolina.
It is great that Upstate South Carolina will have a Special Forces Chapter to preserve the legacy of the Special Forces and the Special Forces Soldiers. They prove the truth of the old adage that out of a 100 soldiers, 80 are just there, 10 insure the mission is done, 1 leads the 10 in doing it. I believe that the SF are all in the ranks of the 10 who will get the job done regardless of what it takes. Bob Charest represents the 1. He rescued the Legacy of the Berlin Detachment from the dustbin of forgotten history and added it to a place in the Legacy of Special Forces to its rightful place of Honor in the Special Forces Regiment.
The SF Soldiers will keep the Legacy always. MG Jim Guest
This goes without saying that coming from MG Jim Guest, a very special honor.
There are now countless articles and videos about Detachment”A”. Detachment”A”, its rich legacy within the Special Forces community, is now in the history books and it all started with one man, Bob Charest who saw the legacy of Detachment”A” fading away; its history forgotten; Bob set in motion the recording of the Detachment”A” history and legacy. He has worked tirelessly: organizing and hosting Detachment”A” gatherings, establishing a history related Detachment”A” website, the inaugural overview article entitled A Thumbnail Look at Detachment(A) Berlin Brigade in January 2012 and engaging and coordination with numerous organizations, individuals and projects to get the Detachment”A” history and legacy recorded.
Our biographers Barry Duplantis and Mark Valley were searching the freedom of information act data base have come up with a copy of DET A OPLAN “Strangle”. The documents came to light though James’s research as detailed in his book, SF Berlin.
This article was published in the Fayetteville Observer authored by Drew Brooks.
Dressed in civilian clothes with long hair, the men looked like any other on the streets of East Berlin.
Their German accents didn’t give away their true identities as American Special Forces soldiers, part of a clandestine military unit operating during the Cold War.
Berlin, a divided city located 100 miles behind the Iron Curtain, was a focal point in the tensions that developed between NATO forces and the Soviet Union after World War II.
With a literal line drawn between the forces – American troops and their allies in West Berlin and Soviet troops and their supporters in East Berlin – the city became the “Grand Central Station of East-West espionage” and a “playground for all sorts of secret agents,” according to Bob Charest, a retired Army master sergeant and former Green Beret.
Earlier this 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 with the concept and design, hired a woodcarver to construct the plaque, and funded it. Gil put a lot of thought, time and effort into this plaque.
Gil wanted an ‘eagle’ cane for Detachment ”A”. Eagle Canes are a tradition in many states. Woodcarvers/artists hand craft each custom cane and donate it to the veteran; in support of our veterans. Maine shares in this tradition and Gil hired George and Donna Gunning, of Windsor ME. They carve each eagle cane individually to specifications and donate it to any veteran who has honorably served, no matter how long they served.
Gil wanted the eagle cane to be focal point feature of the plaque.
The woodcarvers did their research about Detachment “A”. They read the articles posted on our web site and as they learned more about Detachment “A” they became very enthusiastic about the unit and the project.
The overall plaque design consisted of: the eagle cane mounted on the plaque, Detachment A” items, US Army items and a large area for Detachment “A” members to sign their name and dates they served in Detachment ”A”.
Gil collected all the items he wanted on the plaque then created a mock-up where each item would appear on the plaque. The entire project took about 4 months. There was a lot of collaboration and iterations – Gil was very particular on what he wanted.
Gil’s Detachment “A” Plaque Description
The actual wooden plaque is 4 feet long and 2 feet high. It weighs 40 pounds. It will be positioned at a 20 degree angle for proper viewing. Gil described each component of the plaque as follows:
The most distinguishing feature of this artifact is the Eagle Cane. The cane has an intricate Bald Eagle’s Head carved and painted into the handle representing the national symbol of freedom and independence. The shaft of the cane consists of the American Flag, the Army Branch of Service emblem, a burned etching of “Detachment ”A” with dates of existence 1956-1984, and the Berlin Occupation Medal.
On the left side there is a burned-in wooden block etched with MG Sidney Shachnow’s name, as he is the best known Commander of Detachment “A”. In the center there is another larger burned-in wooden block containing the Special Forces Crest, SF Shoulder Patch, American and German Wings, and two Detachment “A” coins one coin for the Head and one for the Tails which were Gil’s own coins. The head consisting of a parachute, represents the infiltration into Berlin by Detachment “A” members led by MG Sidney Shachnow(Ret). The tail consisting of a broken wall represents the exfiltration of Detachment “A” out of Berlin as LTC Piasecki(Ret) was the officer in charge of the final 10 days to clear out, sanitize and clean the station. On the right side of plaque there is another burned -in wooden block etched with LTC Eugene Piasecki’s name.
The far right side of the plaque contains the Taps List with those departed members of Detachment “A”. It is positioned under base of the cane. Gil expressed its significance to be that whenever the base of a cane touches the ground it serves as a reminder of our honored comrades and brothers who are no longer with us, and to honor them and never forget them.
The original taps list was sent out for reformatting and printing. It was originally printed on plain white paper. The owner wanted to know about the ‘Taps List’. When Gil explained it to her she ordered it to be re-printed on parchment and refused to accept any payment.
On the back of the plaque Gil wrote: “Donated by Gil Turcotte, SGM(Ret) 2017”.
The rest of the plaque is reserved for Detachment “A” member signatures and certain dignitaries. Each member signs their name along with time served in Detachment “A”.
Detachment “A” Plaque Signing
Gil arrived on Wednesday to the 2017 Detachment “A” function in honor of Jeff Raker with the plaque.
Gil designated that the first signature and the location of the signature at the top of the bald eagle’s head be reserved for Bob Charest. Gil wanted Bob to have this distinction of being the first to sign because he ‘brought Detachment “A” in from the cold” and “made it prominent by bringing long due recognition for the unit”. Bob was honored as the first Detachment “A” member to sign the plaque at the head of the eagle.
Members present on Wednesday also signed the plaque including John Lee, Chris Feudo, Rick Westbrook, Steve Bright, Lee Fondas, and Eugene Piasecki who signed under the block containing his name.
On Thursday after MG Jim Guest’s speech, Gil had CSM Jeff Raker’s son Jeff to 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) former Commanding General, United States Army Special Forces Command and obtained his signature.
Gil continued collecting signatures from all Detachment “A” members present at our function. He also signed for some members with their permission, who were unable to attend, including Daryl Katz, Peter Gould and Doug Curry.
On Friday, right before our ceremony, Gil got MG Sidney Shachnow(Ret) to sign the plaque under the block containing his name.
Our June 2017 function in honor of Jeff Raker, included the presentation of the plaque. At the conclusion of our ceremony after MG Shachnow’s speech, Bob Charest called on Gil Turcotte who then presented the plaque to MG Sidney Shachnow(Ret) who then donated it to the JFK Museum on behalf of Detachment “A”.
About the Cane Woodcarvers
At the far right bottom corner of the plaque contains the woodcarver’s names George and Donna Gunning, Windsor ME, 2017. They did not want to put their logo because they thought it might detract from the plaque but Gil convinced them to place it on the plaque. They have produced 3,800 canes for Maine veterans at no cost to the veterans. Donations are accepted to keep the tradition going. Gil presented them with an autographed copy of Styk’s book Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956–1990 as a gift, along with a donation for their work.
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
The Detachment (A) Memorial Stone Dedication Ceremony was hosted by LTG Charles Cleveland, Commanding General for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) on 30 January 2014.
The Detachment”A” Memorial stone is in place and the colors were retired with dignity and honor. The dedication ceremony was outstanding, as was the Chicken Friday’s free event, both food and beers. Lots of folks had to cancel due to the weather, however the event was well attended, including Juan Renta, Rocky Farr, Ron Braughton, Jeff Raker, Carl Beene, Gene Piasecki, and many others.
Posted Jan 31, 2014 at 12:01 AM Updated Jan 31, 2014 at 7:05 AM
For nearly 30 years during the Cold War, some of America’s top soldiers toiled in secret.
Their missions, always classified, are still largely unknown and absent from the history books.
But Thursday, on Fort Bragg, those soldiers were publicly honored for their service and sacrifice.
Detachment A Berlin Brigade was a clandestine unit of about 90 Green Berets based in West Berlin. They wore civilian clothes, spoke fluent German and stayed on high alert 24 hours a day.
Officials with U.S. Army Special Operations Command dedicated and unveiled a memorial stone for the unit at Meadows Field Memorial Plaza.
They also formally cased the unit’s colors – the flag used to identify the detachment – for the first time.
The ceremony was attended by dozens of veterans of Detachment A, as well as leaders from the Fort Bragg special operations community.
“No force of its size has contributed more to peace, stability and freedom,” Army Special Operations Command officials said.
Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commander of Army Special Operations Command, said the memorial was in a place of honor.
As a captain, Cleveland trained in West Berlin with members of Detachment A. On Thursday, with the Army Special Operations Memorial Wall as a backdrop, he said it was an honor to oversee the ceremony unveiling the memorial, saying the unit was held in high regard.
Detachment A has a proud legacy, Cleveland said, and faced “untold risk – fraught with uncertainty.”
From 1956 to 1984, Detachment A was involved in some of the most sensitive operations of the Cold War, even as the country teetered on the brink of World War III, he said. Its members created techniques that are still in use today.
All the while, the men were surrounded by the Soviet Union at all times.
“Detachment A was literally in the eye of the Cold War hurricane,” Cleveland said.
“Well done,” he added. “You are truly without equal.”
The men of Detachment A were specially chosen Special Forces soldiers. Many were immigrants from Germany or eastern Europe, brought in for their cultural expertise.
“They were very brave men and took on some tough missions,” said retired Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, who commanded Detachment A from 1970 to 1974.
Veterans of the unit described a tight-knit group that was constantly aware of the threats around them.
“We all knew it was a suicide mission,” said Bob Charest, a retired master sergeant who served with Detachment A from 1969 to 1972 and 1973 to 1978.
Charest said the unit effectively operated 110 miles inside enemy lines.
If war had started, he said, they would have easily been wiped off the face of the earth.
In a history of the unit written by Charest, he outlined the unique and diversified team.
“Detachment A was a highly trained, one-of-a-kind unit,” Charest said. “No one knew much about it during its existence.”
They carried non-American documentation and identification and trained at the highest standards, Charest wrote.
The men carried out secret missions to sabotage railways in the early days of the Detachment and later focused on anti-terrorist, sniper and swat combat.
The unit also participated in Operation Eagle Claw – the failed attempt to rescue hostages held by Iran in 1980.
“We were the Delta Force of Europe,” Charest wrote.
Detachment A also helped the CIA, and its equipment reads like it comes from a James Bond novel.
“One-shot cigarette-lighter guns, vials filled with metal shavings for destruction of turbines, noise suppressed weapons for elimination of specific targets,” lists Charest.
Veterans of the unit said Thursday’s ceremony was special, and a unique opportunity to publicly honor the little-known detachment.
“We never got credit for anything because we didn’t exist,” Charest said.
Retired Lt. Col. Eugene Piasecki said the unit was so secret that officials didn’t know who he was when the unit began turning in equipment ahead of its deactivation in 1984.
Piasecki said closing the unit was the saddest day of his life.
“I knew when I closed the door I would no longer serve in a unit like that,” he said.
In the years since the end of the Cold War, Detachment A has been unclassified, but until recently, one mystery remained.
Where were the unit’s colors?
The blue flag that represented Detachment A was unique from the start.
Originally, the unit was denied colors because of its secretive nature. But Detachment A officials appealed to the Berlin Brigade -which technically did not have the authority to issue colors – and was approved. That relationship is why Detachment A’s flag is infantry blue as opposed to Special Forces green.
When Detachment A was shuttered in 1984, the colors went missing, Piasecki said.
The flag’s whereabouts remained a mystery to most Detachment A veterans until November, when it was discovered at a local Special Forces Association chapter.
On Thursday, the flag was officially cased by Piasecki and Army Special Operations Command Sgt. Maj. George Bequer.
The colors were then presented to Cleveland, who said they would find a place of honor within Army Special Operations Command.
The memorial, featuring the image of a crumbling Berlin Wall, was the culmination of a nearly year-long effort, officials said.
Jimmy Spoo, a retired chief warrant officer 4 who served in Detachment A from 1981 to 1984 and most recently spurred efforts to build the memorial, said Army Special Operations Command’s memorial plaza was an incredible tribute and it was only fitting to add a memorial to the detachment.
Dozens of Detachment A veterans made donations to pay for the memorial and excess money – about $2,000 – was donated Thursday to the Green Beret Foundation, a charity that helps Special Forces soldiers and their families.
Detachment “A” participated in “Operation Eagle Claw” the attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis on 24/25 April 1980 by rescuing 52 diplomats held captive at the United States Embassy and the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, Iran.
Detachment “A” was responsible for the pre-mission reconnaissance of the targets by successfully infiltrating a team into Tehran on several occasions and contributed an element to rescue three hostages held in the MFA.
When the first mission was aborted a second attempt was planned for later that year, but was cancelled when negotiations proved successful.
Stormcloud was the code-name for Det “A’s” portion of the mission.
Team 1 Scuba, Detachment(A) Team 3 Team Sergeant (1969-1972) Detachment(A) Team 2 , Detachment(A) Commo Chief 1973-1978
In 1956, six modified Special Forces Operational “A” Detachments from the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) stationed in Bad Tölz were relocated to West Berlin as the 7781 Army Unit (also known as 39th SFOD) and embedded within HQ and HQ Co., 6th Infantry Regiment. Each team was composed of one Master Sergeant and five enlisted team members. The overall OIC was MAJ Maltese and his XO, CAPT Barton. After several moves in 1958 the unit found its final home at Andrews Barracks, West Berlin, assigned to HHC, US Army Garrison, Berlin, with its new name – Detachment “A” (DET-A). DET(A) was a clandestine unit constantly on high alert status 24 hours a day. In 1962 DET(A) was separated from the Garrison and became Detachment(A), Berlin Brigade, US Army Europe, which it remained until deactivation in 1984.
Detachment (A) was a unique and diversified, unconventional classified unit. With staff, the unit numbers were approximately 90 men. Detachment(A) encompassed all the Special Forces missions over its existence: unconventional warfare, stay behind, direct action, and anti-terrorist. For example when I arrived in 1969, they operated under the cell concept. Then in the late sixties transitioned to six, 12-man “A” teams, each having its own mission requiring different and multiple skill sets including scuba, HALO, etc.
A certain breed of troop were instrumental in Detachment(A)’s missions. They brought in depth knowledge of other nations, language capabilities and other much needed skills and knowledge essential to Detachment(A). Some of these men were products of the Lodge Act, and many of these troops still had families behind the Iron Curtain. Men like Peter Astalos who served in the Romanian and German armies during World War II; Martin Urich who participated in the largest tank battle of World War II “Kursk”, and many more.
Photos of Martin Urich
In later years during the Cold War another breed of men were joining the Special Forces originating from all over Europe. Men such as MG Sidney Shachnow born in Kaunas Lithuania, imprisoned for three years during World War II, joined Special Forces in 1962 and served for the next 32 years in Special Forces rising through the ranks to become a Two Star General. He was the Commander of Detachment(A) in the early 1970s. Hermann Adler, Team 3 Leader 71-72, born in the Sudentenland, Czechoslovakia.
Photos of Sidney Shachnow and Hermann Adler
After MG Shachnow’s departure from Detachment(A), his replacement was relieved of duty in front of our morning formation by the Berlin Brigade DBC. He was replaced along with several other key individuals who were not Special Forces qualified. Under their direction we were all put back in uniforms. Our Detachment(A) sign logo now had a big Airborne logo appended to it. We were assigned various duties to train the Infantry units of the Berlin Brigade, i.e., EIB training, Scout Swimmer, etc. Their NCO’s looked to us as cadre. These command changes had a detrimental impact on the unit and compromised DET(A)’s mission.
The unit then got a new commander. Colonel Stanley Olchovik, who was born in Czechoslovakia, was an accomplished linguist and had extensive Special Forces operational experience.
CSM Jeffrey Raker, another standout born in Germany, was also assigned to Detachment(A) . He volunteered for Special Forces in 1963, and rose up to Command Sergeant Major. He served as the Sergeant Major of Detachment(A) from 1977-1981.
Photos of CSM Raker and Stanley Olchovik
Colonel Olchovik and Sergeant Major Raker restored Detachment(A) to its primary classified missions. Under their leadership the unit was able to regroup and achieve 100% language qualification, and hone its unconventional warfare and special operations skills. They set up training with the Bundesgrenzschutz GSG9, SAS, and Special Berlin Police units. SGM Raker selected and trained Detachment(A) individuals who made the reconnaissance to Iran to plan Operation Eagle Claw – Iran Hostage Rescue Mission 1979.
He then selected the Detachment that was to rescue the hostages held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Operation Storm Cloud.
CSM Raker served over 30 years in the Army.
It was men like these that made Detachment(A) what it was– a clandestine unit of Green Beret commandos on high alert 24 hours a day operating in the Cold War era.
Becoming a member of the unit required the potential candidate meet the highest of standards. Those standards were rigorously set and enforced. The slightest infractions were not tolerated. The members of this unit were selectively trained, language qualified SF soldiers, many former German and Eastern European immigrants who brought much needed culture, geographical and language skills to this assignment. They dressed in mostly civilian clothing purchased in both West and East Germany and carried if required, non-American flash documentation and identification. Their missions were always classified.
Physical training was wide-ranging and progressively intense.
For example, on Monday, it was the daily dozen plus a one-mile run. Tuesday, the same but a 2-mile run which progressed through Friday to a 5-mile run. Four times per month we performed a four-mile cross-country run through the Grunewald Forest. Another example, a month in Southern Germany where we trained for winter warfare, which consisted of both downhill and cross-country skiing equivalent to extreme skiing. Specialized demolition training was a required skill for our various targets in Berlin. Some attended the CIA specialized demo course at Harvey Point, NC. We also conducted intense special internal demolitions by our demo personnel.
DET(A) participated in all the Flintlock exercises along with our sister unit 10th SFGP(ABN) located in Bad Tölz Germany in various ways sometimes as assets, Guerrilla Chief as well as participating in communication exercises. We would combine our Scuba training with 10th SFGP in Bad Tölz, Germany.
Each month, we conducted our airborne operations staging and flying out of Berlin Tempelhof AFB and jumping into Bad Tölz, Germany.
Some of the tools of the trade used were coal filled with C-3 for the earlier sabotage of the rail ring surrounding Berlin. One-shot cigarette-lighter guns also known as stingers, vials filled with metal shavings for destruction of turbines, noise suppressed weapons for elimination of specific targets. A myriad of weapons and vehicles were available. All of our scuba gear was German Dräger. This included a Dräger one-man portable decompression chamber.
Other tools included dual passports, or dual nationalities, GS ID cards for specific reasons. Diplomatic passports walk on water IDs for exploring boarder areas in all sectors. Vehicles utilized included both US and German registration. We used German weapons, i.e., Walther MPK 9mm that fit in a briefcase.
Area studies were conducted to gain a solid understanding of the culture, languages, history, geographical data, and target acquisition.
The status of forces agreement with the four powers occupying West Berlin specified no elite forces. However, the allies the British, Russians, and the U.S. etc., had their own elite forces.
We participated in NATO escape and evasion exercises and exclusive DET(A) city exercises in Berlin, which included dead drops, live drops, primary meetings, surveillance, and in-city communications. DET(A) had a city course that we taught to the 10th SFGP personnel as well as SEAL Team Two from Crete.
DET(A) knew that the KGB had us under constant surveillance and possessed dossiers on all of us. Part of our city training was against the Soviets surveillance of us.
Unit members wore civilian clothes, spoke fluent German, and grooming standards were relaxed, i.e., long hair.
Bob Charest Example of Relaxed Grooming 1977
During the mid 70s our mission was changed to anti-terrorist, sniper, and swat combat in cities. We were the Delta Force of Europe.
In 1978 DET(A) was tasked by the CIA to dig up several cache sites positioned throughout Berlin for stay behind operations and check the conditions of the equipment in them, i.e., weapons, demo, commo, medical, and to recommend replacements.
Detachment”A” was deactivated 1 October 1984 and the doors locked on 17 December 1984.