Army honors 10 for service to Special Forces, civil affairs, psyops at Fort Bragg
By PAUL WOOLVERTON | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: June 8, 2019
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Ten people, including a Medal of Honor recipient, were honored Friday morning at Fort Bragg for their service as soldiers and civilians to the Army's Special Forces, civil affairs and psychological operations regiments.
Brig. Gen. Harrison B. Gilliam said he looks forward to the twice-yearly ceremony and reading the information packets about the recipients "because they talk about the valor, and the jobs, and the tremendous effort that goes into supporting our soldiers and what they've done," Gilliam said.
Gilliam is the deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Warfare Center and School, and The Special Operations Center of Excellence. The ceremony was held at the JFK center auditorium.
Five honorees were inducted as distinguished members of the Special Forces Regiment, two were made honorary members of the Civil Affairs Regiment, and three were made honorary members of the Psychological Operations Regiment.
Special Forces Regiment
The Army Special Forces Regiment distinguished member inductees:
- Former Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II. The former Green Beret is the Medal of Honor recipient. Shurer joined the Army following the 9/11 terror attack and became a medic. He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions under fire during a six-hour firefight in Afghanistan to rescue, treat and protect wounded American and Afghan soldiers. This award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in October.
Shurer now is a Secret Service agent on a counter-assault team tasked with suppressing, diverting and neutralizing attacks against the president.
- Retired Col. David E. McCracken. The West Point graduate became a Green Beret in 1977 and he had numerous assignments during his career. These included deployment to Panama during the invasion in 1989 and 1990, commander of 1st Battalion, commander of 3rd Special Forces Group and head of the Special Operations Division of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
After retiring from the Army in 2003, McCracken had nine years of civil service and worked in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict.
- Retired Lt. Col. Albert S. Manning. Manning, who died in 1984, joined the Army in 1941 and served in Burma during World War II. During the Korean War, he worked with the Central Intelligence Agency to train guerilla forces. In 1955, Manning became a Special Forces soldier and later was the first commander of the 1st Special Forces Group and in the early 1960s was commander of the 1st Psychological Warfare Battalion at Fort Bragg before retiring from the military in 1964.
- Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Gary E. Koenitzer. He joined the Army in 1980 and after assignments with Special Forces units he became a Green Beret in 1986. His career took him to Haiti, southeast Asia, Afghanistan and Iraq (where he participated in the in the Battle of Basra). In his last two years before retiring in 2010, Koenitzer supervised training at the 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Fort Bragg.
Koenitzer has since served two terms as the president of the Special Forces Association.
- Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher R. Zets. Zets, who was born in England, joined the Army in 1979 and became a Green Beret in 1979. His deployments included time in Central and South America, Nigeria, Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired from the military in 2008 and now is a contractor who teaches and trains Special Forces soldiers at Fort Bragg and helps them prepare for deployments.
Zets also is a lifetime member of the Special Forces Association and a founding member of the Green Beret Foundation.
Civil Affairs Regiment
The Civil Affairs Regiment honorary members are:
- Retired Lt. Col. Truman Smith. Smith, who died in 1970, joined the Army in 1916. He initially served on the Mexican border to guard against cross-border attacks from Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. Then he served in France in World War I. He moved to Civil Affairs following the war.
The program from Friday's ceremony says he was the lead writer of "The Hunt Report," documentation of Civil Affairs work in Germany that persuaded the Army to maintain permanent Civil Affairs capabilities. And in 1936 during the Olympics in Berlin, the German military showed him and famed aviator Charles Lindbergh their aircraft factories, planes and technology – "an intelligence coup" for the United States prior to World War II, the program says.
Smith medically retired in 1942 but returned to the Army for several years with a temporary rank of colonel due to his expertise on the German military.
- James R. Lane. Lane served 26 years in the Army, rising to the rank of sergeant major. After retirement, he became a contractor with Civil Affairs and he works with 3rd Battalion.
The program says Lane has been a leader and point man in maintaining operations and planning and implementing initiatives and programs. "Mr. Lane has been an invaluable asset to 3rd Battalion over the last 15 years," it says.
Psychological Operations Regiment
The Psychological Operations Regiment honorary members are:
- Pat O'Brien. O'Brien was a Green Beret who retired in 2001 after 20 years in the Army. He became a civilian employee at Special Operations Command, oversaw the development and management of various programs, and worked his way up the ranks.
The program says his work within the Army ensured that the Army Reserve psyop forces were allowed to be equipped similarly as active duty army psyop forces and have what they needed to complete their missions.
- M.A. Thomas. As a civilian in 1994, Thomas completed the psyops officer course with 50 military officers. He has led training programs around the world and assisted the military and civilian intelligence agencies with counterterrorism initiatives. He also has specialized in nuclear non-proliferation, political-military issues and South Asia terrorist organizations.
- Jared M. Tracey. Tracey served in the Army from 2003 to 2009 and afterward became a civilian employee at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville as the research historian and collections manager.
In 2010 he became the psyops branch historian for Special Operations Command. In that role he provides history-based advice to the commanding general, teaches psyops students and otherwise provides historic information to the military. He also has compiled an oral history of special operations forces going back to World War II and has published articles and books on psyops, special operations and general military history.
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