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U.S. Special Operations Forces

The United States Special Operations Forces —commonly called U.S. special forces— is the official category where the U.S. Department of Defense lists the U.S. military units that have a training specialization in unconventional warfare and special operations.

The Department refers to such units as Special Operations Forces (SOF); both friendly and hostile. They also use the term in reference to analogous foreign organizations.

Table of contents
1 General Information
2 List of U.S. Special Operations Forces (incomplete)
3 External links
4 References

General Information

Rangers (formerly identified by black berets but who now wear khaki berets as distinctive headgear) are primarily utilized in reconnaissance, the gathering of intelligence data (including the capture of selected opposing force individuals), and long-range patrolling. To become Ranger qualified, soldiers must volunteer for the eight week Ranger training program, which is one of the most demanding and intensive in the United States Armed Forces.

Special Forces soldiers (who wear the distinctive green beret) are primarily utilized in liaison and training roles to friendly governments involved in counterinsurgency operations (as in Vietnam), or as liaison and training advisors to members of insurgency forces (commonly referred to as guerrillas) which the United States Government wishes to support (as in Afghanistan). At the operational level, Special Forces are usually comprised of twelve-man "A Teams," each Enlisted member of which is considered an expert in such Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) as: small arms, demolitions, medical, communication, etc. Each member is also cross-trained in at least one other MOS so that he may fill in for other members who are wounded or killed. In addition, each member is usually proficient in the language of the host nation or insurgent group. All US Army Special Forces members are double volunteers, having volunteered first for airborne training and then for Special Forces training.

(The following is taken from public sources and is not in any way drawn from US Government sources, written or otherwise.) Delta Force members (who have no distinctive items of uniform wear) are utilized in hostage rescue roles, as well as in other special counter-terrorism actions, most of which are classified. The organization and training of Delta Force personnel is classified, but they are known to be among the best marksmen in the world. Delta snipers are reportedly required to have 100% accuracy at 600 yards and 90% accuracy at 1,000 yards. Delta Force members are drawn from a variety of sources, including other Special Operations Forces. Delta Force is usually referred to (when it is referred to at all) by the US Government as either "the 1st Special Operations Detachment," or "the 1st Combat Applications Group." The group is small (estimates generally run to less than 400 members), and operates in small teams deep inside hostile territory, often with orders to terminate with stealth and impunity. The namesake of Delta Force is believed to have been "Project Delta," a special operations unit commanded by US Army Colonel Charles Beckwith, now deceased, in Vietnam. Delta Force is supported by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR). Two Delta Force members were awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in Somalia while protecting the crew of a downed helicopter, and are the only soldiers to have been so honored while serving as snipers.

During peacetime SOF units are usually under the operational command of their assigned branch of the military. Upon direction of the Secretary of Defense, however, Special Operations Forces (including all of the above, as well as United States Navy SEAL units, selected units of the United States Air Force, and other units) are placed under the direct control of the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), usually in time of active hostilities. Special Operations Command consults with the Theater Commander to ascertain the best mix of SOF units, and how best to utilize them.

List of U.S. Special Operations Forces (incomplete)



Air Force

Marine Corps



External links


  1. USDOD (June 5, 2003). US DOD Dictionary of Military Terms. United States Department of Defense. United States of America.
  2. USDOD (June 5, 2003). US DOD Dictionary of Military Terms: Joint Acronyms and Abbreviations. United States Department of Defense. United States of America.