Formerly secret Cold War Green Beret unit to get recognition at Fort Bragg
By Drew Brooks | The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer | Published: January 31, 2014
For years during the Cold War, men such as Bob Charest and Jimmy Spoo toiled in secret.
As members of a clandestine unit of Green Berets based in West Berlin, they wore civilian clothes, spoke fluent German and stayed on high alert 24 hours a day.
But today, the members of Detachment A Berlin Brigade will receive much deserved and long-awaited recognition.
Officials with U.S. Army Special Operations Command will dedicate and unveil a memorial stone dedicated to Detachment A Berlin Brigade at Meadows Field Memorial Plaza on Fort Bragg at 3:30 p.m.
Officials will also formally case the unit's colors - the flag used to identify the detachment - for the first time.
The men of Detachment A were specially chosen Special Forces soldiers. Many were immigrants from Germany or eastern Europe, brought in for their cultural expertise.
Their missions were always classified, according to Charest, a former team sergeant and communications chief for Detachment A Berlin Brigade.
"Detachment A was a highly trained, one-of-a-kind unit," Charest said in a unit history. "No one knew much about it during its existence."
Charest and Spoo will speak during the ceremony, hosted by USASOC commanding general, Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland.
Detachment A Berlin Brigade operated from August 1956 to Dec. 30, 1984, according to officials.
A history of the unit, penned by Charest, outlines a unique and diversified team of about 90 men.
They carried non-American documentation and identification and trained at the highest standards, Charest wrote.
The men carried out secret missions to sabotage railways in the early days of the Detachment and later focused on anti-terrorist, sniper and swat combat.
"We were the Delta Force of Europe," Charest wrote.
Detachment A also helped the CIA, and their equipment reads like it comes from a James Bond novel.
"One-shot cigarette-lighter guns, vials filled with metal shavings for destruction of turbines, noise suppressed weapons for elimination of specific targets," lists Charest.
The unit was deactivated after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In Memorial Plaza, Detachment A Berlin Brigade will take its place of honor among other storied special operations units, including Task Force Ranger, the Alamo Scouts and the Office of the Strategic Services Detachment 10, among others.
The stone will feature the unit name above a crumbling Berlin Wall.
Charest said the memorial stone was the result of efforts by Detachment A veterans, many of whom plan to travel to Fort Bragg for the event.
The veterans meet regularly, but their ranks are thinning, Charest said.
"We were falling into oblivion," he said.
In recent years, the detachment has been honored with a display at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum at Fort Bragg, Charest said. The memorial stone will complete efforts that were begun by Spoo, a member of the U.S. Special Forces Hall of Fame who works for the U.S. State Department.
Spoo, Charest and dozens of other veterans made donations to pay for the stone.