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Special Service Force to be based in Helena

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Even as the “Devil’s Brigade” First Special Service Force prepares for what organizers say will be its last reunion, the National Guard announced Wednesday that a new Special Forces group will be stationed at Fort Harrison.

The group, the 190th Chemical Reconnaissance Detachment-Special Forces, consists of 14 soldiers commanded by a captain.

The members of the unit are eligible to qualify as airborne Rangers and have “forced-entry reconnaissance capability,” Col. Joel Cusker-Joint Force Headquarters Operation director, said in a press release.

“The 190th will be a strong force multiplier for Montana due to their unique capabilities,” Cusher said. “The 190th will also provide a myriad of training opportunities for other Montana National Guard units. Extensive training with such existing units as the 83rd Civil Support Team and the 631st Chemical Company will occur,” said Cusker.

According to the press release, there are a total of seven Special Forces groups in the Army. Each of these groups has a chemical reconnaissance detachment.

Montana’s new unit is aligned with the 19th Special Forces Group headquartered in Utah.

“Bringing this unit to Montana is the first step in expanding Special Forces back to Montana.” Cusker added.

The original First Special Service Forces members — the Devil’s Brigade — performed their training at Fort Harrison in preparation for dangerous combat missions in both the Pacific and the Atlantic campaigns during World War II.

The First Special Service Forces was the forerunner to the present day U.S. Special Forces, part of the Green Berets, and also the Canadian Army’s elite Special Air Service known as the Airbourne Regiment.

Since 1942 several variations of the First Special Services Forces have called Montana their home.

Friday, during its convention, the First Special Service Force members will “case their colors” for the last time.

“Returning Special Forces to Montana has been a long-term dream of local First Special Forces veterans and the Montana National Guard. We are extremely pleased to acquire such skill and talent to Montana and our forces,” Montana Adjutant Gen. Randy Mosley said in a press release.

Work to re-establish Special Forces in the Montana National Guard began several years ago under the leadership of retired Maj. Gen. John E. Gene Prendergast.

Mosley said his continued efforts to return Special Forces to Montana were supported by Sens. Max Baucus and Conrad Burns.

Ultimately, Mosley said, the Montana National Guard senior leadership would like to see additional active duty or National Guard Special Forces units located at Fort Harrison.

Montana’s varied terrain, sparse population and realtively low cost of living makes the state an excellent place to train the elite soldiers, Mosley said. “Although Montana has been without an assigned Special Forces unit for many years, Special Forces units routinely come here to utilize Montana’s excellent training opportunities. The 190th S.F. is the first step for future expansion of Special Forces in Montana,” said Mosley.

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