The Green Berets

  February 15, 2022   Read time 1 min
The Green Berets
Bolivia was the best thing we ever did," said Major Ralph "Pappy" Shelton, leader of a Green Beret Mobile Training Team (MTT), the Pentagon's traveling groups that helped train friendly armed forces, mostly in the arts of counterinsurgency.

The U.S. embassy had been prodding the Bolivian government for at least two years to bring such a team to help its military cope with uprisings in the hinterlands, which, like Guevara's uprising, were always a possibility, especially after Cuba began exporting revolution to the continent. The Bolivians had been reluctant. National pride made them balk at having Americans develop their armed forces—military hardware was one thing, but a group of trainers was quite another.

Furthermore, a well trained ranger battalion could be almost invincible in the Bolivian context and therefore not only a major military force but also a major political force. Nevertheless, the Bolivians finally agreed to schedule a team for 1968. Then, in March 1967, under pressure from the U.S. embassy and with insurgency a reality, they agreed to bring in the team earlier, advancing its arrival to the following month.

Southern Command agreed completely about the need for a Green Beret team in Bolivia. No element of the U.S. government led it in concern over the insurgency. Officers of general or admiral rank made some half-dozen visits to Bolivia during the eight months between the discovery of the guerrilla band and Guevara's death; General Porter himself came twice. In addition, soon after the shooting began, the command invited Ambassador Henderson to its headquarters in the Panama Canal Zone to brief its chief officers on the guerrilla situation.

The ambassador, however, was preceded by his formidable antimilitary reputation, a worrisome matter to Porter. It "frightened" the general, according to one high-ranking officer on Porter's staff, who added that Henderson really "wasn't antimilitary, he was just antistupidity, and we had a surplus of it."

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