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"The Guerrilla Factory" - A View from Under the Green Beret

Tony Schwalm

Tony Schwalm commanded a tank company in Desert Storm, but it left him with a gnawing feeling that the mission was incomplete. So, he gave up the status he’d earned in the conventional Army to forge a new path as an “unconventional warrior” - a Green Beret.

Schwalm not only made it through the Special Forces Qualifications Course – known as the Q Course - he was later brought back to help redesign the test of physical strength, stamina and wits.

Now a retired Lt. Colonel, Schwalm traces his personal journey from tank commander to commander of Special Forces officer training at Ft. Bragg in his book: The Guerrilla Factory: The Making of Special Forces Officers - The Green Berets.

Schwalm is a Tampa Bay resident who just returned from Afghanistan where he was assigned to the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force as a Army civilian leading a group of social scientists supporting special operations forces.

“On the ground, you are, especially in Afghanistan, you are living in a completely asymmetrical 360  degree shooting gallery,” Schwalm said. “You don’t know where the threat is, there’s no lines, there’s no rear area. Everyone, over there, lives in harms’ way.”

The 11-year conflict in Afghanistan and his experience in Desert Storm shaped Schwalm’s strong belief in the value of Special Forces or SF.

He wrote his book so people would understand the training – both physical and mental - behind Special Operations forces. He also wanted to explain the differences between say a Navy SEAL and an Army Green Beret.

Schwalm splits them into two camps: Superman and Daniel Boone.

“The Superman is the one that most civilians think of, a barrel-chested freedom fighter, very handy with his weapons, physically attractive as well. You want the whole package,” Schwalm said. “Superman does things on a very short timeline usually measured in minutes or hours.”

He said Daniel Boone better describes the Special Forces warrior like a Green Beret because he’s known for working with other cultures over a long period of time.

“He learns languages. He lives with people. He subjects himself to great privation going for long, long expeditions,” Schwalm said. “That resonates with me because Army Special Forces, the Green Berets, when they go they go for a long time measured in months and years and that’s what Afghanistan has become.”

He said the book is for anyone who wants to know what it means to be in the military – what it means to send out U.S. Forces whether conventional or Special Forces.

“This is what it looks like from inside the turret. This is what it looks like from under the Green Beret,” Schwalm said.

Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.
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