California and the Global War on Terrorism
Company A, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Afghanistan
Elite Guard Unit Told to Get Ready: The California Troops May Ship Out Within a Week for a Secret Mission Overseas.
By Sam Stanton, Sacramento Bee Staff Writer

Amid talk of war with Iraq and continued military action in Afghanistan, about 80 members of an elite California National Guard special forces unit have been told to get ready to ship out for a secret mission overseas.
The deployment of the 19th Special Forces Group, which has headquarters in Redwood City and Los Alamitos and includes members from Sacramento, was ordered last week. The soldiers may ship out within a week.
No one will say where the soldiers are being sent, with officials citing the need for secrecy.
"We have approximately 80 members of Company Alpha, Fifth Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) who have been activated to support Operation Enduring Freedom," said Capt. Denise Varner, a California National Guard spokeswoman. "They will be deploying soon for a classified destination."
Varner said members of the unit are "revving up now, preparing personal items, legal issues and health issues, and will be departing soon."
Previous deployments of soldiers from the 19th Special Forces Group saw its East Coast teams involved in fighting in Afghanistan, and two members have been killed there.
Sgt. Gene Arden Vance Jr. of the West Virginia National Guard was killed in action last April in eastern Afghanistan when his unit came under heavy fire. Sgt. 1st Class Daniel A. Romero of Colorado also died last April in an accidental explosion at a demolition range next to the former home of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the one-time leader of the Taliban who vanished from sight after the war began.
Special forces soldiers also have been helping to train Afghan military units, but officials said that was no indication the California soldiers would be heading there.
Instead, with the uncertainty about whether the United States is headed toward war with Iraq, "they could be going anywhere," one official said.
The California special forces unit is composed of 12-man "A teams" that can be split into smaller groups "tailored for specific and unique missions," according to a Guard description.
"The group possesses a wide range of special skills and talents, including airborne, medic, engineer, communications, weapons and intelligence," the Guard description says. They can, the description says, "take a force of 500 Afghan troops and shape them into a guerrilla force of battalion strength."
Maj. Frank Cuffe, the unit's commander, could not be reached for comment Monday.
But military supporters in the Bay Area already are scheduling a two-day fund-raising effort they hope will raise at least $1 million to help offset the losses in income the soldiers will face by leaving their civilian jobs.
"We saw there was a need to help support the soldiers that are being activated," said former Army Ranger Capt. Dan Rice, who is now a financial adviser. "The cost of living in Northern California makes deployment very challenging financially.
"Soldiers that make $100,000 make $35,000 once they're deployed. Their family stays in the same high cost-of-living area with the same mortgage."
Organizers of the fund-raisers are planning a $1,000-a-plate black tie dinner in San Francisco on Oct. 5, with another effort the next day aboard the USS Hornet that will cost $25 for adults and $10 for children under 12.
Details about the events are available online at the Web site , Rice said. Supporters who will be present include Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and former GOP Gov. Pete Wilson. The Web site is expected to be updated later this week to include an order form for tickets, he said.
Rice said organizers also plan to invite Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and his Republican opponent, Bill Simon, to draw attention to the financial burden facing Guard members who have been deployed in operations linked to the war on terror.
"We've been told that the gap between civilian pay and military deployment pay is $100 million for the California National Guard," Rice said.
One study done for the Guard in 1998 found that soldiers who are activated for service see their household income cut anywhere between 16 percent and 65 percent, creating a serious financial blow to many.
For the 11 percent of the Guard members who reported incomes then over $70,000 annually, the potential lost earnings for a yearlong deployment could total $3.7 million, the study found.
"This potential loss of income, disruption of lifestyles, and interruption to continuing education plans become a serious impediment to recruitment and retention as the likelihood of federal activation increases," the study found.
This artile appeared in the August 20, 2002 edition to the Sacramento Bee.
19th Special Forces Group: A Breed Apart (2003)
The California National Guard's Team A, 19th Special Forces Group, is playing a unique and vital role in a terrorist-free world emerging from the rubble of 9/11.
It is ensuring that a new government will rise and survive from the ashes of the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon. The 80 Green Berets of the 19th Special Forces Group helped purge Afghanistan of terrorist influence and assisted with training an army to sustain the new nation.
The soldiers traded their civilian jobs as policemen, firemen, paramedics, federal agents, and many other walks of life to wear beards, civilian clothing, and even dress in the local Afghan garb, to fight terrorist forces and help build the military infrastructure necessary to maintain this new found peace. Company A, 19th Special Forces Group is making sure that it stays that way by helping build the Afghan Army.Currently, Special Forces are the `Tip of the Spear' in the Global War against Terrorism. The men of the California National Guard's Special Forces are part of this force and are in the fight against al Quaeda and Taliban forces located throughout Afghanistan and hiding in the Pakistan Border Mountains waiting for opportunities to strike.
The Special Forces' unique and unorthodox methods-according to Army standards-make them a breed apart. Many ride on horseback, on motorcycles, armored military vehicles, old Russian vehicles, and even souped-up trucks patrolling areas around U.S. Forces and Bases.
The Primary Mission of the men of the California Army National Guard's Special Forces is Foreign Internal Defense. While some members protect the local Afghan Militia Forces while they train in Unconventional Warfare, other members of the company are assisting the local Afghan Militia Forces with its regional security. The majority of the Special Forces have been very busy standing up a new army for a new nation. The Afghan National Army will be responsible for the security of the young government, which is no small task in an historically war-torn country.
Team As task is even more formidable because of Afghanistan's numerous tribes and many languages. The teams must communicate with all these groups in order to train them in basic soldiering skills, unit tactics, planning, and operations. The unit has learned to overcome this challenge and has found creative ways to interact and deal with the daily tribal feuds, inter-clan rivalries, family vendettas, and other related situations.
Team A had to recruit mature Soldiers who can operate at the grass roots level and who can communicate the strategic significance of implementing U.S. Foreign Policy. This maturity is critical in order for these Host Nation Forces to maintain the peace and avoid international incidents. As they develop and progress, they will live up to their nickname: "Diplomat Soldiers."
The California National Guard Green Berets cannot talk about all their missions. They are conducting a wide array of operations in support of the U.S. mission to fight terrorism and rebuild the Nation of Afghanistan. Some of these missions are classified and cannot be disclosed, in order to protect the soldiers and their families back home.
The California National Guard's 19th Special Forces Group realizes the special significance of its skills. Using both their military skills and civilian experience, the members are helping create a nation and a 9/11 legacy. Their contributions are helping to make the world more free from terrorism, while ensuring that those who perished on September 11th, 2001 did not die in vain.
This article originally appeared in the August 2003 is of The Grizzly
To Hell and Back
By Maj. Stan Zezotarski, Public Affairs Officer, Headquarters, State Area Command

The 19th Special Forces Group, or the Green Berets, with teams in Redwood City and Los Alamitos returned home in early June after spending six months in
Afghanistan striking a major blow against global terrorism.

The heroic unit earned more than 40 Bronze Stars and sustained two wounded in action casualties during their service. Its 85 members were divided into small teams and worked throughout the entire country of Afghanistan. They trained and accompanied company and battalion-sized Afghan units on several missions ranging from surveillance and reconnaissance to combat engagements, according to Sergeant First Class Kenneth Stearn, unit administrator for the 19th Special Forces Group.

“There were times when the only hot water they had came from pots that they were cooking with on cook stoves,” said Stearn. “But that’s the kind of missions that the Special Forces have been doing as long as they have been in existence.” These missions often required the Green Berets to operate in rugged terrain, sometimes crawling into deep caves, or maneuvering between steep, rocky cliffs. They were constantly exposed to danger. Two of these warriors, Sergeant First Class Michael Lyons and Sergeant First Class Christopher Martin, sustained wounds on December 17, 2002 while on a mission in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan. They had just finished
business in a busy marketplace and were leaving the area in a “Waz”—a Russian jeep. After stopping at a congested traffic stop, terrorists, armed with AK-47s and homemade hand grenades, seized the opportunity to launch an attack on the soldiers. The soldiers escaped with their lives but sustained wounds after a hand grenade crashed through the vehicle’s windshield and exploded. Lyons and Martin received purple hearts and a ticket home.

Their road home, however, ran through New York City where the California National Guard soldiers joined special forces soldiers from other units in appearances on numerous television shows. Their New York tour also included a visit to “ground zero,”—or the site of the World Trade Center, where America’s War on Terrorism began.
This article originally appeared in the August 2003 is of The Grizzly
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Updated 8 February 2016