About the Author:
In 1961, Robert “Bob” Charest, after volunteering for and completing Commo School and SF Branch Training in December of 1962, pulled his first assignment with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) (SFG(A)) in Okinawa. Sent TDY on a six month Mobile Training Advisory mission in Vietnam in July 1963, he was assigned to A-432 stationed in the camp at Boun Beng of II Corps. The team was responsible for off-island training with the Jari Montagnards.
Transferring to 10th SFG(A) in Bad Tölz Germany, he served with B Company ODA-19 from 1964–1967. In 1967, he was chosen to lead a top-secret mission to Libya. After two solo trips into Libya to coordinate with the US Embassy, he and his team, disguised as Civilian Communications Contractors to Libya, visited all of the Libyan Army Bases from Tripoli to Benghazi. While there, he was approached by two Libyan Officials, one of whom was the Libyan Army Chief of Staff, informing him of “The Black Boots” movement, an underground effort within the military to overthrow King Idris’, the King of Libya. The rebellion was led by a young man, named Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi. The officials then asked Charest to become a paid informant, to spy on the under-ground movement. He and his team aborted the mission and returned to Stuttgart. Although Charest briefed the higher head-quarters in Stuttgart of the plot, nothing was done.
His second tour in Vietnam began in 1968, serving with B-56 Project (SIGMA) Military Assistance Command Vietnam – Studies and Operations Group (MACVSOG). Wounded on one of his mis-sions, his actions were submitted for the award of the Silver Star. Thirty years later, Charest finally received the award, which had been downgraded to a Bronze Star with “V” device. There are still efforts to have the award reviewed and upgraded. Completing his tour in Vietnam, he attended German language training at DLIWC California. As he was also fluent in Russian, he was assigned to Detachment (A) Berlin, serving on Team One Scuba Team from 1969–1972. Returning to Southeast Asia, he was assigned to A Company, 46th SF CO in Thailand on ODA-33, where he was awarded the Soldiers Medal. When 46th SF Company closed, Charest returned to Detachment (A) Berlin, Germany, remaining from 1973–1978.
Retiring in 1981 from 10th SFG(A) in Fort Devens, Massachusetts, Robert Charest took a job with Vinnell Corporation in Saudi Arabia. A 1981 grenade accident in 1981 and evacuation back stateside ended his tour. Attending the University of New Hampshire, he received his Bachelor’s degree. Two years later, he accepted a position as a Senior Instructor/ Advisor with the Commo Committee at the US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS). This job was followed by one with FEMA/MERS first as a Senior Operations Officer, then a GM-13 Security Manager.
Robert Charest, fully retired in 1992, but has remained active with the Special Forces community. He served as President of SFA Chapter 72, in Merrimack, NH for five years and sits on the Board of Officers for the Veteran’s of Special Forces (VSF). He is a member of the Special Operations Association. A proud member of Detachment (A) Berlin, he has organized several well attended reunions for the unit. He also is a Life Member of the JFK Special Warfare Museum. His dedication has been instrumental in the inclusion of a Detachment (A) exhibit in the museum. Robert Charest is still involved with Scuba Diving, Skydiving and holds a 4th Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do.
Awards and Decorations include: Soldiers Medal; 2 Bronze Stars with “V” for Valor; 4 Purple Hearts; Special Forces Diver badge; Mater Parachutist badge; CIB, German, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese Jump Wings; HALO wings, Air Medal; Meritorious Service Medal; Army Commendation Medal (3 Awards).