August 1, 2006:
The need for Special Operations troops has grown enormously since September 11, 2001. While the recruiting efforts of SOCOM (Special Operations Command) got a lot of attention, there were other ways of obtaining operators. While not always secret, these other methods were usually discreet. Take, for example, the 74th Infantry Detachment. This is a small (under a hundred men) unit of paratroopers that do " Long Range Surveillance". Such units have been around for over half a century, and during the Vietnam war were called LRRPs (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols.) The 74th was formed in 2002, from members of the recon company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. This brigade is based in Vicenza, Italy, and the 74th is considered a part of the brigade. The 74th has stayed out of the news, but not out of action, having been spotted in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last four years.
LRRP stuff is something Special Forces are trained for, but since the Special Forces guys are skilled in a number of areas, it makes sense to substitute paratroopers ( with training and experience in LRRP work), to free up Special Forces operators for other tasks. Special Forces troops in places like Afghanistan do a lot of LRRP work, staking out remote valleys or passes, searching for Taliban and al Qaeda. But sometimes, the Special Forces troops find themselves being relieved by a team of paratroopers from the 74th Infantry Detachment.