TORII STATION, Okinawa (May 29, 2015) – Among the first special operators to commence the opening salvo against terrorists in Afghanistan, Oct. 19, 2001, were Green Berets, from the 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, whose motto, “First in Asia,” is particularly apt.
Since then, these professional Soldiers have been consistently engaged in the war on terrorism in areas throughout the globe. Their headgear, as distinctive as their mission-set, was hailed as “a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom,” by President John F. Kennedy, who was a proponent of the unconventional style of warfare, which would define these artisans of war.
One commonality, of these professionals, is a penchant for jumping out of a perfectly good airplane – or a helicopter – or both.
Recently, a group of U.S. Army Special Forces Soldiers partnered with Marine Corps aviators on Okinawa to conduct static line and military-freefall parachute operations from MV-22 Osprey military aircraft using the drop zone on Ie Shima island.
The Osprey, a tilt-rotor aircraft with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities, is one part whirly bird and one part turboprop, which makes getting there first, the fastest, and with more, a breeze.
“MV-22s conduct missions that normally require both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft,” said Maj. Pat, a Green Beret commander, whose last name has been omitted due to operational security. “With its one-of-a-kind combination of speed, range and operational flexibility, it gives special operations an advantage no other fighting force in the world can employ,” he said.
The MV-22 Osprey is prevalent throughout many areas of responsibility and being familiar with the aircraft and its operational capabilities allows the Green Berets of 1st Battalion to not only feel more comfortable with the aircraft, but the Marines, who pilot it as well – allowing for seamless interoperability between the two forces.
The Department of Defense announced, May 11, plans to station a special operations squadron of CV-22 Osprey aircraft on Yokota Air Base, Japan.
The deployment of tilt-rotor aircraft will provide increased capability for U.S. special operations forces to respond quickly to crises and contingencies in Japan and throughout the Asia-Pacific region, including humanitarian crises and natural disasters, according to a news release.
“The CV-22 Osprey is a highly-advanced aircraft with unique capabilities and an excellent operational safety record. The deployment reflects the United States’ steadfast commitment to defend Japan and to station its most advanced capabilities forward as part of the Asia-Pacific rebalance.”
“As an Army ground unit, we routinely rely on other services to provide capabilities for us that we do not have organically … it is routine for us to work with the Air Force, Navy and Marines not only for airlift support but also for Explosive Ordinance Disposal, Joint Tactical Air Controllers and maritime support,” Maj. Pat said. “Special operation forces are usually part of joint headquarters when forward deployed, which also provides us the opportunity to work with our sister services. Being on Okinawa makes forging these relationships fairly easy since we are all in close proximity to each other and work together often.”
The “First in Asia” Battalion came to be a part of the military community on Okinawa in March 1984, when the need for special operations forces in the Pacific again became apparent. For more than 30 years, it has been a staple of U.S. forces on the island, which offers an unrivaled training environment to the operators.
“Training on Okinawa allows us to train in Asia-specific terrain on world-class facilities and work closely with our incredible Japanese partners,” Maj. Pat said. “The terrain and opportunities that Okinawa provides are unmatched throughout Asia and make for an incredible platform to train.”
As special forces Soldiers, being able to appreciate the diversity and uniqueness of various cultures is an attribute that is critical to operating on foreign soil.
“[1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group] has a long history on Okinawa and enjoys being part of the community,” Maj. Pat said. “Some of our elements recently conducted a tour of the Ryukyu’s for cultural familiarization … respect is one of the Army core values and as special forces operators we pride ourselves on adapting to new cultures and environments. Our experiences in Okinawa are no different.”