FORT BRAGG, NC (Sgt. Daniel A. Carter) – Friends and family gathered at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command memorial plaza to honor Detachment A and their 28 years of valorous actions in Eastern Europe from August 1956 to 30 December 1984 in a Memorial Stone Dedication and Colors retirement ceremony Jan. 30, 2014.
Detachment A was created from carefully screened and selected members of the 10th Special Forces Group, located in Bad Toelz, Germany. In August 1956, six Operational Detachment Alpha teams and a staff element left Bad Toelz in privately owned vehicles for Berlin.
On 1 September 1956, the organization officially moved to the top floor of building 1000B at McNair Barracks, West Berlin and was designated as the Security Platoon, Regimental Headquarters, 6th Infantry Regiment, APO 742, Berlin, Germany.
It was out of Berlin, where the detachment was stationed, that Detachment A deployed from in order to conduct their highly dangerous missions deep into East Germany.
On the snow-covered USASOC memorial plaza, about 40 Detachment A members and their families made their way to their seats as the ceremony began.
After rendering Honors to the Nation, the memorial stone was unveiled by Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Sidney Shachnow, a former commander of Det. A, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 (Ret.) Jimmy Spoo, an intelligence sergeant on Team Four from 1981-1984.
Master Sgt. (Ret.) Bob Charest, the senior communications sergeant on Team One Scuba Team from 1969-1972 and 1973-1978, stated: “Today is a very historic moment. It took a lot of time, a lot of effort, to get this stone and get it in the ground.”
The idea originated from Spoo, who was willing to pay for the stone himself. Charest got the members of Det. A involved. Collectively, they raised
enough money to pay for the stone and $2,000 extra that they will give to the Green Beret Association.
The memorial stone is engraved with a depiction of the Berlin Wall falling with the SF distinctive unit insignia, Special Forces Tab, and a set of Master Parachutist Wings.
“For many here, the dedicating of this beautiful stone closes a circle, and for all of us it renders fitting recognition for a group of quiet professionals that is long overdue,” said Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, U.S. Army Special Operations Command commanding general.
After the stone was unveiled, the Detachment’s Colors were cased and permanently retired by Lt. Col. Eugene G. Piasecki, and Command Sgt. Maj. George Bequer, USASOC Command Sgt. Maj.
Detachment A’s Colors are special in that they are an anomaly. Det. A’s original request that it be issued organizational colors was denied due to the fact 39th Special Forces Detachment and its location in Berlin was classified. The Detachment then resubmitted the request to the Berlin Brigade and Berlin Command asking that Colors be issued to Detachment A Berlin Brigade. To the unit’s surprise, the request was approved.
Unlike Special Forces Colors that are olive green, the approved Colors are Infantry blue since they were part of the Berlin Brigade which was an infantry unit. These Colors were proudly displayed in the detachment commander’s office until the unit was deactivated in 1984. Upon deactivation, the Colors found their way to the Special Forces Association Chapter 1-18 team room.
For this special commemorative event, Jack Tobin and Pete Morakon, the Chapter President, returned the Colors and made them available for the ceremony.
During the casing of the colors, Cleveland was asked by Piasecki to take good care of the colors and to give them a proper resting place.
“I just want to assure all of the unit members that [the colors] will be in a place of honor and we are certainly privileged to accept the caretaker-ship of the colors and the legacy that it represents,” Cleveland said.
Throughout the Detachment’s time in Berlin it was known, and unknown, that Det. A was a unique and diversified, unconventional classified unit. The Detachment had utilized all of the Special Forces tactics during this time, such as unconventional warfare, stay-behind, direct action, and anti-terrorist operations.
Detachment A was an extremely well trained and highly dedicated unit and very culturally diversified. A specific type of Soldier was instrumental in the success of the Detachment’s missions. Men were brought in with a wealth of knowledge about other nations, different language capabilities, and many other specific skills.
Through the 28 years of active service, the Detachment’s dedication to the United States and success in its mission have left behind an extraordinary legacy.
“A legacy,” Cleveland stated, “reaffirming that though the mission is hard, carries untold risk and is fraught with uncertainty, it is one that has been done before and done well by the Special Forces professionals of Det. A.”
“That is the true legacy of the men of Det. A. They played a crucial role in vanquishing an existential threat to our country and our way of life. It is with that legacy in mind that we say thank you today and bring this unit a bit more out of the shadows by dedicating this stone to you,” said Cleveland.
“To the men of Det. A, and to those who came after you, well done. You are truly without equal.”