- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 6, 2003

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Unconventional warfare in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq taught the U.S. Army it needed more unconventional warriors.

To increase the pool of potential Special Forces members, officials have started selectively recruiting civilians straight into a program that could make them Green Berets in about two years. It is attracting hundreds more recruits than expected, and they are doing well, Army officials say.

“What’s amazing is … those who are coming in are qualifying,” said Leslie Ann Sully, spokeswoman for the Army recruiting office that covers South Carolina, western North Carolina and eastern Georgia.

Clinton DeVoe started considering the Special Forces after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Under the new recruiting drive, he leaves for basic training tomorrow — after completing his studies in philosophy at the University of South Carolina.

“After 9/11, I decided I wanted to protect people here. … I’m comfortable with the idea of a military life,” said Mr. DeVoe, 23, of Wilmington, N.C., whose grandfather and uncle had careers in the military. With “a dabbling” of Japanese, Korean and French, Mr. DeVoe said he wants to work in Asia.

Army Special Forces soldiers work in 12-member teams, often on secret missions. Each soldier is a specialist in weapons, communications, engineering or medicine. Each knows a foreign language and is trained to work with local populations.

The Army has approximately 6,250 Special Forces soldiers in its active-duty ranks and counts 2,500 in National Guard units, said Maj. Gary Kolb, a spokesman for Army Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

“We had [Special Forces] units operating at less than 100 percent. After Afghanistan, we fixed that,” said Gen. Kevin Byrnes. “We decided to look at recruiting opportunities outside the Army.”

The effort began last year with more than 460 recruits. This year, the Army wants to recruit 600, and officials say they will meet that goal.

Recruits must be male, ages 18 to 29 and U.S. citizens, and must have high school diplomas. They must sign up for at least five years of service and score well on intelligence tests. They are also screened for the aptitude to learn at least one foreign language.

They undergo nine weeks of basic training, followed by about two years of intensive training in such skills as parachuting, land navigation, small unit tactics and survival. Each man is eligible for a $13,000 enlistment bonus if he remains in the service for five years.

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