Rhode Island Commandos Quietly Deploy All Over the World

Small National Guard detachment has unusual global mission


The Rhode Island Army National Guard stood up Special Operations Detachment-Global in 2006. Since then, the little-known unit has been trekking around the world, visiting many of the major hot spots in America’s war on terrorists.

SOD-G is a strange outfit. The National Guard has eight Special Operations Detachments, but Rhode Island’s is the only one whose mission area encompasses the whole globe. SOD-G’s commandos have deployed to Afghanistan, Djibouti, Iraq, Kenya and Yemen, among other crises zones.

With such wide-ranging responsibilities, SOD-G is largest of Guard commando detachments. In 2006, the unit had 36 personnel instead of the standard 30.

According to the unit’s command sergeant major John Nolan, SOD-G’s currently has people in Afghanistan. Special Operations Forces play an increasingly central role the country as the U.S. withdraws the bulk of its regular forces.

Nolan said that detachment members were at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida between 2008 and 2009 in order to help out U.S. Southern Command, which oversees American ops in Latin America.

Members of the Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Force Group (Airborne) during a training exercise. Indiana National Guard photo

The command sergeant major declined to provide details about SOD-G’s mission while in Florida, but we’re guessing it had something to do with U.S. counter-terrorism and counter-drug efforts. The Pentagon has said that there are increasing links between the drug war and the war on terror, owing to extremist groups trafficking narcotics to fund their attacks.

In 2008, the Pentagon began a counter-terrorism campaign in Latin America called Operation Enduring Freedom-Caribbean, Central America—a.k.a., OEF-CCA.

Commandos, like those assigned to SOD-G, now regularly rotate through Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras. Their main mission is to train troops and police from the region.

Rhode Island’s hush-hush detachment is part of a broad expansion of U.S. Special Operations Forces since 9/11. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s recent budget proposal calls for even more commandos.

The Army National Guard “owns” two of the seven Army Special Forces Groups. The Rhode Island Guard has a whole company of Special Forces in addition to SOD-G.

As the U.S. military disavows large-scale occupations like in Iraq and Afghanistan, expect to see more action by small, specialized elements like SOD-G.

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