Tester: You changed what it means to be an elite member of the military

Senator presents Congressional Gold Medal to Montana’s First Special Service Force

(U.S. SENATE)- In a special ceremony on Capitol Hill, Senator Jon Tester today awarded the First Special Service Force, known as the Devil’s Brigade, with the Congressional Gold Medal-the highest Congressional honor.

Based out of Ft. Harrison in Helena during World War II, the First Special Service Force was a top-secret combat unit comprised of American and Canadian soldiers. Their training in high alpine combat, parachuting, and other unconventional methods helped pave the way for the creation of the nation’s Special Forces.

“The men we’re honoring today trained in rugged conditions, at the top of mountain peaks in the Rockies, skiing and rock-climbing in the frigid temperatures of a Montana winter. Little did they know their unbreakable spirit would not only help change the course of World War II, but it would change what it means to be an elite member of the military,” Tester said at the ceremony. “Today, their legacy lives on in America’s Special Forces units who represent the best of the best who serve our nation.”

Tester was joined by Congressional leadership and 41 surviving veterans of the World War II unit.

The First Special Service Force is credited with capturing over 30,000 prisoners, and earning five U.S. campaign stars and eight Canadian battle honors.

The unit was instrumental in the liberation of Rome surprising and defeating German artillery units located on treacherous mountain peaks and rocky islands. They freed communities in southern France and Italy despite bitter resistance and extreme conditions, and they engaged in large-scale raids against the infamous German Hermann Goering Division.

Tester sponsored legislation in 2011 to grant the Congressional Gold Medal to the First Special Service Force. He and then-Senator Max Baucus worked to pass the measure through the Senate in June 2013.

Tester was joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in presenting the medal.