STARKE, FL (SSG Carmen Fleischmann) – The name “special forces” has always been synonymous with “elite.” Their missions are generally kept quiet, and they’re seldom in front of the public. That doesn’t mean they work alone.
During its annual training, the 83rd Troop Command’s, 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group take on a range of high-paced events that together serve a single, vital purpose — to prepare them for future domestic and overseas missions. But to successfully complete them, they must rely on their own team of elite partners.
One such partner is the Florida’s National Guard’s Emergency Response Force Package or CERFP, which shares responsibility for maritime search and rescue with the 3-20th in the state’s Emergency Support Functions.
“We have a long history of working closely with (special forces),” said Sgt. 1st Class Alden Morrow, the search and extraction noncommissioned officer in charge of the Florida CERFP. “They run the Zodiacs (inflatable boats), and we have the Rescue 1 boats that are used for shallow areas. We work well together.”
Throughout the first phase of annual training, which lasted from Monday, July 11, to Friday, July 15, CERFP guardsmen used their boats to ferry the special forces jumpers in the airborne operations back to the shoreline and assist the special forces dive team during the deliberate water airborne operation task at Mayport, Florida.
Taking the lead on the airborne operation was the Florida National Guard’s 83rd Troop Command’s B Company, 1-185th Assault Helicopter Battalion. The pilots and crew flew UH-60 Blackhawks for each air operation, allowing the special forces soldiers to perform their jumps, helocasts and bundle drops.
Performing the air operations were not merely the seasoned professionals, but also soldiers from the Florida National Guard’s Forward Support Company, which includes mechanics, cooks and soldiers with other skillsets who can also deliver supplies and fill in as gunners. Prior to the Forward Support Company, which was formed in 1988, operators had just a small pool of soldiers to pull from to assist in their downrange missions.
“I had to do a Blackhawk land jump, with the parachutes, because I had never jumped out of a Blackhawk before,” said Pvt. 1st Class Aaron Campany, a 91B, Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic, who joined the unit in March.
“That was in preparation for the water jump that we were doing the following day It was extremely fun! I enjoyed it so much.”
Capt. Daniel Morris, forward support company commander, scheduled the various training events over the full two-week period to gauge his unit’s effectiveness.
“Since the company is so new, I want to put these guys under a little bit of pressure and get them outside their comfort zone and then see how they perform,” said Morris. “We also need to get them some of the basic level skills, (such as ) shooting pistols, but also doing the stuff that matters most when they’ll go out to a team, which is the slingload, dropping bundles, convoy live fire.”
Having completed airborne operations and weapon qualifications, the 3-20th shifts gears next week, and moves into convoy live fire operations and a variety of other land missions in their continued pursuit of combat readiness.