June 2015: Green Berets: Business and Leadership Advice from the Original Special Forces

When I was growing up, I hadn’t heard of “Special Ops”, Navy SEALS or even a Delta Force. I thought we had one group – THE SPECIAL FORCES who wore Green Berets and were the best of the best the U.S. military had to offer. Now we have US Special Operations Command USSOCOM and all the branches have an elite Special Operations unit or units. John Wayne starred in a movie called “The Green Berets” in 1968. When I first entered the military we had cadences for the Green Berets and Airborne Rangers. Back then they had their own song, Ballad of the Green Beret by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler and Robin Moore. Here are a few lines:


Fighting soldiers from the sky

Fearless men who jump and die

Men who mean just what they say

The brave men of the Green Beret


Silver wings upon their chest

These are men, America’s best

One hundred men will test today

But only three win the Green Beret


Trained to live off nature’s land

Trained in combat, hand-to-hand

Men who fight by night and day

Courage peak from the Green Berets


The line that stuck with me is only 3 of every 100 men tested can earn the Green Beret.


Their Primary Missions via GoArmy.com

The Toughest Missions. The Best Trained Soldiers.

The missions Special Forces Soldiers undertake range from counterterrorism missions to unconventional warfare. Special Forces Soldiers may also be deployed to foreign regions to take part in humanitarian efforts.

Counterterrorism: Special Forces are often deployed to preclude, preempt and resolve terrorist incidents abroad. They prevent, deter and respond to terrorist activities and train other nations’ military in the basics of fighting terrorism.

Direct Action: Direct Action missions are short duration strikes that are used when Special Forces want to seize, capture, recover or destroy enemy weapons and information or recover designated personnel or material.

Foreign Internal Defense: This mission is used to organize, assist and train the military and national defense forces of foreign governments to protect their citizens from aggressors.

Special Reconnaissance: These intelligence-gathering activities monitor as much about the enemy’s movement and operations as possible.

Unconventional Warfare: Special Forces have long employed the use of Unconventional Warfare (UW), a.k.a. guerilla warfare, to train, equip, advise and assist forces in enemy-held or controlled territory.


Obviously I learned more about the various groups and the missions during my time in and out of service. The SEALS were formed under JFK in 1962 and Delta in 1977 when I was 10 years old. SOCOM followed in 1987 from lessons learned in Grenada. I became an Airborne Ranger in 1990. I have written before about the GRIT that is required to makes it through the various Special Operations programs in the various branches. The Navy SEALS have certainly captured the attention, respect and admiration of the American people over the past decade or so as well. But, for my money, and admittedly for nostalgic reasons I still put the US Army Special Forces atop my list.


Here are a few articles I ran across from Green Berets:


Green Beret Explains Why Special Forces Training Is Better Than An MBA via Business Insider


Leading Through Uncertainty: Lessons in Managing From the U.S. Military via Inc


The Art of Modern Leadership (video)

In a lecture for Stanford Business School, retired General Stanley McChrystal looks at lessons from recent American history and explains how anyone can become a stronger, more forward-thinking leader.


Stanley McChrystal: Listen, learn… then lead. TED Talk (video, 15 minutes)


Develop Lean Leaders the Green Beret Way via Industry Week

Every member of the U.S. Army Special Forces receives extensive training. Their leadership training offers lessons to be learned by organizations embarking on a lean transformation.


Lessons In Leadership: Straight Talk From a Green Beret book by Mark Johnson


Military Tactics That Matter To Marketing via Forbes


- Tom Deierlein


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