Command Sergeant Major Jack G. Joplin, a legendary Army Special Forces and Delta Force operator who participated in two of the most famous rescue operations in special operations history has died.
CSM Joplin passed away last week at the age of 82. Joplin spent more than three decades in the Army and continued to serve the nation even after his retirement in 1991. During his colorful career, Joplin participated in the Son Tay rescue operation in 1970 and also in the failed attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran in 1980.
Born in 1939 in Bromide, Oklahoma, Joplin joined the Army in 1961 at the age of 22. Upon graduation from boot camp and infantry training, Joplin was assigned to the 501st Battle Group, 82nd Airborne Division. Later, he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade.
A few years later, Joplin decided to try for the Army Special Forces, also known as the “Green Berets.” Thus he began a special operations journey that would last for 24 years.
Joplin successfully completed the arduous Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) and was assigned to the 6th Special Forces Group as Medical Sergeant (18D). His career in the Special Forces Regiment would see him serving in the 3rd, 5th, 1st, and 10th Special Forces Groups, in addition to the 6th. While in Special Forces, he completed two combat deployments to Vietnam.
He also volunteered and was picked for Operation Ivory Coast, a daring prisoner of war rescue operation in Son Tay, deep inside North Vietnam. The Son Tay Raid can be described as a successful failure. The American commandos caught the North Vietname unawares and achieved all of their objectives but there were no prisoners in the camp.
For his actions on target, Joplin received the Silver Star, the third-highest award for valor under fire. His citation reads:
“Sergeant Joplin, while engaged in [the] clearing of building with complete disregard for his personal safety, engaged enemy soldiers at point-blank range with his .45 caliber pistol and secured the building which dominated the right flank of the compound. Sergeant Joplin’s swift and courageous action contributed directly to the overall success of the mission. Sergeant Joplin’s daring skill, extraordinary heroism against an armed hostile force, and extreme devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself and the United States Army.”
In the late 1970s, Joplin was successfully selected for the Army’s new counterterrorism unit: the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD), better known as the Delta Force. As a Delta operator, Joplin got the opportunity to participate in another historic special operation: Operation Eagle Claw, the attempt to rescue the Americans held hostage in Iran.
Although the operation ultimately failed due to several logistical and planning reasons, Eagle Claw paved the way for the creation of the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), revolutionizing American special operations.
“Jack was a true role-model. He was what an SF [Special Forces] NCO and leader ought to be. He willingly offered his advice and experiences to so many young SF troops. He was a great leader and mentor, smart and witty. But he was also a warrior. It was a privilege working with him,” a retired Green Beret told Sandboxx News.
Joplin’s awards include the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Combat Medic Badge, the Special Forces Tab, and the Master Parachutist Badge.
In 2008, Joplin was inducted in the Special Forces Regimental Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member.