The green beret-wearing experts at Army Special Forces are an enterprising bunch, even after they leave the military. In December 2019, prosecutors allege a former special operations soldier and an accomplice helped ousted ex-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn escape from Japan.
But that almost 60-year-old Army veteran isn't an anomaly. He's not even unique to the past few months. Another ex-Special Forces operator was captured allegedly trying to oust Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro in a "popular uprising" early in 2020.
That's just what Green Berets do. Of course, they usually have the backing of the U.S. government. Even when they don't have any backing, former Special Forces troops can be a formidable adversary, doing a lot with just a little bit.
By the nature of their work, they need to be a truly formidable opponent. It takes a lot of time, effort and (often) money to get people in a country to overthrow their own government.
Even as civilians, Army operators are more than capable of offering their unique skills set to some interesting missions -- some the service would never have considered.
1. Billionaires Hire the Best
Electronic Data Systems, a U.S. company, was hired by the Shah of Iran to create a new health care and communications infrastructure for the country. When the Shah was overthrown, American EDS employees were caught in the middle. All but two EDS employees got out. Those two were jailed in Tehran's Qasr Prison, and their captors demanded a $12.75 million ransom.
Unluckily for the revolutionaries holding the EDS employees, it wasn't U.S. President Jimmy Carter they had to answer to. It was Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot. And Perot decided to put his money elsewhere. He hired former Army Special Forces officer Arthur "Bull" Simons -- leader of the Son Tay raid in Vietnam just a few years prior -- to extract them.
Simons launched Operation Hotfoot, which began with EDS employees starting a riot outside of the prison. Simons and combat-trained EDS employees then stormed the prison, freeing the two executives, and then drove to Turkey, where Perot was waiting for them.
2. Ending an Armed Anti-Government Standoff
In 1992, the U.S. Marshals Service and FBI were locked in an 11-day siege after a shootout between the family of Randy Weaver and the marshals resulted in deaths on both sides in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Weaver's wife Vicki was killed by an FBI sniper. Through a series of bungled criminal profiles and intelligence reports, law enforcement thought Weaver's property was booby-trapped and heavily defended -- and that the Weavers were heavily armed.
The government called in former Special Forces officer Col. Bo Gritz to negotiate Weaver's surrender to authorities. Gritz entered the Weaver compound at around 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 28, 1992. The entire family surrendered by mid-morning on the following Monday. Weaver was acquitted on all charges, represented by the legendary defense attorney Gerry Spence.
3. Running a Drug-Smuggling Front (Maybe for the CIA)
The Nugan-Hand Bank was a Sydney, Australia-based merchant bank that was founded in 1973 by Australian lawyer Frank Nugen and former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier Michael Hand. The bank had ties to a number of known CIA operatives, some of whom were involved in the Iran-Contra Scandal of the mid-1980s. Money flowing through the Nugan-Hand Bank was supposedly there to destabilize the Australian government, pay for Laotian mercenaries and maybe even the Contras themselves.
Although nothing was ever proven, authorities allege the bank funneled money for covert operations while bankrolling the sale of billions of dollars worth of heroin through the Pacific "Golden Triangle." Nugan would later commit suicide, forcing many involved with the bank (including Hand) to go underground for the rest of their lives.
4. Bo Gritz Is Determined to Rescue Vietnam POWs
Yes, this is the same Gritz who helped end the siege at Ruby Ridge more than a decade later. In the early 1980s, the specter of the Vietnam War still hung over the United States. Many in America were convinced there were still POW-MIA being held by the Vietnamese. One of these believers was Bo Gritz.
He led several controversial missions into Laos and Cambodia, believing Americans held by their erstwhile enemy were being kept alive in jungle prisons as a bargaining chip to get more American aid. All of Gritz' missions came up empty-handed, and some questioned the wisdom of the moves. A top-secret American expedition was already being planned in the early 1980s, but Gritz was captured and put on trial in Thailand, shining too much light on the former prisoner of war situation (according to some former Special Forces members).
With the world watching, the U.S. could not go through with such a raid. The POWs -- if they were ever there -- were lost to history.
Want to Learn More About Military Life?
Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for post-military careers or keeping up with military life and benefits, Military.com has you covered. Subscribe to Military.com to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.