June 27, 2002, 13:47 EDT

Special Forces soldiers deploy to join unit in Afghanistan

by Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia National Guard Deputy Public Affairs Officer

Six Virginia National Guard Special Forces soldiers received orders this week putting them in federal active duty status to deploy and join other members of their unit serving in Afghanistan.

The senior soldier of the group is Clyde, a chief warrant officer with a long career in special forces. For operational security reasons, Special Forces soldiers prefer not to have their last name printed in the media prior to deployment. Clyde said the six soldiers will deploy to Fort Bragg this week, where they will receive additional training before shipping out to join their fellow unit members in Afghanistan. They humorously refer to themselves as the "Dirty Half Dozen".

Virginia's Special Forces unit was mobilized in January of this year, and they received training at Fort Bragg prior to deploying for combat operations in Afghanistan. These six soldiers were unable to deploy with the unit at that time for various reasons. Two soldiers recently joined the unit, one had to have surgery performed, one was at the Special Forces Qualification Course, and another had a conflict with his civilian employer. The sixth soldier was on duty with the 29th Infantry Division in Bosnia, and he is deploying again after only being back for a short period of time.

Clyde said that the morale of the soldiers is very high, and they are looking forward to joining their unit members on the ground in Afghanistan. All of the soldiers feel strongly about the importance of their mission, but for one of the soldiers, it takes on a very personal meaning -- he was in the Pentagon the day it was hit by the high jacked aircraft. He is proudly taking a piece of the World Trade Center given to him by a firefighter who worked in the Ground Zero area after the September 11 attack.

January's deployment of Virginia's Special Forces unit was the first time the unit had been activated for federal service since the unit became part of the Virginia National Guard in 1995. Prior to that, the unit had been part of the U. S. Army Reserves, and soldiers had been involved in Operation Provide Comfort in the Iraqi "No Fly" Zone in Jan. and Feb. 1993. In addition, individual soldiers from the unit volunteered for service during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

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