Thursday, February 7, 2013

39th Special Forces Detachment (SFD-K) and Republic of Korea Special Forces

Quite often, mainly thanks to growing popularity of my “Military Insignia 3D” project, I would be approached directly by unit commanders or military veterans with requests to recreate their unit insignia using my somewhat unorthodox technique. At first, I thought this time was no different. Little did I know that a short e-mail I have then received would trigger an entirely new chapter of my project, new friendships, an occasion to learn a world about one of the most interesting units of the U.S. Special Forces history, as well as a chance to get acquainted with previously unknown to me Special Forces of a friendly country, and, to top it all up -- an opportunity for my artwork to be a featured in a new remarkable book, written by veterans of the above-mentioned Special Forces unit… But, I guess, I am getting a bit ahead of myself.  So, let’s rewind…

It was mid-April of 2012, when I was contacted by Chuck Stanton, US Army Retired, First Sergeant (SF). Here is an excerpt from his original message:

      A bit of personal background as to why I'm sending this email to you. I am retired U.S. Army and served with Special Forces. In particular, the Detachment in Korea is what this is all about (I served three years on that team). Commonly known as Special Forces Detachment-Korea, or, Det-K, it is the longest serving forward-deployed Special Forces detachment in US Army history. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of that deployment.
   Presently, I along with three other former members (Team Leader, Team Sergeant Major, Operations/Intel Sergeant, and of course, myself) are preparing a book by, and for, the current and past members of the team. A close analogy in format would be a high school year book, or a military unit deployment book. There, the similarity ends. Each member is writing a short narrative of their memories as well as providing any photos they may have. We, the four horsemen are putting it all together and will publish the book.
   I am the one who is doing the overall design and layout of the book, and I was looking through the WWW for some clean copies of the uniform patches we wear on our uniform which represent the Republic of Korea Army Special Forces (ROKA SF) brigades we advise...which is how I happen to find your webpage.
   I wonder if 1.) I can use a couple of the Special Operations emblems you have created in our book, and, 2.) Could I convince you to see if you might do a work-up on the ROKA SF brigade patches for us to use in our book….”

Needless to say, I was interested. Especially so, because I knew very little, if anything, about SFD-K, and even less about ROKA Special Forces. Also, projects of such nature happen to be my true passion, because they usually involve tons of research, loads of new discoveries and hours of designing from scratch. And last, but not least – the idea of my artwork being featured in such a very special book felt quite right.
As a result of this project, I have recreated several SFD-K patches, learned a lot about the unit, amassed considerable amount of information about Republic of Korea Army Special Forces, and recreated patches of the ROKA Special Warfare Command (ROKASWC), all the seven ROKA SF brigades, as well as one Special Missions Battalion. I also expanded my Special Forces section of the “Military Insignia 3D” project - its Special Operations Command Korea (SOCKOR) section to be exact, and added an entirely new chapter to my project dedicated to the Republic of Korea Army (or ROKA for short). At the time of this writing, the final draft of the book called “DET-K: The First Fifty Years” (with my insignia featured in it) has been sent to the publisher, and I can’t wait for my very own hard copy of the book!  Below are the results of this adventure, along with a few notes on the units involved…

The 39th Special Forces Detachment (Airborne), 1st Special Forces Regiment primarily helps train Republic of Korea special warfare units in specialized tactics, techniques, and procedures. In a wartime scenario on the Korean peninsula, the members of the Detachment would operate as coalition support team leaders. Under the operational control of Special Operations Command Korea (SOCKOR), the Detachment is formally assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne).
The 39th Special Forces Detachment, 1st Special Forces Regiment was first constituted on 27 August 1965 in the Regular Army as the 39th Special Forces Detachment, 1st Special Forces. It was activated on 1 September 1965 in Germany. Stationed in Berlin as part of US forces there, the Detachment was primarily tasked with preparing to assist partisans in a stay-behind capacity in the event of a Soviet seizure of Allied areas of Berlin.

This function had first been the responsibility of a previous iteration of the Detachment, known as the 7761st Army Unit, possibly a cover designation. This unit had been formed from 6 Operational Detachment Alphas ("A Teams") from the original 10th Special Forces Group in August 1956. The unit had been embedded within Headquarters and Headquarters company, 6th Infantry Regiment, Regimental Headquarters. Each team at that time was comprised of one Master Sergeant and 5 team members. Overall Officer in charge of the group was a major, assisted by a Captain. In April 1958, the unit was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, US Army Garrison Berlin with a new name: Detachment A (Det A). In April 1962, Detachment A was separated from the Garrison and became Detachment A, Berlin Brigade, US Army Europe (USAREUR). This was continued to be used, possibly as a cover designation, even after the formal activation of 39th Special Forces Detachment in 1965.
The 39th Special Forces Detachment continued the unconventional warfare mission in Berlin mission until it was inactivated on 1 October 1984 .
The 39th Special Forces Detachment was reactivated on 16 October 2005 in Korea. Concurrently, Special Forces Detachment - Korea (SFD-K) was inactivated and reflagged as the 39th Special Forces Detachment. In Korea, the 39th Special Forces Detachment took over the training and other missions previously handled by SFD-K.

Republic of Korea Army Special Warfare Command (ROKASWC), (Korean: 대한민국 육군 특수전사령부) also known as Republic of Korea Black Beret Commandos is the military command of the Republic of Korea Army responsible for their special operation forces. It consists of 6 brigades, and its main tasks include conducting reconnaissance and other tasks, mostly behind enemy lines. Its tasks include but not limited to collecting secret information in enemy territory, spotting ROK military firepower, and carrying out other designated tasks. The Special Warfare Command brigades are trained for wartime missions behind enemy lines. Although information on the organization of these units was unavailable in 1990, they probably were among the best-trained and most combat-ready forces in the army.
Since 1993, the South Korean military has trained experts by sending officers to various PKO training institutions such as the Northern Europe United Nations Training Corps (UNTC), Poland, and Ireland. And since 1995, officers and related government officials have been sent to the Pearson Peacekeeping Center (PPC) in Canada. To lay the foundation for PKO education domestically, in 1995 the military designated the Joint Services Staff College to be the lead institution to educate officers to become military observers and staff. In May 1998, the PKO Department was officially inaugurated within the college. Moreover, the Special Warfare Command's Education Corps was designated as the institution solely responsible for unit-level education of PKO forces by providing solid education for infantry and engineer personnel.  The command includes seven special warfare brigades that receive special training for counter-terrorist missions. These seven brigades were funded in 1957 and fall under the jurisdiction of the Special Warfare Command, which was founded in 1969. ROK special forces brigade’s main tasks include collecting information in enemy territory and carrying out special missions.
ROK Special Forces brigades work in close relationship with their counterparts in the United States Army Special Forces. Volunteers for these brigades undergo training in high skilled weapon handling and parachuting. Units of the command include:

•             Special Warfare Training Group
•             1st Special Forces Brigade (Airborne) 'Eagle'
•             3rd Special Forces Brigade (Airborne) 'Flying Tiger'
•             7th Special Forces Brigade (Airborne) 'Pegasus'
•             9th Special Forces Brigade (Airborne) 'Ghost'
•             11th Special Forces Brigade (Airborne) 'Golden Bat'
•             13th Special Forces Brigade (Airborne) 'Black Panther'
             Oversea deployment Group or Special Mission Group
              (formerly - 5th Special Forces Brigade ‘Black Dragon’)                    
•             707th Special Mission Battalion 'White Tiger'

The United Nations Partisan Infantry Korea (UNPIK) (주한국제연합유격군), ), also known as the White Tigers, was a unit during the Korean War that was consolidated under the control of Eighth United States Army, Korea's 8th Army G-3 Miscellaneous Group, 8086th and 8240th Army Unit. Formerly known as United Nations Partisan Forces Korea, or United Nations Partisan Infantry Korea, it was a unit comprised of Indigenous personnel with international military advisors (US personnel assigned under 8240th Army Unit and 8242nd Army Unit, from February 1951 to February 1954) during the KOREAN WAR; formerly known as Combined Command for Reconnaissance Activities Korea (CCRAK). The covert techniques established by OSS, enhanced by UNPFK and JACK, were inherited by SOG, and have since been passed to Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and US Special Operations Command (USSOC). The details about the undercover operation was made public by the US Army in 1990. The unit worked deep inside North Korea to gather intelligence, conduct raids and sabotage, rescue POWs, recruit & lead guerrilla armies and create confusion in the enemy’s rear.
The unit is widely seen as the second steppingstone towards the setting up of a permanent special forces doctrine in the US Army. A documentary about the unit has been produced by the History Channel as part of their Heroes under fire series. UNPIK was disbanded in 1954.
The island Wollaedo in the Yellow Sea was used as a base by pro-Southern partisans during the war. This position was regularly bombarded by Northern artillery on the mainland of Cape Changsan. In 1952, a group of partisans working together with UNPIK landed on the cape. They successfully took control of and destroyed the artillery site, escaping with small losses.

In January 1951, it came to the attention of 8th Army that a large number of anti-communist North Ko­reans had fought their way to Korea’s west coast and sailed to the offshore islands. These men had become par­tisans fighting to free their homeland of scourge of communism. The guer­rilla Section, 8th US Army G3 Misc. was formed and a cadre known as LEOPARD took control of these partisans and began operations in the north. Concomitantly, US Army Spe­cial Forces activated at Fort Bragg, NC and 90 Special Forces Soldiers were deployed to Korea to work with these partisan Soldiers. With more than 8000 partisan Soldiers, a second control unit WOLFPACK was born. LEOPARDs strength expanded daily and, by June 1951, west coast partisans counted over eight thousand men on the active roster. This, plus distance and poor communications, made Miscellaneous Group Headquarters rethink its organization. WOLFPACK Headquarters was established to command partisan operations on the south coast of Hwanghae Province while LEOPARD moved its forward headquarters north to Ch'o-do and commanded west coast operations from the 38th Parallel north to the Yalu River. WOLFPACK initially established its headquarters on Yonp'yong-do, an island group at the mouth of Haeju Estuary centrally located between Paengnyong-do to the west and the mouth of the Han River to the east.
WOLFPACK Headquarters later moved to Kanghwa-do, an island at the mouth of the Han adjacent to the mainland. Results by these two units were excellent By the Cease-fire, they were credited with forcing the enemy to have 75,000 troops on security duty in Hwanghae Province alone. Additionally, they compiled a phenomenal record of successful actions combined with a relatively small loss record.

On May 5, 1951, the Guerrilla Section, 8th Army G3 Miscellaneous Division, became an independent Army unit - the 8086th Army Unit. This was changed to Far East Command Liaison Detachment, Korea, FECLD-K 8240th AU on 10 Dec 1951 and all partisan operations came under its Guerrilla Division, United Nations Partisan Forces, Korea (UNPIK). At this time, all division TAC-Intel (TLO units) and 8th Army positive intelligence operations were consolidated under Combined Command Reconnaissance Activities, Korea (CCRAK), 8240th AU. BAKER split. The training section remained at Kijang as the 1st Partisan Airborne Infantry Regiment (PAIR). The operational section moved to K-16 (Seoul City Airport between Seoul and Yongdong-po), was redesignated the Airborne Special Missions Platoon, and given the code name AVIARY.
This structure remained in place until December 1952 when LEOPARD, WOLFPACK, AND TASK FORCE SCANNON (formerly KIRKLAND) were redesignated Partisan Infantry Regiments (PIR) and UNPFK headquarters the United Nations Partisan Infantry, Korea (UNPIK). The 1st PIR moved to Yongdong-po at this time. All units retained these designations until disbandment in April, 1954.

The 1st Special Forces Brigade (Eagle) (1 공수특전여단  '독수리') was the original unit of the ROK Army Special Forces. It is a very proud unit with a long heritage. 1st BDE was founded on 01 April 1958 as the 1st Combat Regiment. On 01 October 1959, it was re-designated as the 1st Airborne Special Forces Group. In September 1972, it was re-designated again as the 1st ROK SF BDE. The BDE is very proud to have one of 10 its former Commanders, BG Chun Doo Hwan, serve as the President of Korea from 1980-1987. Their Mascot is the Eagle.

The 3rd Special Forces Brigade (Flying Tiger) (3+공수 특전 여단 '플라잉 타이거') was founded on 18 January 1969 as the 1st Ranger BDE. On 10 September 1972, the unit was re-designated as the 3rd ROK SF BDE. Although all the BDEs practice martial arts, the 3rd BDE is well known for its Tae-Kwon-Do. They performed Tae-Kwon-Do demonstrations in the 1986 Seoul Asian Games, 1988 Seoul Olympics, and the Annual Armed Forces Day Demonstrations. Their mascot is the Flying Tiger.

The Special Mission Group (Black Dragon) (특수임무단 (흑룡)), formerly 5th Special Forces Brigade (5공수특전여단 '흑룡'), was founded on 17 February 1969 as the 2nd Ranger BDE. On 10
September 1972, the unit was re-designated as the 5th ROK SF BDE, and finally became the
Special Mission Group in 1999, mostly deployed for international peacekeeping missions worldwide. Peace Keeping Support Group (ROK - PKF) as of July 2010. Their mascot is the Dragon.

The 7th Special Forces Brigade (Pegasus) (7공수특전여단 '천마부대') was founded on 01 October 1974. The BDE is proud of their HAHO/HALO capabilities and maintains one of the only usable year-round Drop Zones. Their mascot is the Flying Horse.

The 9th Special Forces Brigade (Ghost) (9공수특전여단 '귀성부대') was founded along with the 7th BDE on 1 October 1974. The BDE is very proud of having one of their former Commanders, Rho Tae Woo, serve as the Korean President from 1987-1992. Their mascot is the Phantom.

The 11th Special Forces Brigade (Golden Bat) (11공수특전여단 '황금박쥐부대') was founded on 01 October 1977. Their mascot is the Bat.

The 13th Special Forces Brigade (Black Panther) (13공수특전여단 '흑표부대') was founded along with the 9th BDE on 01 October 1976 as a provisional unit along with the 11 BDE but not officially recognized until 01 October 1977. The 13th BDE maintains the SWCs mountain training site near the BDE. Their mascot is the Panther.

The 707th Special Missions Battalion (White Tiger) (707특수임무대대 '백호부대') is the elite Special Forces unit in the Republic of Korea Army Special Warfare Command. The battalion's nickname is 'White Tiger.' The 707th Special Mission Battalion was founded in late 1981 under Republic of Korean Presidential Executive Order as a world-class Counter-Terrorist force to support Domestic and International Counter-Terrorism. It owns and operates a multi-complex CT training site for the SWC and hosts multi-national counter-terrorist training. The battalion's nickname is 'White Tiger.'
The 707th Special Mission Battalion also trains with foreign partners, such as U.S. Army Special Operations Command Delta Force, British Army SAS, Russian FSB Alpha Group, French Gendarmerie GIGN, US FBI HRT, Hong Kong SDU, and Singapore Police Force STAR. The purpose is to experience and increase relationships and exchanges with international Special Forces communities.  The South Korean government lavishly funds the battalion, and as a result The 707th Special Mission Battalion uses a wide variety of weapons. The HK MP5 is used as for close quarters battle or hostage rescue missions. The Benelli Tactical Super-90 shotgun with pistol grips is used for breaching purposes or to give a shock effect. For sniping missions, the unit uses AW series sniper rifles or MOD.SSG-69 sniper rifle. For common special operations, the unit uses K-1A Carbine, K-2 Assault Rifle, and K-7 9mm Silenced Sub Machine Gun. If heavy firepower is needed, the unit has K-3 Light Machine Gun, K-201 40mm grenade launcher and deploy Short Brothers Javelin man-portable SAMs as a defense against low-level aircraft. The unit's main secondary side weapons are IMI Jericho 941F Tactical and HK USP9 Tactical. The unit’s mascot is the White Tiger.

As always, the above insignia are available on a limited number of selected quality products via my “Military Insignia” galleries atZazzle. You may simply follow the direct links in the article to navigate to the corresponding galleries
I will also make my insignia designs available free of charge to any military units and personnel, for any non-profit/non-commercial and charitable causes, benefiting troops and their families. In addition, I would make my designs available free of charge to any military branches, formations and units for any non-commercial internal duty-specific purposes, such as unit-related web design, training materials or presentations, as I did on many occasions in the past.

Special thanks to Chuck Stanton, US Army Retired, First Sergeant (SF). The above information provided in part by U.S. Army Center of Military history, The Institute of Heraldry, Global Security, and official websites of the above-mentioned units.


  1. Oversea deployment Group or Special Mission Group (formerly - 5th Special Forces Brigade ‘Black Dragon’) change to Peace Keeping support croup (ROK - PKF) since july 2010


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...