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Special Forces: A Guided Tour of U.S. Army Special Forces [Paperback]

Tom Clancy , John Gresham
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 11 2002 Tom Clancy's Military Referenc (Book 7)
They are sent to the world's hot spots-on covert missions fraught with danger. They are called on to perform at the peak of their physical and mental capabilities, primed for combat and surveillance, yet ready to pitch in with disaster relief operations. They are the Army's Special Forces Groups. Now follow Tom Clancy as he delves into the training and tools, missions and mindset of these elite operatives.

Special Forces includes:

  • The making of Special Forces personnel: recruitment and training
  • A rare look at actual Special Forces Group deployment Exercises
  • Tools of the trade: weapons, communications and sensor equipment, survival gear
  • Roles and missions: a mini-novel illustrates a probable scenario of Special Forces intervention
  • Exclusive photographs, illustrations and diagrams
Plus: an interview with General Hugh Shelton, USA, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (and the former Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command-USSOCOM)

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The seventh in a series of books by Tom Clancy offering in-depth "tours" of the U.S. military, Special Forces surveys the soldiers who "are perhaps America's most professional and capable warriors." Who are they? They are the men--and only men, for women are not allowed to become SF soldiers--who are "specially selected, specially trained, specially equipped, and given special missions and support." The Army Special Forces--known to much of the public as Green Berets--are often the first troops on the scene in a crisis. They're also incredibly versatile: "If you're looking for a Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger, don't expect to find them in today's Army Special Forces." That's because specialized missions--involving anything from psychological operations meant to undermine enemy morale to guerilla warfare in remote jungles--require flexibility. "Specialized missions (paradoxically) require a broad range of general capabilities and skills," which means SF soldiers, "while physically fit, tend to be more balanced (like triathletes) than specialized (like marathoners and weightlifters)."

Clancy and his coauthor, John Gresham, describe how SF soldiers are recruited, trained, and assigned. There are plenty of interesting notes about SF culture: They don't especially like being called "Green Berets," for instance, even though most units carry a copy of the John Wayne movie The Green Berets in their traveling video libraries. They are typically in their 30s, divorced and remarried, intelligent, interested in the news, and able to speak more than one language. There are also lots of details on weaponry, chronicles of training missions, and plenty of maps and pictures. The book ends with a fictionalized account of an SF mission in 2005 and 2006.

Special Forces is replete with Clancy's tough-guy prose: "The overall media presentation of the Army Special Forces has generally been one of contrived crap." And the book is essentially a celebration of a premier fighting force, rather than a critical treatment of it. But this is not necessarily a weakness. Special Forces will appeal to anybody interested in the modern military, and it may bring civilians closer than they'll ever come to these important troops. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

His now legendary reputation in military circles gives Clancy as complete access to events and sources as any civilian can expect. This is the seventh in Clancy's series investigating key institutions of the contemporary U.S. armed forces (Armored Cav; Fighter Wing; etc.), and the most comprehensive overview of the U.S. Army Special Forces available to general readers. Clancy, writing with regular series collaborator John Gresham, begins with a softball-tossing interview of Gen. Hugh Shelton--books like Clancy's are not written by antagonizing four-star generals--and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman establishes Special Forces evolution from the "snake eaters" of the Vietnam era to the "quiet professionals" described in the rest of Clancy's mostly first-person narrative. The first person is a big selling point here; discussions of equipment, "extreme" training and what Special Forces detachments actually do in peace, war and the gray areas in between are based on Clancy's own reportage often enough to maintain the "guided tour" conceit. Special Forces are shown training Venezuelan internal security forces, acting as coordinators for fire-support missions in Kuwait, cooperating with conventional U.S. units and, in a near-future scenario, defeating a nuclear-tipped terrorist revolution in Indonesia. Clancy's language slips into jargon often enough to confuse the target audience of interested generalists, and others may be disturbed by the implications of a military instrument able to do the things described here. But despite the drawbacks, Clancy remains a consummate storyteller, and this book is no exception to his oeuvre. (Feb.)Forecast: Pluses: It's a book by Tom Clancy in a series that regularly debuts on paperback bestseller lists. Minuses: It's not really a start-to-finish narrative, but a collection of field notes, albeit highly detailed and often compelling ones. Nitpick: the repeated phrase from title to subtitle reads badly.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Most of us probably think of them as Green Berets-just like the song says. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback
Special Forces, the seventh and final entry in Tom Clancy's nonfiction Guided Tour series about America's armed forces, sets its sights on the shadowy -- and often misunderstood -- roles and missions of the men the author calls "the quiet professionals" of the Army's Special Forces command.
Although the public image of the Special Forces stems from such movies as John Wayne's 1968 cornball classic The Green Berets and the Rambo trilogy (Stallone's John Rambo is a former SF veteran who served in Vietnam) and Sgt. Barry Sadler's once-popular "Ballad of the Green Berets," Clancy and his co-author John D. Gresham point out that far from being hell-for-leather, shoot-first-ask-questions-later killing machines, SF soldiers are actually among the best troops in the U.S. Army. They have to be, because their missions -- ranging from blowing up a bridge or weapons factory far behind enemy lines to organizing, training, advising, and assisting foreign armies and police forces of "host" countries "to protect their societies or free them from subversion, lawlessness, insurgency, and terrorism." This means that in addition to their combat roles in Afghanistan and Iraq, SF teams are among the busiest of America's soldiers.
One of the more interesting insights I got from reading Special Forces is related to the role played by SF deployments in El Salvador during the darkest days of that Central American nation's long-running civil war. The Reagan Administration, knowing that any major American military intervention would be very unpopular at home and abroad (a Vietnam II in our own back yard, to put it bluntly), was caught in a decision-making dilemma.
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Format:Paperback
I should have known when I noticed in the store that this book lacked an index, that I should have put it back on the shelf. The omission of an index in what is purportedly an information resource is generally a bad omen, as illustrated by this book.
The book feels rushed and half-hearted. The information included, whether on weapons systems or unit history is spotty, at best, and missing or incorrect at worst. Delta, which admittedly is not officially operational, rates only a single, offhanded mention. There is a definite biased slant towards Army Special Forces at the expense of other branches, and while it would be expected if this were written by an USASOC denizen, it is inappropriate and unprofessionial in this context.
The photos are grainy and rather oddly chosen and the use of black and white printing, presumably to save money, shows a sincere lack of attention when the book shows different SF unit badges as uniformly gray patches.
This book pales when compared to earlier efforts like Marine or Carrier and comes across as a quickly produced reaction to growing interest in U.S. Special Operations.
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3.0 out of 5 stars He Could Do Better April 16 2002
Format:Paperback
I want to say right at the front that I am a very big fan of Clancy, both his fiction and non-fiction work. After the current war in Afghanistan started and there were descriptions that the start of the fighting was being carried out by Special Forces, I thought this book would be a great educational tool to help me better understand the new reports. The book does give a broad understanding of the different US military Special Forces groups, a run down on training, tactics and weapons, but it did not offer much punch in the writing. I also felt like many chapters were almost cut and paste jobs from the chapters before. Overall I felt that the book could have been about 30 - 50 pages shorter and said the same thing, this disappoints me because those pages could have been filled with more real life examples as to the missions these guys actually perform.
Overall this is a good effort by the Clancy team; it is not as good as the Submarine or Carrier books in this line, but a solid effort. I guess I am just expecting more from one of my favorite authors.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Pretty darned basic and filled with mistakes Nov. 1 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
It's a good thing that this book is [inexpensive], as this may mitigate some of the displeasure that you might have when reading it. First off, it has a definite agenda to it. It is very pro Army SF. Hey, nothing wrong with that. However, he slaps the Navy SEALs on at least a couple of occasions amoung others, which is unwarranted. In real life, most members of units like the Navy SEALs, Army SF, USMC Recon, AF PJ's and CT's respect each other and feel little need to denigrate each other. So, strike 1.
Strike 2 is how cursory the information is. Read Walker's "Commandos" for a much better over-view of the SF. This book goes into detail over the components of the MRE or what have you but glosses over things like the missions of the SF. Heck, the average TLC or Discovery Channel documentary has more information about these units than this book. Actually, there's more good information on-line at Socnetcentral.com than here. Very disappointing. For interests sake check how many details don't jibe with what is published in better books or just by asking a SF member. We're not talking altered for OPSEC here, it's just poorly researched.
Strike 3? The paper is barely newsprint and the pictures are grainy [...].
In sum, if you know nothing at all about the US Army's SF, maybe this book is worth a look see if better books like "America's Special Forces : Weapons, Missions, Training" by David Bohrer or
"U.S. Army Special Forces" by Fred Pushies are out of stock. If you are hoping to learn more about them than are in these books, I'd recommend enlisting and practicing your land navigation skills. You sure won't find it here.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Right on the mark!
Very accurate book, I am not sure what the most everyone else is talking about in saying otherwise. This book is "dry" because it is meant to inform the reader more... Read more
Published on May 3 2004 by Chris Helton
4.0 out of 5 stars Early Sp. For.
I was in Special Forces Bad Tolz Germany July 1954 to Oct 1956. Most of the books I have read always say that we did not wear the "green beret" till after President... Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2002 by Carl Arndt
3.0 out of 5 stars Kind of dry...not really written by Clancy
The thing I kept thinking when I read this book was -- why does Tom Clancy put his name on this? It was very obvious through the whole thing that his research assistant did all... Read more
Published on Oct. 30 2001 by Ryan
3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe he should stick to fiction...
Special Forces could be a great book, however Clancy's style of writing is not suited to non-fiction as much as it is to fiction. Read more
Published on Oct. 19 2001 by C. Forrester
4.0 out of 5 stars Timely and informative
Right now, as the air campaign in Afghanistan nears completion, there is little doubt that these are the folks who will be hitting the ground,(they may in fact already be there). Read more
Published on Oct. 11 2001 by Bob Brown
3.0 out of 5 stars A Very Technical Guide
This book was clearly not written by Tom Clancy. It was very difficult to read and follow after the first 150 pages. The book had so many abbreviations it was confusing. Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2001 by J. Eledge
5.0 out of 5 stars Informational
I have read the other reviews and I find them quiet correct. I am VERY intersted in Special Forces so I was happy to hear that Tom Clancy came out with a book about it. Read more
Published on Aug. 9 2001 by "army_goat"
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative for the uneducated in SF
This book is a good short civilianized view of Special Forces. The author goes through his steps of traveling from Middle East to South America. Read more
Published on May 31 2001 by Mark
2.0 out of 5 stars not useful, not entertaining
Having just completed SF selection, I sat down with this book to find out more about my future training and assignments. Read more
Published on April 29 2001 by J. Winchester
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