Wednesday, April 20, 2005

In the recent discussion of military history books MAJ John Plaster came up. I recommend his books to one and all.

MAJ Plaster was assigned to perhaps the most (in)famous of all special operations groups, SOG Vietnam.

SOG originally stood for "Special Operations Group". Someone in the conventional Army chain of command figured that the name gave too much away in terms of mission. The chain of command agreed and in typical Army fashion decided that retaining the same acronym but renaming the unit "Studies and Observation Group" would fool the enemy. I'll refrain from comment.

SOG consisted of special ops types from both the Army and Navy, but it was Army Special Forces that made up the vast majority of SOG and who rightly retain the legacy.

The mission was daunting, to say the least. A SOG team consisted of three US personnel and varying numbers of indigenous personnel. I think most teams numbered less than ten total. They were inserted by various means (usually helicopter, but sometimes by parachute--once or twice by HALO) into areas waaaay into enemy territory. Once inserted, the game began. I remember an instructor at SF School relating to us that they would sometimes literally pile on top of each other in a thicket, thereby putting eight or ten guys into a space that one would assume could hold one person.

These guys were surrounded by nothing but Indian Country on all sides. Often they liaised with an officer flying above in a light plane (literally a Cessna), often they were utterly alone.

I like to think that given the opportunity I would have volunteered for the assignment, but once on the ground I know I'd be struck by how utterly alone we were.

Some teams were engaged immediately upon insertion and several teams simply vanished. Sometimes missions devolved into little more than a a SOG team running like hell--sometimes for several days--while being pursued by a vastly numerically superior enemy. It's a matter of record that SOG determined that there was a mole in the South Vietnamese command and although SOG reported this to US command in Vietnam nothing was done lest the South Vietnamese command lose face. A lot of good men died so as not to embarrass the South Vietnamese government.

Given all of the above, the SOG mission was incredibly successful. SOG teams brought back a huge amount of invaluable intelligence, they killed thousands of enemy troops and kept enemy units in numbers far disproportionate to their own engaged in searching for them rather than engaging conventional US forces.

I was lucky (although I didn't think so at the time) to go through the Special Forces Qualification Course at a time when there were still a few SOG types around. They're all retired now.

The former SOG guys were merciless. They were the most demanding, the harshest critics, the least likely to excuse a mistake. That came from their experience. A minor mistake by the least member of a team meant the death of all. I looked up to those guys like they were some sort of demigods, and continue to do so.

I have my heroes.

1 comment:

Lilly said...

Well, I'm back at my apartment today, so I'm a happy camper, and the repairs were done pretty good. Except it still stinks of paint. Ah well..

Anyway, the point of my comment...oh yes. Have you ever visited If you go to the forums on that site,

you might know a few of the people there, or have heard of them. There's a few SOG guys there, according to their profiles. They're mostly special forces guys, but they let people register as guests if you promise to read ALL the instructions correctly, fill in your profile, and not mess up your posts. I found them last month and I visit all the time, but I've never posted anything because I just like reading their discussions and comments, and I have nothing useful to say :)