The 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) – abbreviated 3rd SFG(A) and often simply called 3rd Group – is an active duty United States Army Special Forces (SF) group which was active in the Vietnam Era (1963–69), inactivated, and then reactivated in 1990. The 3rd SFG(A) was primarily responsible for operations within the AFRICOM area of responsibility, as part of the Special Operations Command, Africa (SOCAFRICA). Its primary area of operations (AO) is now Africa as part of a 2015 SOCOM directive but 3rd Group has also been involved in the Caribbean and the Greater Middle East. The 3rd SFG(A) has seen extensive action in the War on Terror and its members have distinguished themselves on the battlefield in Afghanistan.
3rd Group was first activated on 5 December 1963 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The four colors of the quadrants of 3rd Group's beret flash are derived from the flashes of the pre-existing SF units from which 3rd Group's members were initially drawn (hence its original motto: "From the Rest Comes the Best"). These colors are: yellow (1st SFG (A)), red (7th SFG (A)), black (5th SFG (A)), and white (Special Forces Training Group (A)). 3rd Group was originally oriented towards the Middle East and Africa during the 1960s. The unit trained the armed forces of Mali, Iraq, Ethiopia, the Congo, and Jordan – in addition to supporting the Gemini 6 and 7 space launches in 1965. 3rd Group also worked with the 5th SFG(A) in Vietnam. In 1966, 3rd Group transferred assumed control of the 403rd Army Security Agency Special Operations Detachment and the 19th PSYOP Company over to 5th Group. With the "Vietnamization" of the conflict, the 3rd SFG(A) was inactivated in 1969 and its members were transferred back to the other Special Forces Groups. (One 3rd group officer who stayed on in South Vietnam — Major George W. Petrie — was first man on the ground in the Son Tay Raid (1970) and subsequently helped plan the Saigon evacuation (30 April 1975), becoming the last SF soldier to leave the country.)
The 3rd Special Forces Group was reactivated in 1990. Its AO initially consisted of the Caribbean and West Africa. New group members were drawn primarily from the 5th SFG(A). At the outbreak of the Gulf War, 3rd Group's only functioning battalion (1st BN) was deployed to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, for three months. Its A-Teams carried out reconnaissance and sabotage missions into denied areas of Iraq and Kuwait. In February 1991, 3rd Group was tasked with the mission of securing and occupying the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait City. The 2nd BN and 3rd BN of 3rd Group were reactivated in 1991 and 1992, respectively. 3rd Group also took part in the restoration of democracy in Haiti in 1994. In the late '90s, 3rd Group helped train forces in Senegal, Uganda, Malawi, Mali, Ethiopia, and Trinidad and Tobago, among others.
In the fall of 2000, the 3rd SFG(A) was involved in training and stabilization efforts in West Africa, dubbed "Operation Focus Relief" by the State Department; the training mission was geared towards combating the Revolutionary United Front.