- US Army Special Forces soldiers took part in the Mint 400 off-road race near Las Vegas in March.
- The Green Berets used the race to show off their specially designed Ground Mobility Vehicle 1.1s.
- Green Beret mobility teams use GMV 1.1s for long-range ground operations, often behind enemy lines.
A small team of US Army Green Berets recently made a rare appearance in one of the most prestigious off-road races in the US.
Green Beret mobility teams from the 5th Special Forces Group part in the Mint 400 off-road race in early March, using their unique special-operations vehicles and highlighting a little-known insertion method used by Green Berets.
Started in 1968, the Mint 400 race has been called “the oldest and most prestigious off-road race in America.” The Green Berets drove their specially designed Ground Mobility Vehicle 1.1s, covering 200 miles of the 400-mile race in nine hours, hitting speeds up to 50 mph.
The Mint 400 “really provides the best venue in a short amount of time to really stress the vehicle,” the driver of the lead vehicle, identified only as a Special Forces major, said in a press release.
“Outside of a real deployment, you’re not going to be able to simulate the level of intensity, time crunch, and the whole team working together with support personnel in anything but the Mint 400,” the major said.
Green Berets from 5th Special Forces Group took part in the race in 2020, driving kitted-out GMV 1.1s for two 100-mile laps of the 400-mile course. They spent most of that time assisting other drivers by towing them when they were stuck or needed repairs, which earned the Green Berets an honorary finish award.
The 5th Special Forces Group has to have robust ground mobility capabilities because its area of operations — the Middle East and Southwest Asia — has vast swaths of desert and open terrain.
“We have these vehicles loaded out how we would have them for combat and were excited to push their limits and see what they’re capable of,” a Green Beret officer in charge of a mobility team, identified only as Capt. Eric, said in a press release after the 2020 race.
“These vehicles are not built as race vehicles, they are not built for speed, but we are looking to push the limit with them,” Eric added.
The GMV 1.1s involved in this year’s race weren’t outfitted like those that raced in 2020, but they still made an impression on spectators.
“I think it’s shocking to a lot of the fans when you tell them, ‘this came straight from training and it’s going back to training,'” the Special Forces major said in the release.
Green Beret mobility teams
Manufactured by General Dynamics, the Ground Mobile Vehicle 1.1 was designed for special-operations forces — it has a top speed of 73 mph, an operational range of over 400 miles, and the ability to climb surfaces with a 60% grade.
The vehicle can be transported on an MH-47 Chinook helicopter and can carry up to seven commandos. The vehicle’s modular design allows operators to tailor its configuration and cargo to their mission requirements, and it can be armed with anything from a Mark 19 grenade launcher to a GAU-19 .50-caliber Gatling gun.
Special Forces mobility teams use vehicles like Ground Mobile Vehicle 1.1 to carry out their specialty: long-range ground operations, often behind enemy lines. A typical mobility team is composed of four vehicles, each carrying three operators.
The 5th Special Forces Group is one of seven such groups — five active-duty Army and two National Guard. Each group has four battalions, and each battalion has three companies.
The companies are made up of six Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas, or ODAs, which are the basic tactical element of the Army Special Forces Regiment.
ODAs are composed of 12 Green Berets who specialize in unconventional warfare, direct action, special reconnaissance, and foreign internal defense — the training of foreign troops — among other mission sets.
Although the Green Berets on those teams go through the same pipeline, they specialize in different insertion methods, depending on their team: military free-fall parachuting, combat diving, mountain warfare, and mobility.
Typically, of the six teams in a Green Beret company, one will be a military free-fall team and one a combat-diver team. The rest will either be mobility, mountain, or non-specialized teams, also known as “Ruck” ODAs from the rucksacks each member has to hump to battle.
Insider understands that Green Berets who don’t want to go through the military free-fall school or the Combat Diver Qualification Course in order to join those respective teams are assigned to a mobility team instead.
Specialized mobility teams pre-date US Army Special Forces, which was officially formed in 1952. During World War II, the famed British Special Air Service and the lesser-known Long Range Desert Group used unarmored trucks and US-made Jeeps to conduct raids and ambushes behind Axis lines in North Africa.
Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.