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Army activating new Special Forces battalion

The Army is activating a new Special Forces battalion at Fort Campbell, the first such expansion of Green Beret units in nearly two decades.

The addition to the 5th Special Forces Group is the first of five new planned battalions for the Army Special Forces over the next several years.

Adm. Eric T. Olson, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, has said demand for the nation's elite forces in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to increase even as the overall American force shrinks.

The 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell is frequently deployed overseas, with rotations about every six months. There are currently three battalions and one support battalion in the group.

”A fourth battalion relieves some of the stress our soldiers and families face“ by providing more time at home between deployments, said the group's commander, Col. Christopher Conner,in a news release Tuesday.

About 400 to 500 soldiers in the new battalion will join about 2,000 soldiers already in the group at Fort Campbell. An activation ceremony is planned Friday morning at the base on the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

Each of the five active groups in the Army Special Forces will gain a new battalion under the expansion plan, said Capt. Chris Augustine, a spokesman for the Army Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Augustine said the Fort Campbell-based group was chosen for the first battalion because its training focus is the Middle East. The group was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for the initial invasion of Afghanistan, but its current focus is on operations in Iraq.

Augustine said the additional troops will also allow the military flexibility in parts of the world where it has been underrepresented because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

”Part of the concern is our role is not going to diminish (in Iraq and Afghanistan),“ Augustine said. ”It's going to be increased.“

Congress has also authorized the addition of three Army Ranger companies as part of a total increase of 13,000 troops over five years, starting this year.