BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
WEST BOUNTIFUL – Most people perceive the Green Berets as tough soldiers hell-bent on defending America and her interests.
But there’s much more to the Army Special Forces unit known as the Green Berets, a side few not involved with them ever see.
Chase Rogers, director of Operations and Planning for the Davis School District, has seen the other side. He’s lived it, having served in the elite unit beginning in 1972 and off and on until 1994, when he retired as a lieutenant colonel.
A little more than a week prior to Veterans Day, Rogers shared a little of the history of the Green Berets with members of the Bountiful Breakfast Exchange Club. In a later interview with the Clipper. he expanded on his own service with the unit.
The Army Special Forces is known as the Green Berets because of the green berets they wear.
“It is a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage and a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom,” Rogers told Exchangites.
The unit’s own website describes the Green Berets as “The Army’s most specialized experts in unconventional warfare.”
But that’s only part of the story.
Green Berets also work to make the lot of the people in countries to which they’re assigned better, by training their armies to fight, Rogers said.
They also provide humanitarian relief to populations decimated by war, living and working with the people.
“The Special Forces are the ones who say, ‘Hi, I’m here to help you until you can protect yourselves,’” Rogers said.
Rogers served with the Green Berets in Panama, Germany, and for a time in Turkey and northern Iraq, where they worked to provide security for non-government organizations like relief agencies.
“We were their escape line,” he said.
Much of what Rogers was involved in is classified, but he described an assignment he had in Germany as one of the “fun” things he got to do as a Green Beret.
There, he got to be a part of the first military-to-military contact with the Polish Army after the fall of the Soviet Union. He got to speak with his Polish counterpart and compare notes.
Those who make the Green Berets generally have years of military experience, Rogers said. Most are older, married and have at least one degree.
“One minute you may be dealing with diplomats or politicians and the next with those in need or who have been injured by war,” he said.
They work to blend in with the population, living and working among them.
That means Green Berets serving in Iraq or Afghanistan may wear beards, because men there are expected to.
Those in the military are generally not allowed to wear beards.
Green Berets must be able to deal with and work well with other people and cultures and “be comfortable in chaos,” he said. “You can’t be afraid of the unknown.”
The training is some of the toughest there is.
“To get in you go through three weeks of hell,” Rogers said. “You have to be physically ready, emotionally ready and mentally mature.”
However, no one gets thrown out of the training program, Rogers said.
“They leave the slow guys in as decoys,” he said. “You must self-select out. The hardest thing is the what-ifs.”
Rogers admits it may seen a long ways from Green Beret to school district planner, but the unit draws diverse members whose interests are far ranging.
“I wanted to do something different,” he said.