Military Special Projects (MSP)
SAS in action in Bosnia, late 1990's.
The SAS's actual designation is Military Special Projects,
or MSP. The unit was redesignated in 1995, when General
Boykin assumed the Deputy Chief post after coming
over from the US Army's Delta Force.
Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) Directorate of
Operations (DO), which is headed by a Deputy Director
for Operations (DDO), is responsible for handling
covert actions conducted on the Agency's behalf. Within
DO are a number of subsections, including Counterterrorism,
Counternarcotics, Counterintelligence Staff (CIS),
Covert Action Staff (CAS), Special Operations, and
others. Of these groups, the Special Operations unit
is tasked with conducting paramilitary (PM) covert
Special Activities Staff (SAS)
Special Activities Staff (SAS) is one of the least
known covert units operating on behalf of the US Government.
Operating in teams as large as 12, or as small as
one, the SAS is considered
to be among the world's top special operations
personnel have been described as being particularly
skilled in counterterrorist/hostage rescue operations,
and are said to capable of "taking down"
any type of vehicle, aircraft, ship, building, or
SAS provides a pool from which the various divisions
within the Agency may draw trained personnel to form
a Special Operations Group, or SOG. SOG's are short-term
teams that carry out paramilitary operations such
as sabotage; friendly personnel/material recovery;
threat personnel/material snatches; bomb damage assessment
(BDA); counterterrorist (CT) operations; raids;
hostage rescues, and other activities as directed
by the President.
for the SAS are primarily drawn from two sources.
The first of these is the US military's Special Mission
Units (SMUs) such as the Army's
Combat Applications Group (CAG) better known
as "Delta Force" ( the 1st Special Forces
Operational Detachment-Delta), as well as the US Navy's
Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU-formerly
known as SEAL Team SIX). Other prospective candidates
are drawn from former members of elite military units
such as the USMC's Force Reconnaissance units; the
US Army Special Forces; and Navy's SEAL teams, or
the ranks of the Agency itself.
SOG detachment would be comprised of members from
one, or more the SAS's three sections, which include
Branch, Air Branch, and Maritime Branch, depending
upon the needs of the SOG, and its mission tasking.
Once organized, a SOG would travel to its selected
Area of Operations (AO), and execute its mission as
directed by the DDO through the local Chief of Station,
or whomever was tasked with carrying out the operation.
successful operation conducted by the SAS occurred
during Operation Desert Shield. During the operation
a lone SAS operative repeatedly penetrated Iraqi defense
in and around Kuwait City in order to deliver, and
retrieve intelligence material from the besieged US
Embassy. In another operation SAS operators, along with US Navy SEALs, were involved in the covert mining of Nicaraguan
harbors during the 1980s.
Air Branch is
a descendent of such groups as Air America, Southern
Air Transport, and Evergreen Air. Air Branch provides
all of the Agency's covert aviation assets, with both
fixed and rotary wing aircraft being available for
use. Reportedly there is virtually no type of aircraft
that SAS Air Branch personnel cannot operate.
Some Air Branch pilots are culled
from the ranks of the US Army's 160th Special Operations
Branch has provided
personnel for such diverse undertakings as
"Sea Spray" (A covert Army/CIA aviation
unit), the covert arming of the Nicaraguan Contras,
and the resupply of UNITA rebels in Angola.
Branch is primarily composed of former Navy SEALs
from both "regular" blue water SEAL Teams
and the counterterrorist DEVGRU, and USMC Force Reconnaissance
personnel. Maritime Branch personnel receive training
similar to that of Ground Branch operators, but with
a greater training
emphasis on amphibious/waterborne activities. Maritime
Branch operators receive training in conducting operations
such as jet-ski reconnaissance and hostage rescue
operations along hostile shorelines.
example of these
activities occured during the early 80's, when Maritime
Branch personnel trained Nicaraguan Contras to use
of high speed boats for attacks against Sandanita
shipping. They also stood by to launch underwater
sabotage attacks against ships docked in Managua's
harbor. Another example occurred in early 1991.
This time Maritime Branch operators instructed
US military SOF in the use of modified jet skis for
a possible hostage rescue mission during Operation
amphibious skills of Maritime Branch personnel are
sometimes duplicated within Ground Branch, due to
the fact that many Ground Branch operators are already combat diver or scout-swimmer qualified.
Branch personnel are the most diversely trained group
of all SAS personnel, receiving training at various
civilian and military courses, with particular attention
being given to the use of small arms. Training is
known to include instruction in the following areas:
assessing threat types; intelligence gathering; room
entry techniques; tactical communications (covert
radios, infrared, microwave transmitters, etc.); levels
of force; use of the baton; armed and unarmed crowd
control; edged weapons; unarmed combat techniques;
team training and leadership;
individual and team movements; structure penetration;
boarding and securing vessels; prisoner search/ snatch
and handling; hostage situation management; small
unit tactics; long range reconnaissance and patrol;
explosives; field medicine; extreme
environment survival; and land, sea and airborne operations.
arms instruction is provided using a wide variety
ranging from pistols and shotguns, to rifles and carbines.
CQB shooting skills, sniping, and countersniping
are all considered vital skills and are emphasized
thoughout operator training. Civilian training centers
such as John Shaw's Mid South School, TEES,
BSR, and Gunsite are known to frequently play host
to SAS personnel.
important area of
Ground Branch operator training is advanced
automobile handling (evasive, high-speed emergency
driving). Students learn how to drive virtually any
type of vehicle under any condition, both during daylight
and at night, with or without night observation devices
(NODs). They also receive instruction on how to use
the car as a weapon, should the need ever arise. These
skills, along with related techniques, are known collectively
as Tactical Vehicle Commandeering (TVC) and are learned
both at civilian academies and by G8: Training Division.
Ground Branch personnel are required to undertake
every class offered by OTR that has anything to do
with small arms, vehicles, terrorism, or covert fieldcraft.
While such training obviously enhances the
individual operator's personal skill level,
a secondary reason for such training is
the fact that Ground Branch personnel will,
at some point in their career, have to serve as an
instructor at a CIA or government run training facility.
individuals who pass the initial SAS selection phase,
which is based on a modified version of the CAG (Delta)/Special
Air Service (SAS) selection course, and accepted into
the group, are then selected for one of the three
operational sections. Upon arrival, the new operator
will under take a wide variety of civilian and military
training courses, to help develop the skills necessary
for the demanding tasks that may be asked of him.
during World War II as a training base for U.S. Navy
Seabees, the 10,000 acre Camp Peary training center,
which is also known as the Special Training Center
(STC) or "The Farm", is used by
DO for a wide variety of training. The STC's
primary training focus is on basic tradecraft skills
such as weapons handling, explosives, infiltration
and exfiltration technique. It is not unusual for
students attending the Basic Operations Course (required
of all Case Officers) to travel to nearby Williamsburg
to practice their skills in a real-world environment.
Yet, while numerous films and novels have portrayed
"The Farm" as the ultimate training ground
for the Agency's paramilitary operators, this is in
fact, not the case. For advanced instruction in other
skills, such as breaking into buildings undetected
(sureptitious entry); stealing and photographing documents
or equipment; "snatch and grab" techniques
(recovery of a friendly or hostile individual); CQB,
intelligence gathering, and a course known as AET,
or Applied Explosive Techniques (which is popular
with US Navy SEALs), students travel to the"
Point" which is located outside of Elizabeth
City, North Carolina.
Harvey Point Defense Testing Activity was originally
constructed during World War II to serve as a base
for anti-submarine patrol blimps operating along the
Eastern seaboard, acts as an advanced training center
for Agency, US military, and friendly special mission/operations
units. One known example of this occurred when Agency
personnel provided instruction to the US Secret Service
(USSS) in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) techniques.
Both the EOD and the above mentioned AET courses
are managed by a group within the Agency's Department
of Science and Technology known as the Special Activities
facilities also play a major role in SAS operator
training. The West Virginia-based ITI provides instruction
for select US government specialty teams, such as
the Agency's SNAP teams, CAT teams and the SAS. ITI
also supplies Counterterror Surveillance instructors
for the CTTC course. There is also another school,
located in West Point Virginia, that teaches Agency
specialty teams. The Mid-South Institute of Self Defense
Shooting near Memphis, TN is known to be frequented
by SAS personnel. Of all the civilian facilities,
however, G8: Training Division, a private sector company,
provides the preponderance of
SAS training, and thus bears closer discussion.
in 1981under the direction of an EOD-qualified retired
Navy SEAL, and a CIA paramilitary officer, G8 trains
US government personnel in "black arts",
such as CQB, tradecraft, surveillance, sniping,and
other clandestine skills . G8's was originally based
in the valley of Aina Haina, on the island of Oahu,
in the city of Honolulu, Hawaii. In 1982 G8 moved
to the mainland United States, and in a short period
of time, primarily due to a growing relationship with
the CIA, grew to a full-fledged training group, capable
of hosting a steady flow of paramilitary personnel.
As the number of students increased, so did the quantity
and quality of instructors. Today, G8's staff includes
not only former SAS personnel, but
former military personnel from variety of units,
including the US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC);
US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM);
the 20th Special Forces Group; the John F. Kennedy
Special Warfare Center and School (JFKSWCS), and the
US Army's 75th Ranger Regiment.
important part of SAS training includes the operation
of motor vehicles in both permissive and non-permissive
environments. The basic driving course called CTTC
(Countering Terrorist Tactics Course) or in Agency
slang as the "Crash and Bang" course, is
taught at CampPerry. This
course is required for any CIA personnel being sent
to a potentially hostile area.
During the course the traineeis qualified in
the use of the Browning 9mm, .38 Special revolver,
and Winchester 1200 12-gauge shotgun. It also introduces
the student to basic counterterror driving techniques,
and counterterror awareness/counter surveillance techniques.
For the highly trained Ground Branch personnel such
techniques are elementary, however they are still
required to attend the course due to the fact they
will later return as course instructors.
vehicle training is broken down into several categories:
is a course designed for individuals who may have
to escape from hostile territory by quickly acquiring
a vehicle. The training focuses on vehicle types and
selection, improvising tools, overcoming security
devices, and driving away. This course is followed
by the more advanced Tactical Vehicle Interception
(TVI), which teaches how to stop a moving auto using
one, two or more vehicles or firearms.
Evasive Driving Module (EDM) is for operators who
might come under attack while operating a motor vehicle.
Whether the attack be an attempted carjacking, kidnapping,
or terrorist assassination, the response is the same,
to get out of the situation quickly. The goal is to
train the driver how to use his vehicle as a means
of escape or weapon for survival. The driver will
learn what a car is capable of and most importantly,
his own limits. He will be shown how hard it is to
stop a moving vehicle, and he will conduct a series
of exercises where instructors
actually try to run the driver off the road.
The driver will be taught evasive maneuvers such as
forward and reverse spins and ramming. Training is
brought together through realistic situational exercises
where the student comes under different types of attack
and is challenged to react.
following is a sample EDM training schedule that provides
a look at the areas of focus:
and Drivable Terrain
through a car that is blocking your path both forward
and in reverse. Driving off the road as a means of
and reverse 180-degree turns including limited space
and curved road scenarios.
Precision Immobilization Technique (PIT) is the most
efficient and safest way to stop a fleeing vehicle.
Students are shown this maneuver so they know how
to defend against it.
importance of being mentally prepared in order to
execute an escape maneuver.
Reverse 180-Degree Turn Practice
come under simulated attack and must choose and execute
the correct escape maneuver.
from being stopped while fleeing from an attacker.
Students come under attack through actual contact
exercises and are required to use their automobile
as a weapon to protect themselves.
Driver Training (ADT)
there is Advanced Driver Training (ADT) module, which
is actually the cornerstone of all advanced driving
courses. It is the module by which all courses are
built upon and a stand-alone course itself. This training
teaches the student how to be a better, more confident
driver. The laws of Vehicle Dynamics determine how
and why a vehicle reacts as it does when in motion.
These factors and the driver's interrelationship with
them are practiced in an evolving series of exercises.
A sample training schedule follows:
the driver/vehicle relationship. Vehicle language,
driving form, weight transfer, ocular driving, threshold
braking and off-road recoveries.
practice these skills through serpentine and emergency
braking exercises. Surprise off-road recoveries are
conducted throughout the day.
control and spin recovery. Understanding oversteer
and understeer, and how they are controlled. How tire
pressure affects performance and how to prevent blowouts.
control (oversteer and understeer) and advanced emergency
multiple dynamics, braking, braking in curves, and
braking in turns and swerve-to-avoid obstacles.
and Mental Aspects Lecture
laws of vehicle dynamics are applied to allow vehicle
control at above highway speeds. Techniques of stress
management are discussed.
laws of vehicle dynamics are applied to maintain control
at emergency speeds.
are asked to drive at emergency speeds under pressure,
applying acquired skills.
limitations of vision and lighting. This exercise
is only conducted during security courses.
driving skills are applied along with visual limitations.