Herald JournalHerald Journal, Dec. 22, 2003

Classmates reunited in Green Beret training

By Ryan Gueningsman

They have been friends since third grade, and now two former Lester Prairie residents have successfully become Green Berets.

Both Tom Voss and Travis Zellmann, 1993 graduates of Lester Prairie High School, enlisted in different branches of the service following graduation ­ Voss in the Marine Corps, and Zellmann in the Navy.

Voss was honorably discharged as a sniper, Zellmann honorably discharged as a diver. The two kept in touch, as both men decided to enter in the private sector of life.

Voss decided to go to diving school, while Zellmann chose law enforcement.

Both men decided that the private sector wasn't for them, and they enlisted in separate programs. The two ended up stationed together at Fort Bragg, N.C., and had some of the same classes together.

Eventually, they went on to complete the five-phase process of becoming a Green Beret, and together the two friends received their designation at a special graduation ceremony Nov. 7 at Fort Bragg.

Voss is the son of Rick and Lee Voss, and Zellmann the son of Diane and the late Daryl Zellmann.

They have been at Fort Bragg since October 2002.

It all begins with being selected to be in military special forces, Zellmann said. There are physical and psychological tests that must be passed, and a qualification course.

If you get selected, you go to something similar to a military tactic school where ambushes and raids are learned, Zellmann said.

Phase three is called MOS (military occupational speciality). There are four different jobs that can be done as a MOS ­ weapons, medical, communications, and engineering.

Zellmann was in the engineering program, and Voss in weapons.

"The engineering program is learning how to develop basic structures and housing with whatever materials may be at hand. Demolition is also a process engineers learn," he said.

Phase four is a culmination phase where each MOS, together, goes through training, learning how to work side by side, and carrying out each of the four operations in a war-like environment, Zellmann said. This phase takes place at a training base a short distance from Fort Bragg.

The final phase before becoming a Green Beret is an evaluation to see if the soldiers can handle the job once placed in a real war-like situation, in addition to training other people who they're not used to working with. The trainees are evaluated by teachers.

After that, there is a graduation ceremony, and the class earns its Green Berets.

Now that the two are Green Berets, they have to learn a language specific to an area of the world where they may be working. Voss and Zellmann both take eight-hour Arabic classes each day.

"It's a whole different style language than English," noted Zellmann. "They bring in very good teachers."

"We went pretty much through the whole course together," Zellmann said. He has his own apartment, and Voss lives in base housing with his wife and two sons.

The Green Beret program began during the Vietnam era. President John F. Kennedy made the Green Beret an official symbol of the special forces.

From Fort Bragg, the two will travel to and be based at Fort Campbell, Ky. Their language class goes until approximately May.

"Rumor has it eventually we will go overseas, but we don't know for sure," Zellmann said. "We're not out of school yet, so we don't get any information like that."

"He and I are very lucky to be in the program," Zellmann said. "It's difficult training, but if you can get through it, it's well-worth it in the long run. We're very proud to serve our country, and we're going about it the best way we know."

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