The 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) was activated July 20th, 1942, at Helena, Montana as the Second Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Special Service Force. This joint Canadian and American unit, known as the “Devil’s Brigade”, trained intensely in airborne, amphibious, winter, and mountain warfare. They distinguished themselves through daring and successful raids in both the Pacific and Mediterranean Theaters. They incurred so many casualties, however, that the unit was disbanded on January 6th, 1945 at Menton, France. Although not recognized in Army lineage, Detachment 101 of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) is also considered a predecessor of the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne). This unit raised and led a guerrilla force known as the “Kachin Rangers” which wrought havoc behind Japanese lines in Southeast Asia during World War II.
The modern 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) was activated on June 24th, 1957 at Fort Buckner, Okinawa. For the next seventeen years, the Group carried out a variety of missions in the Asian and Pacific region, including civic action, foreign internal defense, counterinsurgency, reconnaissance, and disaster relief. The 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) saw extensive combat service in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. Soldiers from the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) earned 296 awards for valor in Southeast Asia, and the Group was awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation. These honors were earned at a heavy price; 45 soldiers of the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) were killed in Southeast Asia, 293 were wounded, and one remains missing in action. The 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) fought natural disasters as well as the enemy; teams deployed to the Philippines in 1972 and Pakistan in 1973 to provide disaster relief for victims of floods and famine. For this humanitarian service, 1st SFG (A) received the Philippines Presidential Unit Citation.
The 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) was inactivated on June 28th, 1974 as part of a general reduction in Special Forces strength. Ten years later, recognizing the critical role that Special Forces performs in both peace and war, the Army reactivated the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne). On March 2nd, 1984, the 1st Battalion was organized at Fort Bragg, NC and posted to Torii Station, Okinawa, Japan. The Group Headquarters, 2nd and 3rd Battalions, and four separate companies were reactivated at Fort Lewis, Washington on September 4th, 1984. On July 29th, 1987, the Group formed the Support Battalion (Provisional) as an umbrella headquarters to command and control the separate companies.
On January 9th, 2002, elements of the unit began deploying to the Republic of the Philippines from an intermediate staging base in Okinawa, Japan. These forces were deployed as part of the United States Global War on Terrorism during Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines. The unit continued operations in the Philippines well into the year 2003 working with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to defeat terrorist elements in the Philippines Southern Command area. Once again, the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) proudly serves its country’s interests throughout Asia and the Pacific Basin, performing its role as teachers, soldiers, and ambassadors.