Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Eugene "Gene" Gutierrez - First Special Service Force Veteran

Eugene "Gene" Gutierrez joined the Army in 1941 after his family was devastated during the Great Depression. “I had seven siblings, and my dad lost his grocery business,” Gutierrez said. “My family needed me to help financially and the Army paid $40 a month.”

After graduating high school, Gutierrez enlisted in the Army, sending money back to his family and saving some for college. He figured that three years of service would pay for two years of college. Little did he know, he would find himself on multiple front lines during four years of service. “When I went to enlist, I weighed two pounds under the minimum weight allowance,” Gutierrez said. “At 118 pounds, the recruiter told me to go home and eat nothing but bananas and return the next day. He told me when I was full, to eat even more bananas.”

Initially Gutierrez joined the Army Air Corps specializing in parachute rigging, and that road led him to the First Special Service Force (FSSF). Gutierrez served with the First Special Service Force during World War II, storming the beaches in Anzio, Italy, liberating southern France, and reclaiming Rome from the Nazis.

Under the command of Lt. Colonel Robert T. Frederick, the FSSF was made up of 900 American and 900 Canadian volunteers who assembled in Helena, Mont., to answer the call for men of the highest physical prowess to fight in an unknown unit at an unknown location for an unknown operation.

The men were trained in commando tactics, that included mountain climbing, skiing, demolition, amphibious training and hand-to-hand combat, using the historic V42 knife for close-quarters fighting. Nicknamed the “Devil’s Brigade” by German Soldiers for their fierce tactics and practice of wearing black boot polish on their faces, the unit excelled during nighttime raids.

One of the most famous missions was an amphibious assault landing in January 1944 at Anzio, Italy. The forerunners of today's Army Special Forces clawed their way through the siege of Monte Cassino and eventually captured Rome, before moving into southern France to encircle German troops.

By the time the war ended, the brigade had accounted for more than 12,000 enemy casualties, captured more than 30,000 prisoners, won five U.S. campaign stars and eight Canadian battle honors, and, played a key role in the liberation of Rome, Italy from German forces.

In total, Gutierrez saw 240 days of combat from December 1943 to December 1944. On December 4, 1944, the First Special Service Force was terminated because there was trouble finding replacements for such an elite unit and larger, division-size elements were needed to fight. After the war, Gutierrez returned to Texas, marrying his wife, Penny, in 1951; the two are still married after 66 years. Gutierrez went into teaching, and retired as a school principal in 1990.

In 2015, Gutierrez and 41 other veterans of the famed U.S.-Canadian 1st Special Service Force were honored in the Capitol, Feb. 3, as recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award for distinguished achievement the U.S. Congress can bestow. "It's great to be here and it's great to be American," said the then 94-year-old Gutierrez. "I want to thank everyone who undertook this very important and noble assignment to honor and recognize this most versatile and effective World War II fighting unit from the USA and Canada." Gen. Joseph Votel, then commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, said "Gentlemen, the living members of the 1st Special Service Force, you should be proud of not only what you accomplished on the battlefield, but also for the foundation and groundwork that you laid in order to shape our modern day special operations forces and for the close and professional relationship that ties our two countries together, today. Rest assured that your legacy lives on in today's American and Canadian special operators -- both our countries and their citizens owe you a boundless debt of gratitude ... thank you."

Thursday, April 5, 2018

2018 Convention Changes

We posted the changes to the hotels and Convention schedule (see below) on 14 December 2017.  The only additional changes at this time is the scheduling of two "soft events":  a Wine Tasting trip to  La Vina Winery, a local New Mexico Winery, which be on Thursday 14 June 2018 and a El Paso Lower Valley Spanish Mission Trail tour which will on Friday 15 June 2018. 

note:  New overflow Hotel added (on 5 April 2018) see bottom of Hotel list

Wyndham El Paso Airport Hotel is the Anchor Hotel

Because of rehab construction delays at our planned anchor hotel, we have moved the 2018 Convention to the Wyndham El Paso Airport Hotel and it's co-located partner, the Microtel Inn and Suites. This two hotel campus will provide over 350 rooms plus overflow accommodations of an additional 100 rooms at the Marriott, one block away. The other overflow hotels are:   The Radisson, Hawthorn; Comfort Suites; Chase Suites, Fairfield Inn and Town Place Suites.  Other hotels at the airport location will also adhere to the $98 per night contract rate. Click on the map below for a larger view.   

The plusses in this change of hotels offers the closet location to the Airport, adjacent to the short term parking - right across the street as a matter of fact. The Wyndham El Paso Airport Hotel offers large meeting area/room for the hospitality room; free breakfast; pool and water slide; and is 10 minutes to the downtown venues for the Convention Banquet, Green Berets Movie and Green Beret night at the El Paso Chihuahuas baseball.

Those who have already committed to the Paso Del Norte Hotel are being accommodated on a first come, first served basis at the new Hotel HQ. You are supposed to be re-registered and contacted for your payment information by Debbie Lowrance (915) 778-4241.  Previously registered attendees should feel free to contact Debbie before she contacts you.  Be sure to obtain a confirmation number.  New registrations can call her directly and avoid the national booking number. 

Wyndham El Paso Airport Hotel and Water Park
Convention Anchor Hotel
Address: 2027 Airway Blvd, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 778-4241

Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham El Paso Airport
Convention Associate Anchor Hotel
Address: 2001 Airway Blvd, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 519-1164

Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham El Paso Airport
Convention Bronze Sponsor
Special SFA Convention pricing at $89
Address: 6789 Boeing Dr, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 778-6789

Comfort Suites El Paso Airport
Convention Bronze Sponsor
Special SFA Convention pricing at $89
Address: 1940 Airway Blvd, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 772-0395

El Paso Marriott
Address: 1600 Airway Blvd, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 779-3300

Radisson Hotel El Paso Airport
Address: 1770 Airway Blvd, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 772-3333

Chase Suite Hotel El Paso
Address: 6791 Montana Ave, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 772-8000
POC:  Rene Baz,

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott El Paso Airport
Address: 6611 Edgemere Blvd, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 772-2202

Towne Place Suites by Marriott El Paso Airport
Address: 6601 Edgemere Blvd, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 493-6781

new Hotel added:
Home2 Suites by Hilton El Paso Airport
Address:  6308 Montana Ave, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone:  (915) 887-0300 or (915) 503-7093
POC:  Zulema Acuna,

Change 2

The events previously scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday have mostly flip flopped - the new schedule is below. The Golf Outing remains unchanged for Wednesday.

Change 3

The annual picnic is now at the War Eagles Museum on Wednesday. The event will now be named the "Whole Enchilada Picnic" and will be organized by Robert Phillipson and our brothers from SFA Chapter 80 from nearby Las Cruces, NM. This takes the place of the previously scheduled "Mexican Fiesta Lunch" picnic originally scheduled for Friday.

Schedule of Events

As previously announced in December, the annual picnic is now at the War Eagles Museum on Wednesday. This event, the "Whole Enchilada Picnic", is organized by Robert Phillipson and our brothers from SFA Chapter 80 from nearby Las Cruces, NM. 

Tuesday 12 June 2018
0800-2000          Convention Registration - Wyndham Hotel Lobby
1700-1830          SFA President's Reception
0800-2200          Hospitality Room Open -  Wyndham Hotel

Wednesday 13 June 2018
0800-2000          Convention Registration continues - Wyndham Hotel Lobby
0800-2200          Hospitality Room Open -  Wyndham Hotel
0800 - ??            Golf Outing, Butterfield Trail Golf Course
0900-1200          Briefing (TBD)
0900-1800          SF Marketplace
1000-1200          Chapter Presidents' Meeting
1200-1400          War Eagles Museum Tour and Whole Enchilada Picnic
                            Free OH-6A "Loach" rides
                            Sky Diving available through Sky Dive El Paso (at your own cost & risk!)
1900-2200          50th Anniversary showing of the film classic "The Green Berets" starring 
                            John Wayne - at the historic Plaza Theater with special guest and
                            cash bar

Thursday 14 June 2018
0800-2200          Hospitality Room Open -  Wyndham Hotel
0900-1200          Briefing (TBD)
0900-1800          SF Marketplace
1000-1330          New!  La Vina Winery Tour ($15 fee covers transportation and wine tasting)
1400-2200          Cattleman's - Indian Cliff Ranch Dinner 

Friday 15 June 2018
0800-2200          Hospitality Room Open -  Wyndham Hotel
0900-1200          Briefing (TBD)
0830-1300          New!  Spanish Mission Trail Tour ($10 fee covers transportation)
0900-1800          SF Marketplace
1000-1200          General Membership Meeting
1900-2200          Green Beret Night at the El Paso Chihuahua's - AAA Baseball (tickets at $20 at the gate)

Saturday 16 June 2018
0800-2200          Hospitality Room Open -  Wyndham Hotel
0900-1130          Vietnam Memorial Ceremony Excursion
0900-1800          SF Marketplace
1700-1800          Pre-Banquet Cocktail Hour, El Paso Convention Center
1800-??              Annual SFA Banquet, El Paso Convention Center

Sunday 17 June 2018
0800-1000          Bloody Mary Morning Breakfast and Send Off, Wyndham Hotel

Monday, January 15, 2018

Vendor Information - 2018 SFA Convention

The 2018 SFA Convention Committee is now taking registrations for Vendor displays at the Wyndham El Paso Airport Hotel, the Convention Headquarters and anchor hotel.

The timeline for displays is as follows:

12 June 2018: Arrival and Setup

13 - 16 June 2018: Vendor Convention Displays

16 June 2018: Display tear down at Close of Business

The cost for a table is $150 (per table). Please fill out and submit the request for Vendor Registration form below and the Convention Vendor Committee send the registration with contact phone numbers for the Convention Vendor Committee.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Chapter IX Namesake - Isaac Camacho

Capt. Isaac “Ike” Camacho was born June 3, 1937 in the town of Fabens, Texas. At the age of 13, he moved to El Paso, Texas, where he graduated Thomas Jefferson High School in 1955. Upon graduation from high school, Camacho enlisted in the United States Army, taking his basic training at Fort Ord, Calif., followed by Infantry and Airborne School at Fort Campbell, Ky. Promoted to the rank of sergeant during his first enlistment, he became determined to make the Army his career. Volunteering for Special Forces he became qualified as a Special Forces weapons sergeant and was assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Deployed to Vietnam as a member of Detachment A-21, then Sgt. 1st Class Camacho was serving at the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) Camp at Hiep Hoa when it came under attack by an estimated reinforced battalion of Viet Cong on the night of Nov. 22 1963. Taking the camp by complete surprise, the Viet Cong initiated their attack with withering automatic weapons and small-arms fire followed within seconds by an intense mortar barrage, pinning down the entire Vietnamese Strike Force inside the camp. Running from his sleeping area, Camacho maneuvered through a hail of bullets and shell fragments to man a mortar position. Calmly manning the position, he began to concentrate his fire on the Viet Cong that were attempting to breach the camp and remained in the mortar position until he was ordered to withdraw from the camp. In the subsequent confusion of the battle, Camacho was captured, along with three other members of the detachment.

Following his capture, he was marched more than 150 kilometers to a prisoner of war camp near the Cambodian border, where he was held for 21 months either caged, shackled or chained to a tree. Remaining resolute and determined to escape, he made good his escape on the night of July 9, 1965. Using the cover of a monsoon rain, he slipped through the bars of his cage, which was less than 25 feet from his guard, and slipped into the jungle, evading capture for four days although suffering from starvation, malnutrition and disease. Finally finding his way to an Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) outpost, he was repatriated to the United States, where then Master Sergeant Camacho was debriefed on his ordeal and received accolades from President Lyndon B. Johnson as the first American serviceman to escape from a POW camp in Vietnam.

Receiving a field commission to the rank of captain and after completing the Infantry Officer Basic Course, Cap. Camacho returned to duty with the Special Forces, serving with the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and subsequently was assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas, where he retired following his service as the commander of the Fort Bliss Stockade.

Capt. Camacho’s awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star Medal (1 Oak Leaf Cluster), Bronze Star Meal, Purple Heart Medal (1 Oak Leaf Cluster), Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Prisoner of War Medal, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Master Parachutists Badge, Vietnamese Ranger Badge and the Vietnamese Parachutist Badge.

In retirement, Camacho entered the U.S. Postal Service, attaining the position of station manager, and retiring with more than 20 years of service. The El Paso Chapter of the Special Forces Association has been named the “Isaac Camacho Chapter.” He is married to the beautiful Gracie Camacho, and has two sons.

A longer article on Ike can be found at the History Net.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Request for Mail In SFA 2018 National Convention Registration Form

Fill out this form, select "continue" then confirm and we will send you by e-mail, a printable SFA 2018 National Convention Registration form that you can mail to us. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

SFA 2018 National Convention Registration Form

This is the on-line registration form.  After completing and submitting you must go to the on-line payment site accessible via the icon on the right hand side of the web page.