Within the realm of military fiction, there are few areas that carry the same fascination, mystique, and underwear-soiling badassery as special operations. Known collectively as Special Operations Forces in the United States and Special Forces or some other variation thereof in the rest of the world, they are the elite within the elite; the bogeymen creeping up to the bad guys' beds in the night to snatch them away and take them to some mysterious black site in the middle of nowhere. They are the sine qua nonof my-country-could-beat-your-country debates. When writers need to quickly demonstrate that their protagonist is a stone-cold killer, they just name-drop one of these guys and they're good to go.
Door-kicking and Bomb-sticking: the Basics
Special operations are pretty much exactly as described. They are given to special operations units for a number of reasons; a normal unit might not be able to execute the operation without taking heavy casualties, or they might be able to do the job just fine but can't get into position fast enough, or they might attract too much attention. The special operations that are known to the public can be pidgeonholed into several categories:
Direct Action: Simply put, a raid on an enemy position with the intent of capturing, destroying, or otherwise making use of it. This is what we generally think of when we think of special operations. It's fast, bloody, and very photogenic.
Special Reconaissance: Like normal reconaissance except special. The main difference between normal and special recon is a question of difficulty. A normal reconaissance mission might involve scouting out a nearby enemy position in preparation for an attack but special reconaissance deals with more strategic targets like training facilities, enemy commanders, supply caches, and so on, deep in enemy territory. If you are caught, there's no guarantee you'll have anywhere to run to.
Unconventional Warfare: A small team of "advisors" infiltrates a country, usually in preparation for a full scale invasion, and meets up with guerrillas, dissidents, and other people hostile to the local government. They then use their expertise to train these people how to fight and conduct their own campaign to weaken the enemy. The reason this is called unconventional is because it is the opposite of conventional, military vs. military engagements. The objective is not to wipe out enemy forces but to go after the enemy's will to fight and win. The flipside of this is called Foreign Internal Defense, where the same advisors will train local military and police forces to fight against guerrillas and insurgents.
Counterterrorism: A wide variety of operations that are meant to prevent, deter, preempt, and respond to terrorism. This can range from intelligence operations against known terrorist cells, to attacks against their sources of funding, hostage rescue, and actions taken to undermine the ideology or motivation that creates new terrorists. Because of the secrecy involved and the need to do things that might be considered unethical, counterterrorism is sometimes called the "Black Arts" or the "Dark Side".
Counterproliferation: A mission that often goes hand-in-hand with counterterrorism, counterproliferation is actions taken to stop highly dangerous and valuable weapons, usually weapons of mass destruction, from spreading to countries that might be tempted to use them. This includes stopping the development of advanced weapon systems and technologies that could be used to develop advanced weapon systems. The stereotypical counterproliferation operation is a Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) conducted on a ship on the high seas that is suspected of carrying such weapons or contraband.
Information Operations: A behind-the-scenes type of job that deals with influencing the enemy's ability to make decisions, usually by attacking and defending information and information systems. Again, this encompasses a number of different disciplines — electronic warfare, which the average person might know as radar or communication jamming, computer network operations (a fancy term for computer hacking), military deception, operational security (OPSEC, a vital component of any discussion about special operations), and psychological operations (PSYOPs). Psychological operations may conjure up images of brainwashing on a massive scale, but is actually what we, in a different context, would call propaganda. A good example comes from the invasion of Iraq in 2003 where coalition forces dropped thousands of leaflets that promised safe passage for anyone who surrendered to them, in order to encourage the Iraqi Army to desert.
Civil Affairs: Although not something that is normally thought of as a job for special operations units, Civil Affairs units have an important role to play in modern warfare because so much of it revolves around moving among people. Their job usually comes after the fighting is done where they assist and, in some cases, substitute for important institutions like local government and administration that may have been wiped out by the fighting. They also work to minimize the impact of fighting on civilians, meaning that they have to be good at developing a rapport with the local population and a useful tool in Unconventional Warfare operations. They also do a great deal of aid work and relief operations during peacetime.
Then there are terms like "black operations", "clandestine operations", and "covert operations" that get used interchangeably with special operations but actually have very precise meanings. They overlap sometimes but there are subtle differences between the terms. Black operations are not only denied by the government that orders them, they go to great lengths to hide the fact that they were even involved, because these operations might be illegal under international law, incredibly embarrassing if found out, or for whatever other reason. Clandestine operations are secret too, but the emphasis is on hiding the fact that the operation took place rather than the agency that did it. Covert operations also put the emphasis on hiding who actually carried out the operation, but they generally don't involve kidnapping, assassination, and general dirty business. Special operations are missions that do not fall under the purview of normal military units and, unlike the previous terms, generally don't describe actions taken by non-military organizations. If we're talking about black ops, it is more likely that an intelligence agency was involved.
The Five Truths of Special Operations Forces
Humans are more important than Hardware.explanation The power of SOF comes not from their super elite, high tech gear but the training and experience of the people operating it.
Quality is more important than Quantity. explanation Any SOF selection process must have exacting standards. The purpose of a selection course is not to "weed out" candidates but to ensure that they meet a standard. Lowering the standard is unacceptable.
Special Operations Forces cannot be mass produced. explanation Even if military or civilian leadership call for an expansion of SOF, it is impossible to do overnight without lowering standards. Selecting and training new soldiers takes time and patience.
Competent Special Operations Forces cannot be created after emergencies occur. explanation SOF are created to deal with situations that require specific skills that can only be acquired over time. If a country creates a unit to deal with a problem after that problem has happened, it's already too late.
Most special operations require non-SOF assistance. explanation No special operations unit is an army on its own. They will always need help from regular forces. Accordingly, soldiers in special operations units should resist the temptation to see themselves as "better" than other units or hold them in contempt. SOF should maintain a good working relationship with conventional units.
Badass Confidential: the Special Operations Community
After a series of infamous high profile terrorist attacks during the Cold War, countries around the world began to recognize the importance of having compact, highly capable police or military units that could deal with high-risk situations that required immediate attention. As a result, special operations are not limited to those countries that have big, healthy defense budgets.
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The United States of America
United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM)
The United States Special Operations Command was established by Nunn-Cohen Act of 1987, and placed under the command of General James J. Lindsay. Operation Eagle Claw, a botched attempt to rescue US diplomatic personnel held in Iran after the Iranian Revolution, had cruelly exposed the unworkability of the current arrangement. Military reform because a prime issue in Congress, and over opposition from the Pentagon, USSOCOM was created, replacing the United States Readiness Command (USREDCOM), which had found itself without a real role. It has since gone from strength to strength. On a related note, many US Special Operators like to wear full (and very non-regulation) beards in the field, apparently because, being special operators, they can. Of course, a beard is often handy when dealing with Afghan tribesmen.
Each branch of the US Armed Forces (excluding the Coast Guard) has its own special operations command. These are subordinate to USSOCOM, which commands and coordinates the activities of the subordinate branches. They are described below:
USSOCOM Subordinate Commands
United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC)
Name: 75th Ranger Regiment
Nickname(s): Army Rangers, Airborne Rangers
Role: Direct Action, Special Reconaissance (Regimental Reconaissance Company only)
Motto: Sua Sponte ("Of Their Own Accord") or "Rangers Lead The Way!"
Headquarters: Fort Benning, Georgia
The Rangers in their current form were created during World War II along the lines of Britain's Commandos, a raiding unit that could strike behind enemy lines by land or air and cause heavy damage. They were deactivated and reactivated several times over the years and eventually coalesced into their current form, which serves as both a special operations unit and a "professional development" unit; through their super-high standards, they serve as an example for all other units in the US Army and, in theory, raise the standards of the Army as a whole. During the invasion of Grenada, the entire regiment parachuted in to secure Port Salinas Airport and other important targets. Entry to the Regiment is only achieved through the Ranger Asssessment and Selection Program (RASP). Once, they wore a black beret, however, since the entire US Army was issued with black berets, the Rangers switched to tan to preserve their otherness. Now, how do you make a Ranger even more badass? Make him a member of the Regimental Reconaissance Company, a Tier One element within the ordinarily Tier Two unit that focuses exclusively on deep recon and other spooky missions.
Name: Army Special Forces
Nickname(s): Green Berets, Quiet Professionals, Snake-Eaters, Soldier-Diplomats, Bearded Bastards
Role: Unconventional Warfare
Motto: De Oppresso Liber ("To Liberate the Oppressed")
Headquarters: Fort Bragg, North Carolina
The "Green Berets" were inspired by another organization during World War II: the OSS, which would sneak around in enemy territory conducting sabotage and intelligence gathering operations, and working closely with members of the French Resistance. Their time truly came during the Cold War when the Soviet Union began sponsoring communist uprisings in other countries, most notably Vietnam where they reached the height of their fame, both as military advisors and as members of MACV-SOG, the codename for covert operations in Laos and Cambodia. Their popularity within the Army has risen and fallen over the years; at one point joining SF was considered career suicide for a soldier. Eventually they became their own branch within the Army, on par with the Infantry, Tanks, Medical, and others. Special Forces teams operate all over the world, with each Group working to become experts in one region. Their most well-known successes have been in South America and the initial fighting in Afghanistan. Special Forces are organized into Operational Detachment Alphas or "A-Teams" consisting of a wide range of technical specialists, including Weapons, Engineering, Communications, Medical, and Intelligence. Each of them has attended and passed Special Forces Asssessment and Selection, and completed the year-long (or more) Q Course to earn their green beret. Never call them that, though — a green beret is a hat, not a man.
Name: 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR)
Nickname: Night Stalkers
Role: Helicopter Aviation Support
Motto: "Night Stalkers Don't Quit!" or "Death Waits In The Dark".
Headquarters: Fort Campbell, Kentucky
The 160th SOAR provides air support to US special operations forces. Nicknamed the "Night Stalkers", the regiment operates a variety of helicopters in the roles of air support, air assault, and insertion and extraction. They are considered the US Military's premier operators of rotary-wing aircraft and specialists in night-flying operations. It is comprised of the US Army's best aviators and support soldiers, all of whom have passed a somewhat obscure selection course known as Green Platoon. It lost two of its helicopters, Super Six-One and Super Six-Four, and several aircrew during the Battle of Mogadishu during Operation Gothic Serpent, immortalized in the film Black Hawk Down. The Night Stalkers provided insertion and extraction for Seal Team 6 (see below) during Operation Neptune Spear.
MH60M Black Hawk - upgraded special operations variant of the US Army's trusty utility helicopter. The MH60M features a glass cockpit, upgraded engines, in flight refuelling system, and the ability to mount a variety of weapon and other systems.
MH47G Chinook - upgraded special operations variant of the US Army's trusty heavy lift helicopter. The MH47G has an in-flight refuelling system, upgraded avionics and engines, and a more advanced systems package.
MH/AH6M Little Bird - A modified version of the Hughes OH-7 Cayeuse light observation helicopter. In essence, a light, maneuverable little chopper with some miniguns and rocket launchers bolted on. Used to devastating effect during Gothic Serpent.
??? - At least one stealthy version of the UH60 Black Hawk. The aircraft has never been photographed, publicly acknowledged, or disclosed. Its cost, capabilities, armament (if any), and operational history are unknown. The existence of this variant became public only after one of them crashed during the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad. The aircraft was destroyed by the retreating SEALs and only the tail section◊ remained.
Name: 4th Military Information Support Group
Role: Psychological Operations
Motto: Verbum Vincet ("The Word Will Conquer")
Headquarters: Fort Bragg, North Carolina
The 4th MISG is considered a special forces united by virtue of its unusual mission, however, their operational role is a world away from kicking down doors and shooting bad guys. Rather, the MISG conducts psychological operations, namely, the use of persuasion, propaganda, and threats to influence enemy behaviour. This generally entails drawing and distributing posters, leaflets, and media.
Name: 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne)
Role: Civil Affairs
Motto: "Advise. Support. Stabilize."
Headquarters: Fort Bragg, North Carolina
The 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne)'s role is to work with civilians in areas affected by US military presence. Their role is to lessen the impact of war on day-to-day civilian life in their areas of control, and to liase with the local civilians and military commanders. They also locate civilian resources to support military operations, help minimize civilian interference with operations, support national assistance activities, plan and execute noncombatant evacuation, support counter-drug operations and establish and maintain liaison with civilian aid agencies and other nongovernmental organizations. Due to their wide skill set, they have sometimes been called upon to assist other special operations forces where the mission calls for liason with the local population.
The SBSO(A) maintains the vast array of specialized equipment and weaponry used by special operations units. Their role is to allow USASCOM to "shoot, move, and communicate" at all times. Because of the nature of special forces equipment, each soldier will be trained to operate a far larger array of equipment than his regular counterparts, and security clearances are required. The brigade has developed signals and logistical packages deployable at a moments notice. These units are generally airborne qualified.
Nickname(s): Frogmen, The Teams, The Green Faces, Team Guys
Role: Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance
Motto: "The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday"
Headquarters: Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California, and Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Virginia
Back during World War II (are you seeing a pattern here?), the OSS adopted an invention that allowed people to breathe underwater. People equipped with these aqualungs became the first frogmen and swam down beaches, mapping them out in preparation for amphibious landings. The concept was further expanded in Vietnam with the Navy's Underwater Demolition Teams, the precursors of the SEALs. Eventually all these skills and several others were collected into the discipline of Combat Swimming, which is now taught at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S), the SEAL selection program. Question: How can you tell if someone is a SEAL? Answer: He'll tell you himself. They have acquired a reputation, deserved or not, for being the most talkative of special operations units and have the largest media presence, encompassing books, movies, video games, and even musicnote Greenface by Iced Earth, in case you were wondering. The SEALs also include Delivery Vehicle Teams who operate the mini-submersibles used by the SEALs to infiltrate enemy territory.
Name: Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman (pronounced "swick")
Nickname: Boat Guys
Role: SEAL Support and Extraction
Motto: "On Time! On Target! Never Quit!"
Headquarters: Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California
SWCC Teams operate the US Navy's smallest watercraft in support of special operations. They have their roots in the PT Boat squadrons of World War II and later in the riverine squadrons of the Vietnam War. SWCC Teams infiltrate enemy-held coastline and either deploy or extract SEALs or destroy enemy targets. The small boats operated by the SWCC teams are some of the fastest in the US Navy and, pound-for-pound, some of the most heavily armed. Due to their relatively low profile (despite some heroic engagements with FARC guerillas in Columbia, including one epic 3-day battle in 1996) and secrecy, they are sometimes referred to as "the US Navy's best kept secret". There again, they have recently seen some recognition, such as a scene-stealingrole in Act of Valor. One of their coolest capabilities is the ability to deploy their boats and themselves via HALO jump, as well as a party-trick (but a damn useful one - one assumes) of being able to fast rope from a helicopter into an underslung boat in flight
Mark V(I) Special Operations Craft (SOC): The Mark V SOC was SWCC's primary ocean-going craft. Deployed from a larger vessel, the craft had some...problems. Namely, it was so fast that it generated up to 20Gs of force when operating in rough seas, causing many injuries to its users. The Mark V(I) is an upgraded version aimed at remedying this. They are equipped with six mounting stations for M2 50.cal machine guns, M240 or M60 light machine guns, Mk 19 40mm grenade launchers, GAU-17 miniguns, Stinger MANPADS, Mk 95 Twin 50.cal machine guns, Mk 38 chain guns and Mk48 25mm guns. They are also a little bit stealthy.
11 Metre Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat: The 11M RHIB is the smallest craft used by SWCC. It is designed to be fast and reasonably stable in coastal waters. It is also very bouyant, and, as is par for the course with SWCC, well-armed.
Special Operations Craft (Riverine) (SOC-R): Used for a variety of roles in brown-water operations. Heavily armed, and featured in Act of Valor. The SOC-R is designed to fit aboard C-130 or larger military aircraft. Each craft is manned by a crew of four Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) crew-members and can carry eight personnel. It can be deployed from the air via parachute, and can carry a wide variety of nasty weaponry. A true multi-role vehicle, it can also be used for reconaisance, as a staging post, a search and rescue (SAR) craft or a waterborne interdictor.
Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC)
Name: Air Force Pararescue
Nickname(s): PJs, Maroon Berets, Rescue Rangers
'Role: Combat Search and Rescue
Motto: "That Others May Live"
Even special forces and fighter pilots have to call 911. When they do, Pararescue are the ones that respond. The need for the Pararescuemen, or PJs (Para Jumpers), was first identified in loose terms in 1922, but it was in World War II that they came into their own in the criminally little-known Central Asian theatre, initially trained by US Forestry Commission smokejumpers. Whilst combat search and rescue in the European theater was essentially impossible due to tight German control (not to mention La Résistance were better at sheltering airmen anyway), the Allied efforts to supply the Chinese against the Japanese from India necessitated flying over the loosely controlled Himalayas and Burma (a route known as "the Hump"). The first PJs were the men who rescued the many downed aircrew who undertook this risky mission over the Roof of the World, fighting off the Japanese, tribes of head hunters, and the bitter cold to complete their mission. With the invention of the helicopter and the Vietnam War, the PJs became even more vital - with their "Jolly Green Giant" rescue helicopters, the PJs rescued hundreds of downed airmen, earning ten of the USAF's nineteen air force crosses. Once upon a time, they were seen as an "easy" route into the special operations community, earning them the pejorative nickname of "shake-n-bake commandos". Now, they are considered one of the toughest units in the entire US military, and have the highest washout rate of any American SOF unit, roughly 90%. Each PJ is not only a capable parachutist, but a medic and an infantryman too.
Name: Air Force Combat Control
Nickname: CCT, Scarlet Berets
Role: Air Traffic Control in denied areas
Motto: "First There."
USAF CCT are both trained combat soldiers and FAA-certified air traffic controllers. Their job is to control and coordinate air assets in combat zones and in support of special operations. They frequently deploy with US Navy SEALs and Delta in order to provide air support, communications, command and control, and obstacle destruction. Since the beginning of the War on Terror, the CCT have earned three Air Force crosses. They play a vital role in disaster relief too - during the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, Combat Controllers promptly established a working control system, successfully landing four million pounds of supplies. The leader of that particular operation, Chief Master Sergeant Tony Travis, was later named one of TIME magazines 100 most influential people of 2010. Some 85% of the air strikes of Operation Enduring Freedom were called in by Combat Controllers. One Combat Controller, Technical Sergeant Robert Epps, deployed to Mission City, Egypt, and Chicago in support of Optimus Prime and his Autobots in Transformers.
Name: Special Operations Weather Technicians (SOWT)
Nickname: Grey Berets
Motto: "Eyes Forward."
Even in the modern age, the weather can play a decisive role in air combat. Where the USAF needs up-to-date and precise intelligence on weather conditions on the ground, it deploys SOWT teams. These men infiltrate enemy territory and report on conditions on the ground there. During the Vietnam War, they established a network of clandestine weather stations in South East Asia, including deploying into the Ho Chi Minh trail in order to observe conditions. They make extensive use of parachutes and UAVs in carrying out their mission.
The new kids on the special operations block. Back when Special Operations Command was created, the Marine Corps was invited to contribute a unit but they refused because there are no "special" Marines. In simple English, they didn't want to create a unit of elite Marines because the Marine Corps itself was an elite unit. The problem was that they missed out on a lot of important missions, so the Corps created the MSOR out of the direct action elements of the Force Reconnaissance companies and the Marine Special Operations Advisor Group in 2006 to remedy the situation. Their first outing was a disaster that resulted in them being told to get out of Afghanistan, but they have since returned with a vengeance, forming hunter killer motorbike squads to flush out Taliban hiding in the hills. As the new kids, there is also a lot of confusion as to what they actually do that other special operations units don't, but time will tell.
There are four Recon battalions, one for each of the 4 Marine divisions, that handle various recon duties in support of the conventional forces, hence the name Division Recon. Although they are not under the command of MARSOC, their reputation within the US military is such that they are considered special operations units in all but name. The community has suffered somewhat at the hands of the chain of command and the Corps' claim that there are no elite Marines; the prime example was during the Invasion of Iraq where they were used as mechanized infantry and later, conventional infantry that held ground.
Though they were deactivated for a time and cannibalized to form the MSOR, Force Recon was stood up once again in order to provide a deep reconnaissance capability to the Marine Corps. Their name comes from the fact that they typically gather information that is of strategic, rather than tactical, value for the Marine Air-Ground Task Force as a whole as opposed to Division Recon which serves the needs of individual Marine Divisions. They also practice many methods of covert insertion that aren't necessary in the traditional Recon battalions, like scuba and freefall parachuting.
Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)
Officially, JSOC is a "joint headquarters designed to study special operations requirements and techniques; ensure interoperability and equipment standardization; plan and conduct joint special operations exercises and training; and develop joint special operations tactics." This may even be true. However, there is a lot more to their operations than that. JSOC commands and controls the special mission units of USSOCOM. Since 9/11, their primary mission is to search for and destroy terror cells worldwide. They answer directly to the President, and their budget, which is almost certainly in the billions, is classified. JSOC also operates across borders in operations that officially do not exist. A shadowy bunch, they are also the creme de la creme of the US special operations community, and indeed, some of the deadliest special forces in the world. The conduct extensive work with the Central Intelligence Agency, and are known to have conducted operations in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran (including kidnapping Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers) in support of the War on Terror.
Name: 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment - Delta
Nickname(s): Delta Force, Deltas, D-boys, The Unit
Motto: None (that we know of).
Headquarters: Fort Bragg, North Carolina
One of the Army's "Tier One" special mission units and certainly the most famous. The idea for Delta Force was conceived by a young Special Forces Captain named Charlie Beckwith after he served an exchange tour with the SAS and came to believe that America was vulnerable in not having a unit with similar capabilities. He lobbied hard and called in every favor he could, and eventually Delta Force was born. They are reputed to take a highly scientific approach to developing tactics and techniques, combined with highly creative mission planning, though their record is marred by the disaster known as Operation Eagle Claw and a lot of friction with the regular Army. One commander called them the least friendly people he had ever metnote CPT "Chester Wong" in Yellow Green Beret. Generally speaking, you don't find them. They find you. They have been heavily involved in almost every United States military operation since their formation. Two members, snipers Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart, recieved the Medal of Honor after a Heroic Sacrifice during the Battle of Mogadishu, in which the two men accounted for 25 hostiles between them. Though not deployed to kill Osama bin Laden (something they are rather displeased about), they do have a fair few famous scalps: They captured Saddam Hussein and killed his sons during Operation Iraqi Freedom. They may have killed the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar, and they captured Manuel Noriega during Operation Nifty Package. To disguise their existence, the Unit's official name on the Army's inventory has changed several times and they have been referred to as the Combat Applications Group (CAG) and Army Compartmented Elements (ACE).
Name: None, formerly the United States Army Intelligence Support Activity (USAISA)
Nickname: The Activity, Virginia Boys
Known Codenames: OPTIMIZE TALENT, GRANTOR SHADOW, CEMETERY WIND, CENTRA SPIKE, GRAY FOX, and TORN VICTOR
Role: Special Reconnaissance, Information Operations
Motto: Veritas Omnia Vincula Vincit ("Truth Overcomes All Bounds") or "Send Me".
They are the most secret of all US Special Operations units. They were formed in the wake of Operation Eagle Claw in order to prepare for a second attempt (Operation Credible Support, which never was carried out). The majority of them are recruited from the US Army Special Forces (unlike Delta, Rangers do not also make up a significant portion of the USAISA's recruits). They are so secret, in fact, that they do not have a name, merely a codename which constantly changes. Interestingly, the initial founders of the unit, back when it was still USAISA, were of Scottish descent, which is why the unit's badge features an American eagle gripping a claymore surrounded by a kilt belt in the style of Scottish clan badges. They have been heavily involved in the War on Terror, including hunt for Bin Laden. Before that, they assisted Italian police forces during the Dozier Affair and intercepted Nicaraguan Army communications during the Contra war.
Name: Naval Special Warfare Tactical Development Squadron (TACDEVRON)
Nickname: SEAL Team Six, Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), Jedi
Role: Maritime Counter-terrorism
Motto: "The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday"
Headquarters: Dam Neck Annex, Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia
After the debacle of Operation Eagle Claw, the Navy was ordered to contribute men to the newly formed Joint Special Operations Command (not to be confused with Special Operations Command). Charlie Beckwith agreed that having a water-based component attached to Delta might not be such a bad idea. Unfortunately for him, the commander of this "support unit" was Dick Marcinko, who took this tiny element and turned it into a competitive alternative to Delta Forcenote "So long as we carried water in our canteens, we'd be in a maritime environment, or close enough for me" — Dick Marcinko, the shadowy SEAL Team 6. Throughout its history, DEVGRU has attracted a reputation for out-of-the-box thinking that stands in sharp contrast to Delta and sometimes works to its disadvantage as commanders in Afghanistan were still unwilling to trust the "cowboy outfit" even after so many decades. Nevertheless, they did get Osama bin Laden.
Name: 24th Special Tactics Squadron
Nickname: Brand X
Role: Combat Search and Rescue, Air Traffic Control, and other functions in support of Special Mission Units
Motto: "First There...That Others May Live."note This is the motto of Air Force Special Tactics in general.
Headquarters: Pope Field, North Carolina
Special Tactics is the umbrella name that the Air Force gives to its special operations units and the most secretive among these is the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, which provides Pararescuemen, Combat Controllers, and other specialists to support Delta and other JSOC units. They can trace their roots back to the early days of Delta when an Air Force colonel, John Carney, came up with a proposal for a unit that would provide air traffic control on difficult terrain to prevent another disaster like Eagle Claw from ever happening again. No one thought the ad-hoc group of volunteers, known only as Brand X, would succeed but the results were enough to impress Charlie Beckwith and created a working relationship between the two units that continues to this day. The 24th has participated in many of history's famous operations, albeit in a less visible fashion than their direct action brethren, and they have been right beside other special operations forces at the forefront of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
Motto: "And Ye Shall Know The Truth, And The Truth Shall Set Ye Free"
Headquarters: Langley, Virginia
Whenever the CIA needs to conduct paramilitary operations, and, usually, when they need to pretend someone else did it, they deploy the Special Operations Group (part of the Special Activities Division), the de-facto successor to the OSS. Aside from the former ISA, they are America's most secretive special operations unit, and perhaps the most capable. Their missions go beyond special operations and straight into covert, clandestine, black, white, blue, and tie-dye ops (Do you even know what a tie-dye op is? Exactly). The SOG is responsible for a number of innovations in special operations, including HALO/HAHO jumps and the Fulton surface-to-air-recovery system (STARS). The STARS was successfully deployed in Operation COLDFEET, when two CIA SAD operatives broke into and looted an abandoned Soviet ice station in the Arctic, during Operation THUNDERBALL, when James Bondescaped from SPECTRE using the system, note Something many audiences found implausible, and most recently in Hong Kong by a masked vigilante who abducted a prominent local businessman. Highly-trained and often multilingual, details of many of their missions are classified, though they were instrumental in the raid on Bin Laden's compound (SOG officers already in the area cut the power to Bin Laden's compound - and they got clean away afterwards), and vital in the capture of Ilyich Ramirez Sanchez (A.K.A Carlos the Jackal) along with the French, as well as the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Maoist terrorist Abimael Guzman, mastermind of the USS Cole bombing Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and Afghan insurgent leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. One program, since terminated by Leon Panetta, was the targeted abduction or/and killing of Al-Qaeda operatives worldwide. They also operate the CIA's controversial drone program. Basically, they are everywhere. They could even be behind you as you read this! Spooky, eh?
Nickname(s): THEM, 22, 21, 23, Artists' Rifles (21 SAS only), The Regiment, Desmonds, Flat Heads, Blades, Hereford
Role: Direct Action, Special Reconaissance, Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defence, Counterterrorism
Motto: "Who Dares Wins"
Headquarters: Formerly Stirling Lines, Herefordshire, now RHQ Credenhill, Herefordshire
The original men in black. The Regiment. Actually, the SAS is composed of one regular regiment, the 22 SAS Regiment, and two Territorial Army regiments, the 23 SAS Regiment and 21 SAS Regiment. Although they have been around since World War II, they only exploded into the public consciousness in 1980 when they successfully ended the hostage situation at the Iranian Embassy in London. The SAS serves as the model for many different special operations units, including Delta Force and the SAS regiments of other Commonwealth countries. They have a significant media presence in the UK, mainly through writers like Andy McNab (leading to their other nickname, the Special Authors' Service), and the Brits tend to be fiercely proud of them, especially on the internet. Don't ask them about the boathouse at Hereford; they've probably already heard it a thousand times. Also, their base isn't really at Hereford anymore. Sported distinctive moustaches◊ after the Iranian embassy siege. A piece of clothing, the Smock Windproof DPM, originally designed for the SAS, is considered the bit of kit to have in the British Army. It does look pretty cool◊.
Role: Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance, Maritime Counterterrorism
Motto: "By Strength and Guile"
Headquarters: Royal Marines Base Poole, Dorset
The maritime counterpart to the SAS, though the SBS has been forced to take on a much more land-based role in Afghanistan, much like the US Navy SEAL teams. Their recruits come primarily from the Royal Marines, itself a tough outfit to get into, and they go through more or less the same selection as their airborne counterparts. The genesis of the idea for the SBS came during World War II through the use of specialized canoes that were used to attack German ships stationed in the English Channel. To this day, the official designation for members of the SBS is "Swimmer-Canoeist". The SBS has been more successful, generally, at avoiding the limelight than other special operations units from major military powers; their only major operation reported in recent history is a botched hostage rescue in Nigeria.
Name: Special Reconnaissance Regiment
Nickname(s): The Det
Role: Special Reconnaissance, Information Operations
Headquarters: RHQ Credenhill, Herefordshire
Very, very secretive. Unlike the SAS or even the less well-known SBS they have almost no public profile and almost all of their actions are very heavily classified. Another part of the reason for their low profile is that their job is simply to gather intelligence rather than engage in strike operations, which isn't as glamorous. However, some "facts" are known about them. They absorbed the 14th Intelligence Detachment, formerly known to have been active in Northern Ireland. They are believed by some to have been involved in the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, and they have been deployed to Northern Ireland in order to keep watch on dissident Republican groups. In addition, they are heavily involved in the War on Terror, deploying in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are also the only UKSF outfit to involve women in operational roles.
Name: Special Forces Support Group
Nickname(s): Paras, Maroon Machine, Sporting First (1 PARA), Booties, The Green Death, Green Berets (Royal Marines), Rockapes, Amazing Wanking Monkeys (RAF Regiment)
Role: Special operations support
Motto: Utrinque Paratus ("Ready for Anything" - 1 PARA), Per Mare Per Terram ("By Sea, By Land" - Royal Marines), Per Ardua ("Through Adversity" - RAF Regt)
These guys aren't technically special forces themselves but they fall under the command umbrella of UKSF and receive a lot of the same training and equipment as the SAS and SBS. Anytime special forces go on a mission there are inevitably tasks that need doing that they simply don't have the manpower or resources to take care of entirely in-house. These things include fire-support, distraction teams (launching an attack or recce on another location to draw attention away from the SF's target), cordon forces, rear security etc. The SFSG fills these roles instead and are trained specifically for them, rather than using conventional military units which might not be aware of how SF operate. The SFSG is largely manned by members of the First Battaltion the Parachute Regiment (1 PARA), the RAF Regiment, and Royal Marines.
Name: 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment
Nickname(s): Scaleybacks, Scaleys (in common with all other RCS outfits. See also - SAS)
Role: Communications, electronic warfare, command and control
Motto: Certa Cito ("Sure and Swift")
Headquarters: RHQ Credenhill, Herefordshire
18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment provides signals intelligence, electronic intelligence, and maintains communications and their security during UKSF missions. Its members are drawn from both the Royal Corps of Signals and the Royal Marines, and they must be fully qualified to accompany the SAS on any mission they undertake. Despite this, they run their own selection course, and report to the Director of Special Forces...and that's about all we know about them.
Name: Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing
Role: Aviation support
Headquarters: RHQ Credenhill, RAF Brize Norton
The JSFAW is a joint Army Air Corps and RAF operation aimed at providing aviation support to the UKSF in the field. It operates both fixed and rotary wing aircraft, and was created in early 2001.
Westland Lynx: The world's fastest helicopter and a mainstay of British rotary wing operations since 1978, the Lynxes of JSFAW may be upgraded with special operations features.
Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin: Painted in civilian colors for extra sneakiness.
AgustaWestland AW109: Several were captured from the Argentinian Army after the Falklands War. The SAS liked them and continue to operate them.
Boeing Chinook: Trusty twin-engined heavy lift helicopter. A secret UK variant is believed to be the main one used by the JSFAW.
C-130 Hercules: Heavily modified and used for covert insertion.
Commandement des Opérations Spéciales (COS) - Special Operations Command
Organized in the same style as USSOCOM, COS was established in 1992 following the Gulf War. French Special Forces are permanently under its command and ready for action. It reports directly to the President of France and is commanded by a one-star general. COS has operated in Afghanistan, Mali, Chad, French Guiana and beyond in support of the War on Terror, though it was notably absent from the Iraq War due to France's opposition to that fight. Despite France's wholly undeserved reputation, COS is regarded as one of the toughest units in modern SF, and is not to be fucked with under any circumstances. Like USSOCOM, it has subordinate commands:
COS Subordinate Commands
Brigade des Forces Spéciales Terre (BFST) - Special Ground Forces Brigade | French Army
Nickname(s): 1er RPIMa, bérets rouges (Red Berets), les Rapas, le Régiment
Role: Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance, Counter-Terrorism, Close Protection, Amphibious Assault, Air Assault, Sniping
Motto: Qui ose gagne ("Who Dares Wins")
Headquarters: Bayonne, Aquitaine
The French Army first began deploying men to fight on ships (a nasty surprise for any rosbifs who managed to board) them in 1762, and it is from this proud tradition that the "Marine" part of the 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment comes from. The "Infantry Parachute" part comes from the Free French who served with the British SAS during WWII. In 1940, Charles De Gaulle established the 1st Free French Airborne Infantry Company, which had such a good relationship with Major Stirling's incipient SAS that it became the French Brigade. Between 1941 and 1943, they parachuted into occupied France and raised merry hell with the German occupation, liasing with La Résistance and generally being a thorn in the side of the Jerries. The ethos of the regiment is formed around learning skills. It is organized into four RAPAS (Airborne Reconnaissance and Special Action) companies. Each RAPAS qualified member is trained in air insertion, amphibious operations, motorized operations, counter-terrorism, close protection and theatre-specific skills. Each RAPAS company further specializes - 1st Company does airborne operations, combat diving, urban warfare, counter-terrorism and close protection, 2nd Company does jungle, desert, arctic, and mountain warfare, 3rd Company does motorized operations, and 4th Company does recon, acquisition, and training. In addition, the unit fields Special Recce Patrols who infiltrate ahead of the main force and provide intel.
Name: 13e Régiment de Dragons Parachutistes - 13th Dragoon Parachute Regiment
Nickname(s): 13e RDP, dragons de Condé
Role: Airborne infiltration, special reconnaissance, strategic reconnaissance
Motto: Au-delà du possible ("Beyond what is possible")
Headquarters: Martignas-sur-Jalle, Aquitaine
The 13th Dragoon Parachute Infantry Regiment has a long history. It traces its origins back to a regiment of dragoons raised in Languedoc by the Marquis de Barbezières in 1676. It served as the dragons de Condé, and has battle honors from Valmy, Jena, Hohenlinden, Austerlitz, Moscow, Ypres, Verdun, and Algeria. Currently, it provides special reconnaissance - its mission is to infiltrate enemy territory and provide human intelligence. It operates in a variety of environments - from arctic to urban. Intel from the 13th RDP was vital in the Kosovo and Gulf Wars, and their recon contributed to the capture of Serbian war criminal Momčilo Krajišnik in Pale, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 2000. Its operators are highly sought after by the DGSE, France's intelligence service.
Name: 4e Régiment d'Hélicoptères des Forces Spéciales - 4th Special Forces Helicopter Regiment
Nickname: 4e RHFS
Role: Aviation support
Headquarters: Pau, Aquitaine
The 4th Special Forces Helicopter Regiment is the French answer to the 160th SOAR and the British JSFAW. It's mission is to be transport, support, and extract French special forces anywhere in the world, and to be able to destroy targets itself if need be. Its main role, however, is support. It is comprised of the French Army's finest aviators. During the Kosovo war it extracted a British SAS squad and a downed Harrier pilot in the teeth of enemy fire.
Eurocopter AS532 Cougar: Widely used medium utility helicopter. Twin-engined, notable for a gutsy range and cargo capacity. Reasonably fast too.
Aérospatiale SA330 Puma: The predecessor to the Cougar. It is unknown why the 4e RHFS continues to operate it, though it has been speculated that their versions are heavily upgraded, and that 4e RHFS may prefer its durability and size.
Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma: Like the Puma, but better. It can be assumed these are phasing out the old Pumas in 4e RHFS service.
Aérospatiale Gazelle: A very light helicopter, used where speed and agility are of the essence. During Desert Storm, French Gazelles were very useful as gunships, and have been used recently in Mali, the Ivory Coast, and Libya. A capable light transport and gun platform.
Eurocopter Tigre: The Tigre ("Tiger") is Europe's most modern attack helicopter, and is in service with the armies of Germany, France, Spain, and Australia. It is a highly capable helicopter gunship and incorporates limited stealth characteristics. They have been proven in combat in Libya, Afghanistan, and Mali. It is unknown how 4e RHFS have upgraded their Tigres, if they have at all.
Force maritime des fusiliers marins et commandos (FORFUSCO) - Naval Infantry and Naval Commandos Force | French Navy
Name: Commandos Marines - Naval Commandos
Nickname: bérets verts (Green Berets)
Role: Naval infantry, combat swimmers, amphibious assault, close quarters battle at sea, anti-piracy
Motto: Varies between units. General French Navy one is: Honneur. Patrie. Valeur. Discipline ("Honor. Fatherland. Valor. Discipline.")
Headquarters: An Oriant, Brittany and Saint-Mandrier-sur-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
The Naval Commandos are the special forces of the Marine Nationale. Their manpower is drawn from the Fusilier Marins (Naval Infantry) of the French Navy, who guard key naval installations. They were formed during WWII, modeled on the British commandos, and took part in several key operations of the European theatre, landing with the Allies at Sword Beach and assisting in the capture of Antwerp. The Commandos are divided into six commandos (a small unit), each with a name honoring a different Naval Commandos officer and hero. Each commando specializes in a different role. Hubert Commando are covert divers, Jaubert Commando deals with boarding and interdict, Trepel Commando assault at sea and exfiltration, de Pentenfenyo Commando do reconnaissance and intelligence operations, de Montfort Commando with fire support, and Kieffer Commando with command, control, communications, and intelligence (and military dogs).
Headquarters: Airbase 123 Orleans-Bircy, Region Centre
CPA 10 was first formed when France sent operatives to the Soviet Union to observe Soviet paratroop techniques. In 1935, the French Air Minister, General Denain, ordered that a parachute school be formed in Avignon. During the French colonial campaign in Algeria, it became clear that there was a need for a dedicated force to coordinate airstrikes with ground troops, and so CPA 10 was born at Reghaïa. Either on foot or inserting via helicopter, they proved themselves vital. It's main aim is to facilitate the use of air power in depth. Its members are capable combat controllers and military parachutists. The French Air Force also fields a Special Operations Division who operate various aircraft in support of CPA 10
Armée de Terre - Ground Army
Name: Légion étrangère (L.E) - French Foreign Legion
Nickname(s): La Légion, Leatherbellies, Tonkin Regiment, Genie Legion, the White Képis, Devils from Hell
Role: Shock troops, combat engineers
Motto: Honneur et Fidélité (Honour and Fidelity - Official), "Marche ou crève" (March or Die - Unofficial)
Headquarters: Aubagne, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
While typically thought of as a place where people go to disappear, la Légion serves a different and much more convenient purpose as a unit of expendable foreigners that the French government can send to foreign lands where something needs to be done but French casualties would be unacceptable. Each recruit is told straight out that this is their purpose, hence the famous maxim that you go to the Legion to die and the Legion will send you somewhere you can die. Contrary to popular belief, criminals are no longer accepted. The Legion still maintains bases in French Guiana and Corsica, the home of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, which is as close as you can get to elite in this outfit. Whilst la Légion is not technically speaking a special operations force, its original function as an expendable force is stll upheld, and as a result it often draws some of the more dangerous missions of the French state. It is a very professional and able body of infantry, comparable to the US Rangers and British Royal Marines, and at the forefront of all modern-day French military deployments.
Gendarmerie nationale - National Gendarmerie
Name: Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie National (National Gendarmerie Intervention Group)
Role: SWAT, Counter-terrorism
Motto: Servitas Vitae' ("To Save Lives")
Headquarters: Satory, Île-de-France
Technically a military police unit, GIGN is an acronym for the Group d'Intervention de la Genderamerie Nationale or the Intervention Group of the National Gendarmes. Their most famous operation was the rescue of hostages aboard an Air France flight in 1994 with relatively few casualties, depicted in the French film, L'Assaut (The Assault).
Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure - General Directorate for External Security
Name: Division Action - Action Division
Role: Black operations, intelligence, deniable operations, psychological warfare, strategic intelligence, assassination(?), theft, abduction, sabotage, red cell
Motto: Partout où nécessité fait loi ("In Every Place Where Necessity Makes Law")
Headquarters: Noisy-le-Sec, Paris
The DGSE has a reputation, entirely deserved, for being one of the most ruthless and efficient intelligence agencies on the planet, even a planet it shares with Mossad. When it needs to conduct violent operations, it turns to its Action Division, roughly analogous to the Special Operations Groups of the CIA's SAD. Its responsibilites include carrying out black operations for the Directorate, as well as testing the security of France's most prized facilities, such as nuclear power plants. It is infamous for destroying Greenpeace's flagship Rainbow Warrier in Auckland Harbor, which killed a photographer on board, to prevent it interfering with a nuclear test. When the New Zealand authorities agreed that two of the agents in question (the only ones captured - the rest of the team escaped) fill out their sentences on a French military base, the French government promptly returned them to France. The unit recently recieved the Croix De Valeur Militaire avec Palmes for "highly sensitive recent engagements.
Motto: Facit Omnia Voluntas ("The Will Is Decisive")
Headquarters: Calw, Baden-Württemberg
The fear of a resurgence of German militarism is strong in Berlin, and for a long time the idea of special operations was resisted by the German Bundestag as it was feared that "secret" units would lead eventually to secret wars, and the civilian political leadership being cut out of the decision making process, enabling the lack of democratic oversight that allowed Adolf Hitler to bind the German Army to him and thus ravage Europe. However, by 1996, the German government finally relented and permitted the creation of the KSK, which combined the most elite units of the German Army (which were de facto SOF anyway) into a single dedicated special operations force. With the outbreak of the War On Terror five years later, the KSK has had a steep learning curve. Nevertheless, typical Teutonic efficiency has moulded them into a highly effective force, taking part in the Battle of Tora Bora in 2001. They are ordered into 6 platoons (1-5 and Command), with each specializing in a different aspect of special operations.
A regular airborne brigade of the German Army attached to the DSO, the 26 (Saarland) is part of Germany's "intervention force" - the part of the German Army that is to deploy anywhere in the world. It functions in combat as a regular, though very high-quality, air assault and paratroops brigade. It was formed in 1958 and has seen action in Kosovo and Afghanistan, not to mention the years of staring across the North German Plain at the 3rd Shock Army and their mates.
A regular airborne brigade of the German Army attached to the DSO, the 31 (Oldenburg) is part of Germany's "intervention force" - the part of the German Army that is to deploy anywhere in the world. It functions in combat as a regular, though very high-quality, air assault and paratroops brigade. It was formed in 1993.
Name: Grenzschutzgruppe 9
Role: Counter-terrorism, hostage rescue
Headquarters: Sankt Augustin-Hangelar, Nordrhein-Westfalen
As you should know, these guys were formed after the Israeli athlete hostage situation (and subsequent massacre) at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Simply put, German police were ill-equipped and poorly-trained to handle things, as the Bundeswehr was forbidden from acting on German soil in peacetime, and botched a rescue attempt so badly that all the hostages were killed. Much like France's GIGN, they're actually more of a police force than an actual military unit like most special forces — again, has to do with articles in their constitution and older events that transpired in the past. They made up for the failure of German police forces five years later, when a team deployed to Somalia managed to rescue 86 hostages being held aboard an airliner without losing a single officer or getting any of the hostages killed.
Announced by Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the Russian General Staff, in April 2013, this unit is in the process of being formed. Watch this space. In the interim, the Russian Special Operations Forces can be analyzed in terms of their service branch. It should be noted that, like the USA, Russia has a huge number of units that could possibly fit the bill. Unlike the USA, the Russians tend to give them either a bland or Non-Indicative Name, as well as classifying most of the basic data about them. Be warned: here be guesswork.
The one word of Russian that everyone knows after da, nyet, and vodka. Spetsnaz is actually a catch-all term meaning special purpose forces and refers to a number of different units that there is very little information about. When people think of the Spetsnaz, they are usually thinking of the Spetsnaz GRU which were part of the Russian Army and under the command of their intelligence division. However there are Naval Spetsnaz units as well as police units with their own distinct capabilities. At the height of their power, Spetsnaz brigades were rumored to have assassination companies attached to them who were trained exclusively in eliminating high value targets - indeed, the rumor mill went into overdrive during the eighties, with unfeasible numbers of Spetsnaz supposedly deployed throughout Europe, ready to decapitate NATO with a simple trigger word. In the modern era, however, they are associated with tragically bungled operations like the Moscow Theatre and Beslan School sieges.
Сухопутные войска Российской Федерации - Ground Forces of the Russian Federation
Role: Reconnaissance, Direct action, Assassination, Sabotage
Motto: "Greatness of Motherland in your glorious deeds" (possibly - this was the GRU motto)
Headquarters: Various - GRU headquarters are on Khoroshevskoye Shosse 76, Moscow, Russia, 123007note That's the actual address if you want to mail them - but don't do anything silly like offering to betray your own country or sending them your poo, as you never know who might come after you - though this page might give you some idea!
The very first thing you should know about these guys is to forget everything you've heard of them — it is all smoke and mirrors, and if you met someone claiming to be one of them you can laugh to the lying bastard's face. Everything about this branch is a closely guarded state secret drowned in tonnes of disinformation. Even their overall number is classified. Originally under the command of the GRU (Russian military intelligence), the military Spetsnaz were transferred to regional military control in 2008, though this is probably another deception. Unfortunately, due to their secretiveness the quality of these soldiers is difficult to ascertain, though their reputation in Soviet times was impressive, and they were one of the few branches whose funding wasn't badly cut durig the lean times in 90es. Generally, they perform the same basic functions of the special operations of other militaries - reconnaissance, target designation, direct action, search and destroy etc. They had some success in Chechnya. It is rumored that their common front is VDV Spetsnaz, they generally train with them and pose as members of VDV spec ops units.
Name: Специальные батальоны "Восток" и "Запад" - Special Battalions "East" and "West"
Role: Chechen irregulars and auxiliaries, mountain warfare
Headquarters: Eastern Chechnya (East) and Western Chechnya (West)
When the unpleasantness in Chechnya started in The Nineties after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was decided that it would be a cracking wheeze to set up Chechen units, as had existed during the old Soviet glory days. Eventually the Special Battalions "East" and "West" were scraped together. They are technically considered Spetsnaz, but their overall performance is...dubious, to say the least. Whilst "West" was commanded by Said-Magomed Kakiyev, a professional military officer and four times Hero of the Russian Federation who kept a low profile, "East" was controlled by the controversial Yamadayev clan, former Chechen rebels, and who used it to amass a personal power base in the Caucasus and intrigue against their local rivals for power. Under their control, they were accused by the the Chechen government and public, and foreign NGOs of war crimes including rape, murder, forced disappearances, kidnappings for ransom, looting, and drunkenness. Many deserted or defected to the rebels. Eventually, in 2008, the Russian Ministry of Defense got fed up and turned them into regular motor-rifle companies. The remaining Yamadayev brothers were assassinated later by their rivals, and "East" took part in the invasion of Georgia in 2008, apparently suffering heavy casualties, though not being accused of war crimes.
Воздушно-десантные войска, ВДВ - Air Landing Forces, VDV
A technically separate service branch from the Russian Ground Forces, the Russian VDV (Air Landing Forces) paratroops have their own Spetsnaz units. The Russian VDV enjoy a similar reputation to the USMC (except they are paratroopers and not marines), and their special forces are no exception.
Name: 45-й гвардейский отдельный разведывательный ордена Александра Невского полк ВДВ - 45th Guards Detached Reconnaissance Regiment of the VDV
Nickname(s): Unknown, VDV in general referred to as Blue Berets or Winged Infantry
Role: Special Reconnaissance, airborne special operations
Motto: Unknown, VDV in general has Никто, кроме нас ("Nobody, but us")
Headquarters: Kubinka, Moscow Oblast
The activities of the 45th, like all Russian special forces, are classified. However, it is known that they took part in both the First and Second Chechen Wars, and that they were highly active in the 2008 invasion of Georgia, capturing a stock of Georgia HMMWVs and participating in the Battle of Tskhinvali. As noted above, the GRU operators are rumored to often pose as VDV spetsnaz, and the grapevine has the 45th as their main front.
A notable example of the regiment's people was Lt Col Anatoly Lebed, a Handicapped BadassGenius Bruiser who despite losing his foot to anti-personnel mine in Afghanistan (after transferring to VDV from being a helicopter pilot) returned to service during Chechen wars where he almost lost an arm to mortar round's shrapnel covering his unit's retreat, designed his unit's gear and vehicles, and was generally a stone cold badass. He was also an avid biker, which, unfortunately, led to his death in a road accident in 2011.
Военно-морской Флот Российской Федерации - Military-Maritime Fleet of the Russian Federation
The Russian Navy operates four "Independent Naval Reconnaissance Spetsnaz Points", one for each Fleet (Pacific, Northern, Black Sea, Baltic). It can be presumed that they have similar capabilities and missions to Western combat diver units. They usually operate together with Marines and their bases are attached to the respective Marine units, even though they are administrativey independent.
Федеральная служба безопасности Российской Федерации (ФСБ) - Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB)
The Russian Federal Security Service is tasked with the domestic security and stability of the Motherland. To this end, it maintains several elite military organizations, all of which have operated in combat around Chechnya.
Name: Directorate "A" of the FSB Special Purpose Center
Nickname(s): Spetsgruppa "Alfa", A, Alpha Group, Group A
Headquarters: Lubyanka Square, Moscow, Moscow Oblast
A dedicated counter-terrorism unit attached to the Federal Security Service or FSB. Although they are mostly used in internal incidents, members of the Alpha Group have been seen in Chechnya and other countries where Russia has national interests. They received one of their few prominent depictions in western media with the release of Medal of Honor: Warfighter, where they are one of the playable Tier One assets in multiplayer.
Name: Directorate "B" of the FSB Special Purpose Center
Nickname(s): Vega Group, Vympel, Spetsgruppa Vympel, "V", "B", Group B
Motto: Once the KGB motto of Верность партии - Верность Родине ("Loyalty To The Party - Loyalty To The Motherland"), now unknown.
Vympel have undergone many changes over the years, especially since the fall of the USSR. They were originally conceived of as an elite unit of foreign intelligence operatives, comparable to the Action Division or CIA SOG. In The Eighties, Vympel had a reputation as the most secretive and highly trained of Russia's spetsnaz, and they quicky surpassed their GRU and MVD counterparts after their founding in 1981. However, after 1991, they fell under the aegis of the MVD - but the Russian Internal Troops had no use for a unit designed, by definition, for external operations and the Vympel had no intention of working as what they considered glorified policemen. Most men resigned. The shell that remained were eventually incorporated into the FSB as nuclear safety troops and counter terrorism, and part their function is to test the security of Russian sensitive facilities by breaking in to them. They also had a moment of prominence in Western media during the Beslan school siege. Vympel is also known to have been present at the storming of the Supreme Soviet during the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis, and it captured Chechen insurgent leader Salman Raduyev in 2000.
Служба Внешней Разведки (CBP) - Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR)
Name: "The Barrier"
Role: Classified, likely similar to the Action Division and CIA SOG
Headquarters: Yasenovo, Moscow, Moscow Oblast
They exist. This much we know. However, their role, purpose, strength, funding, etc is all unknown. However, someone has to be introducing all these exiled Russian dissidents to their untimely appointments with the Grim Reaper, and odds on its these guys (even though the Office itself vehemently denies its involvement and points that the Foreign Diverions departent was disbanded back in 50es). They are believed to have around 300 men, possibly (at least initially) the men who resigned from Vympel when it came under MVD control.
Внутренние войска Министерства внутренних дел - Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) Internal Troops has a number of elite units dedicated to preventing insurgencies and mutinies within Russia. These are known as "special purpose detachments" and are in essence equivalent to SWAT teams, though likely with greater regional training to allow them to operate in the varied theatres of Russia, which is after all the world's largest nation.
Role: Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance, Unconventional Warfare
Motto: Viam Inveniemus ("We Will Find A Way")
Headquarters: CFB Petawawa, Ontario
Established in 2006 out of various Canadian Army units, and tracing its heritage back to the WWII "Devil Brigades", the CSOR is defined in essence as an "enabling" force. Similar to the 75th Ranger Regiment and the SFSG, the CSOR operates primarily in conjunction with JTF 2, providing security, blocking forces, backup, though it is not limited to a supporting role. It has participated in the War on Terror and has been deployed in Kandahar since 2006.
Name: Joint Task Force 2
Nickname: Tan berets
Role: Special Operations, Counter Terrorism
Motto: Facta Non Verba ("Deeds Not Words")
Headquarters: CFB Trenton, Ontario
Up until 1992, Canadian counter-terrorism operations were undertaken by the Special Emergency Response Team of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. However, the Canadian public were less than pleased that Canadian police were being taught primarily lethal methods, and so ultimately the SERT was disbanded and its responsibilities transferred to the Canadian military. Initially formed from Canadian Airborne and Light Infantry, JTF 2 operated in Bosnia against Serb snipers in sniper alley. It was first deployed to Afghanistan, apparently without Prime Minister Chretien's permission, in 2001. It quickly established itself as a first division unit. It also provides security to Canadian dignitaries abroad.
Name: 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron
Nickname: Lion Squadron
Role: Aviation Support
Motto: Ferte Manus Certas ("Strike With A Sure Hand")
Headquarters: CFB Petawawa, Ontario
Lion Squadron provides aviation support to Canadian special forces. It operates the Bell CH-146 Griffon helicopter, a light utility craft developed from the venerable Huey.
Name: Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit
Role: CBRN defense
Motto: Nunquam Non Parati ("Never Unprepared")
Headquarters: CFB Trenton, Ontario
The CJIRU is intended to provide protection against Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) threats to Canada. It is supported by the 8 Air Wing at Trenton so it can be rapidly deployed.
Wojska Specjalne Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej - Special Forces of the Polish Republic
The Special Forces of the Polish Republic are the 4th branch of the Polish Armed Forces. They have served with distinction throughout Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. They trace their lineage from various pre-war formations, such as the winged Hussars, as well as the Armia Krajowa, the Home Army of Poles who resisted the Nazi occupation of the General Government.
Dowództwo Wojsk Specjalnych - Special Forces Command
Name: Jednostka Wojskowa Grupa Reagowania Operacyjno-Manewrowego (GROM) - Military Unit Operational Maneuver Response Group
Nickname(s): GROM, Thunderbolts
Role: Counter Terrorism, Direct Action, Unconventional Warfare
Motto: Tobie Ojczyzno! ("For You Fatherland!")
Headquarters: Warsaw Garrison, Masovian Voivoideship, and Gdansk Garrison, Pomeranian Voivoideship
GROM were established in 1989 in response to several counter-terrorist crises, such as the takeover of the Polish embassy in Bern and the shooting of Polish diplomats in Beirut. Its function was to combine both the military functions of the existing Polish SF and the counter-terrorism function Poland was perceived to have lacked. It's mission encompasses both special operations and the protection of Polish citizens worldwide. GROM distinguished itself in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, aiding in the caputre the port of Umm Qasr and seizing several oil platforms. GROM operatives are often proficient in at least two languages and around three quarters of the unit are qualified paramedics.
Name: Jednostka Wojskowa Komandosów - Military Unit Commandos
The JW Komandosów is Poland's most proficient force dedicated to military special operations. They were first constituted from the Polish Army in 1961, and have since evolved into the Polish military's premier fighting unit, although their traditions step from the Polish resisters who fought the Wehrmacht and RSHA in their own country during World War Two. Their role is similar to the US Army Special Forces - an elite unit of men who perform sensitive and high-risk missions in denied areas. They have been deployed abroad to assist in Foreign Internal Defence operatations, and have served in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Cambodia, Syria, Maecedonia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Name: Jednostka Wojskowa "Formoza" - Military Unit "Formosa"
Nickname(s): MJDS, Special Frogmen Groups
Role: Combat swimming, direct action, counter-terrorism
Formosa is the Polish military's elite combat diver unit. Although used primarily in the role of underwater demolitions and infiltration, they are also capable of counter-terrorism and have been deployed to Afghanistan. Their party piece is sinking enemy ships in harbors - a small group of men can block a whole harbor, and they can even be used to destroy enemy ships at sea. They also have perhaps the coolest headquarters of any of the units featured here, an ex-WWII torpedo platform in Gdynia harbor, connected to the mainland by a single long bridge. An ideal Zombie Apocalypse hideout if ever there was one.
Name: Jednostka Wojskowa "AGAT" - Miltary Unit "Anti-Gestapo"
Agat is the Polish assault, support, and direct-action unit. Its role is to deploy in support of other special forces units and to secure and prepare the battlespace for them. Recently established, they gained their unit standard in 2012, though they claim lineage from the Sabotage Command of the Polish Armia Krajowa, specifically the units tasked with hunting down high-ranking Nazis. Although they are newly formed, the unit has a proud heritage. Their tough training program has earned praise from the American special forces community and beyond.
Name: Jednostka Wojskowa Nil - Military Unit "Nil"
Nickname(s): Niles, AK, Khedive
Role: Command support and intelligence, UAV operation
Formed in 2009, and named after General Brig. August Emil "Nil" Fieldorfa of the Polish resistance, "Nil" provides logistics and intelligence support to the rest of Special Forces Command. Its main role is to ensure not only that the rest of the command is adequately equipped and provided for, it is also to conduct electronic and human surveillance of target areas. Despite its youth (though it claims descent from the intelligence units of the WWII Home Army), it has been deployed in Afghanistan. It operates the FlyEye and ScanEagle UAVs in this function.
Nickname(s): The Regiment, Snake Eaters, Chicken Stranglers, Phantoms of the Jungle
Role: Counter-Terrorism, Counter-Insurgency, Direct Action, Special Recovery, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Offensive and Assault operations, jungle warfare
Motto: "Who Dares Wins"
Headquarters: Campbell Barracks, Western Australia
The Australian SASR was established in 1957, and quickly distinguished itself fighting in Malaya and later in Borneo and Indonesia. It was from these early confrontations in the sweltering jungles of Oceania that the SASR would gain its reputation for jungle warfare specialists. This came into its own during the Vietnam War, where the SASR was one of, perhaps the, deadliest anti-communist unit. Equipped with their natural affinity for such operations as well as cut down SLRs called "Bitch Guns". They were referred to as "Phantoms of the Jungle" by the VC. SASR units trained US Green Berets and worked with SOG units. Now, they remain Australia's primary special operations force, conducting counter-terrorism and insurgency operations, as well as combat search and rescue and special reconnaissance, and have served in Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Timor Leste, and the Phillipines.
Name: 1st Commando Regiment
Nickname: 1 Commando
Role: Special operations, training, support
Motto: "Strike Swiftly"
Headquarters: Randwick Barracks, New South Wales
Claiming descent from WWII Commando units that fought in the Pacific theatre, 1 Commando is a reserve unit with a contingent of full-time cadre staff. Their function is to maintain a pool of qualified part and full time operators able to function as a support and command unit for SOCOMD. It has a wide range of responsibilities, and is particularly suited to small-boat operations. It has most recently seen action in Afghanistan.
Name: 2nd Commando Regiment
Nickname: 2 Commando
Role: Special operations
Motto: Foras Admonitio ("Without Warning")
Headquarters: Holsworthy Barracks, New South Wales
2 Commando fulfills many of the same roles as 1 Commando, however, unlike 1 Commando, it is a regular Army outfit. They are highly regarded by Coalition special forces abroad. It conducts shock action against large enemy formations, in addition to recon, direct action, and recovery. It also forms part of Australia's domestic counter-terrorism operations. It received the Australian Army's first battle honor since Vietnam (Eastern Shah Wali Kot) in 2013, along with SASR.
Role: Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear defence, combat engineering
Motto: Inter Hastas et Hostes ("Between Spears and Enemies")
Headquarters: Potts Point, New South Wales
The SOER is a unit of engineers specially equipped to deal with CBRN threats to Australia and to contain such happenings where they cannot be prevented. However, they also have a vast breadth of experience in combat engineering and provide specialist support to SOCOMD units where they are required. The SOER has been deployed to Afghanistan as part of the Australian Defence Forces Operation SLIPPER.
Name: 171st Aviation Squadron
Role: Aviation support
Headquarters: Holsworthy Barracks, New South Wales
The 171st provides airborne support and extraction to Australian special forces regiments. It is not an SF regiment itself, merely an attached Army formation. It operates Australian-modified versions of the UH60 Black Hawk. It has seen action in the War on Terror and has deployed around the world.
Role: Direct Action, Special Reconaissance, Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defence
Motto: "Who Dares Wins"
Headquarters: Papakura Military Camp, North Island
The NZSAS is New Zealand's version of the British SAS, and it undertakes much of the same roles. It is a very highly regarded unit. Its roots lie in the Long-Range Desert Group, the long-range raiding and recon force that also became a precursor to the British SAS. It first saw combat in the Malay Emergency, and it had various roles in the US involvement in Vietnam under Aussie command. It has also deployed to Afghanistan in support of the War on Terror. It was highly praised by David Petraeus and awarded a US Presidential Unit Citation. Highly secretive, it rarely reveals the names of its members or the nature of its operations, however, one member, Willie Apiata VC, was revealed to the public when he the first recipient of the Victoria Cross for New Zealand.
Jandarma Genel Komutanlığı - Gendarmes General Command
JOH are the most elite forces of Turkey's Gendarmes, Turkey's paramilitary police. They have gained valuable experience in recent years dealing with Kurdish liberation movements and dealing with the fallout from the Global War on Terror, the Iraq War, and the Arab Spring whenever they spill into Turkey. Their 3 brigades are under the command of regional police forces, and are trained by a mixture of JOH and Turkish Army personnel.
Türk Kara Kuvvetleri - Turkish Land Forces
Name: Turkish Special Forces Command
Nickname: Bordo Bereliler - Maroon Berets
Role: Counter-terrorism, internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, combat search and rescue, intelligence operations
Motto: "Death is honorable. Fear and failure are not."
The Maroon Berets are Turkey's primary special forces unit and at the forefront of Turkish military operations. Their activities are highly classified, though they came to public prominence when they captured Kurdish resistance leader Abdullah Öcalan in Kenya in 1999. They are one of the widest qualified special operations forces - their 3 phases of training last a total of three and a half years, with the final test being the "trust shot": the aspiring operator stands between two paper targets which are shot by qualified Maroon Berets. They are the only SF unit to (officially) perform it.
SAT is Turkey's equivalent to the US Navy SEALS, although they were actually officially established before them. Their main significant action was spearheading the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Beyond that, little more is known.
SAS are tasked with guarding Turkey's coastline - a more significant duty than one might think, given Turkey's shares a maritime border with their historical enemies Greece and Russia, as well as, during the Cold War, controlling the Soviet Navy's gateway to the Mediterranean. Mainly, their duties involve guarding high-ranking naval officers, mine-clearing. They have also been involved in naval search and rescue, including submarine rescue. They took part in the invasion of Cyprus in 1973.
Name: Sayeret Matkal
Nickname: The Unit, Two-Six, Matkalists, General Staff Reconaissance Unit (the literal translation)
Motto: "Who Dares Wins", informally, "Whatever doesn't go with strength, goes with brains"
The skill and capabilities of Israel's special operations units are known and feared throughout the world but three among them stand at a higher level. The first of these is Matkal, a counterterrorism unit modeled off the British SAS and descended from Unit 101, the originator of Israel's special forces. Notoriously secretive and difficult to get into, they have been responsible for any number of reprisal raids into Palestinian territories and covert operations against Arab nations and other countries hostile to the Jewish State. The most famous of these are Operation Spring of Youth, an assassination campaign conducted by both the IDF and the intelligence agency Mossad against members of the Black September group responsible for the massacre at the Munich Olympics, and Operation Thunderbolt, where Israeli hostages were rescued from a hijacked plane in Uganda. Interestingly, several prominent politicians and officials were members of Matkal including Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu.
Name: Shayetet 13
Nickname: S-13, The Flotilla
Role: Maritime Counterterrorism
Motto: Informally, "What doesn't go with strength, goes with more strength"note A very deliberate mockery of Matkal
Headquarters: Atlit Naval Base
Along with Unit 101, Shayetet 13 was one of Israel's first special forces units and still maintains its place among the Big Three high profile special operations units of the Jewish State. With training and mission sets similar to the US Navy SEAL teams, S-13 has been heavily involved in interdicting weapons and supplies that are smuggled to militants within Palestine. They have also been tasked to conduct naval sabotage and assassinations of high profile individuals as far back as the Six Day War, and came under scrutiny after they opened fire on protesters during the Gaza Flotilla Raid in 2010, killing 9.
Nickname: Unit 5101
Role: Special Reconnaissance, Air Traffic Control in denied areas
Duvdevan is one of a pair of counterterrorism units that operate exclusively in the Palestinian territories as mista'arvim, units that disguise themselves as Arabs in order to infiltrate insurgent society and capture or kill high value targets. Because human society varies from area to area and, oftentimes, from village to village, each unit had its own area of expertise. Duvdevan used to specialize in the West Bank while the other unit, Shimshon, specialized in operations on the Gaza Strip. After Shimshon was disbanded following the Oslo Accords, Duvdevan became the sole mista'arvim unit in the Israeli military. Among the world's special operations units, they are unique in that they have no mission during times of war; their sole purpose is to hunt down militants in the Palestinian territories and Israel has reaped the benefits of their experience.
Role: Airborne operations, Direct Action, Reconnaissance, Unconventional Warfare
Motto: "We Strike"
Headquarters:Camp Tecson, San Miguel, Bulacan
The Scout Rangers of the Philippine Army are formed in 1950 to combat communist guerrillas, in which they were effective. They are modeled after their namesake units in the U.S. Unfortunately, they had an unfortunate stain by participating in the 1989 coup against then President Corazon Aquino. However, they recovered and now performed certain operations such as capturing the main base of the major Islamic guerrilla group in 1999. The size is about 5,000.
Part military unit, part espionage organization, the Quds Force was originally conceived as a special operations unit during the Iran-Iraq war to assist the Iraqi Kurds fighting against Saddam Hussein. At the same time, they played a role in influencing the politics of neighboring Afghanistan by providing assistance and training to warlords that were sympathetic to Iranian interests in the region. The Quds Force has become a prominent player in America's Global War on Terror thanks to their expanded role in Iranian foreign policy; they train, equip, and assist Islamic revolutionary movements across the world and have extensive connections to many of today's well known terrorist groups, most prominently the Lebanon-based Hezbollah. They came to the attention of the broader American consciousness during the later years of the insurgency in Iraq when it was discovered that they were providing foreign jihadists with training and sanctuary, including a particularly nasty form of bomb known as an Explosively-Formed Penetrator. EFPs made a mockery of vehicle armor and were responsible for a horrendous amount of casualties among coalition forces. The Quds Force is also becoming an increasingly popular source of stock bad guys in western pulp military thrillers; Iran's very public opposition to the United States and the skills and mission set of the Quds Force mean that they can be conceivably inserted as a mastermind into any kind of sticky situation. With the current state of the world's security, it is very likely that they will have a key role in shaping tomorrow.
Case Studies in Special Operations
Munich Massacre (1972) - During the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, the Palestinian militant group Black September entered the Olympic Village and took 11 Israeli athletes and coaches hostage, eventually killing them. German police tried to intervene but they were crippled by a lack of good intelligence and snipers who could have neutralized the hostage takers; the men selected had neither the equipment (proper weapons, radio contact with command or each other) nor the training. The absolute failure of the German police to stop the well-trained Black September members illustrated just how difficult counterterrorism work can be and convinced many countries of the need to form units dedicated to it, including Germany, which stood up GSG-9 with assistance from the British SAS.
Operation Fire Magic (1977) - Five years after Munich, Germany had the opportunity to put its new GSG-9 to the test. Four Palestinian terrorists hijacked Lufthansa Flight 181, with their demands being the release of their RAF (Red Army Faction) comrades being held in German prison. After a harrowing flight, which included the death of the pilot Jürgen Schumann, the plane finally landed in Mogadishu, Somalia. Despite reservations from the local authorities, the Germans were allowed to proceed and assume responsibility for the operation should things have gone poorly. The first part of the operation involved the German government claiming they were going to agree to the hijackers' demands. GSG-9 approached from the blind sides of the plane and entered at the emergency exits on the wings. Two of the terrorists were killed in the raid, with two wounded (one of whom died later from his injuries). None of the hostages were harmed, and only one GSG-9 operative was wounded. The spectacular success lead to Chancellor Helmut Schmidt declaring that Germany would never again negotiate with terrorists.
Operation Nimrod (1980) - A group of Arab Iranian nationalists took over the Iranian embassy in London and demanded independence for a region of Iran with a significant Arab population. The British government deployed the SAS after 6 days of negotiations. With two teams, they breached the building and successfully rescued the hostages with BBC employee Sim Harris' escape across the Embassy's first floor balcony being captured on live TV and subsequently becoming an iconic image, not just in special operations, but throughout the world. Hundreds of men have tried to pass themselves off as the "man on the balcony", who breached a window on the front of the embassy, later identified as Lance Corporal John McAleese MM (deceased August 26th 2011) from SAS-Blue Team, possibly together with Sergeant Eddie Stone. The incident cemented the SAS' reputation throughout the world, vindicated them in a time of budget cuts, and dramatically increased the number of applications to the Regiment.
Operation Eagle Claw (1980) - At the height of the Iranian Hostage Crisis, President Jimmy Carter authorized a mission by the previously-untested Delta Force to enter Iran in secret and rescue the 52 hostages trapped in the American Embassy in Tehran. The compound was studied extensively and meticulous intelligence was gathered on every conceivable detail. The plan was for the various forces involved to arrive separately at an abandoned airstrip codenamed Desert 1; the helicopters being used to ferry the assault force from Desert 1 to Tehran would fly in on their own, then refuel from planes that had already arrived carrying Delta and a small group of Rangers and interpreters who would provide support. The mission ended in disaster when three of the eight helicopters ran into mechanical problems (commanders had previously agreed that they couldn't go forward with less than six) and one crashed into one of the planes carrying fuel, causing it to explode and kill several Airmen and Marines. In the rush to evacuate, several helicopters as well as mission plans were left behind, causing much embarrassment for America and prompting a massive reorganization of the US military's special operations command structure.
Battle of Mogadishu (1993) - Task Force Ranger, a combined force of Delta operators, Rangers from the 3rd Ranger Battalion, Air Force combat controllers and pararescuemen, and a few SEALs, hit a house where two of warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid's top lieutenants had been meeting. The raid went as planned and the people inside were rounded up for transport but in the ensuing counterattack, Somali militiamen managed to shoot down two of the US helicopters. The ensuing battle became an all-out fight to secure the crash sites and rescue the pilots involving Pakistani and Malaysian forces seconded to the UN relief effort. Even though the mission was successful, popular perception was that America got its ass kicked and the US government became significantly more risk-averse in the aftermath. Incidentally, a certain major terrorist leader took notice of what he perceived to be the softness of American soldiers as a result of events in Mogadishu.
Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-) - American involvement in Afghanistan has been a major boon for special operations units, giving them a rare chance to put the full extent of their craft into practice. This was largely driven by the desire of the US military to avoid massive troop deployments on the basis that the Soviets had tried the same thing back in 1979 and failed. As a result, Afghanistan was initially considered a "special operations" war.
The Initial Invasion - Green Berets and paramilitary agents from the Special Activities Division slipped through the northern border to link up with a variety of warlords who hated the Taliban, bringing with them training, experience, and Special Operations Forces Laser Acquisition Marker (SOFLAM), a neat piece of kit that provided targeting data for the full might of the US Air Force. With it, they are able to do what the Soviets could not accomplish with 115,000 soldiers.
Operation Anaconda - After the initial invasion, large concentrations of al-Qaeda and Taliban forces retreated to the Shah-i-kot Valley, an incredibly strong defensive position in the southeast. The US deployed substantial forces to wipe them out but due to bad intelligence, they severely underestimated the number of enemies in the valley and their positions. Without the presence of special operations units in various roles, including snipers and forward air controllers with SOFLAMs, the mission may have ended differently. Crucial to the effort were small teams of Delta operators that had spent a lot of time training for the Shah-i-Kot, with their own attached intelligence and other support personnel (the types who usually stay far away from the fighting), making them deadly, highly mobile, and able to process information as they got it. The concept was called Advanced Force Operations (AFO). The fighting on Takur Ghar, a mountain with a commanding view of the valley, was the inspiration for the 2010 Medal of Honor game.
Operation Red Wings - The subject of Lone Survivor where a small SEAL recon team was compromised in their observation post and beat a hasty retreat, but were cut off by the hostile militia forces they had been sent to scout out. All of them were killed save Marcus Luttrell, who was taken in by friendly Pashtuns and eventually rescued by US forces.
Haditha Dam (2003) - In the early days of the invasion of Iraq, the 75th Ranger Regiment was deployed to secure a hydroelectric dam near the town of Haditha on the Euphrates River. Commanders feared that the Iraqi Army might be planning to blow up the dam, which would cause flooding across much of southern Iraq, create a humanitarian crisis, cut off power to large areas, and make life difficult for units in the area. The Rangers secured the dam with little resistance but were hit by a massive Iraqi counterattack involving tanks and artillery. With the help of air support provided by Combat Controllers, they held the dam for a week and repelled the attack without suffering any losses.
Operation Red Dawn (2003) - Task Force 121, a combined task force of special operations units from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Poland, and numerous other Coalition countries, finds and captures Saddam Hussein after many sleepless nights of intelligence work. Credit is officially given to the conventional forces that participated in the raid but 121's involvement is later uncovered.
Operation Neptune's Spear (2011) - Specially modified Blackhawk helicopters flown by the 160th SOAR penetrated Pakistani airspace in the early hours of the morning carrying SEALs from DEVGRU. The SEALs assaulted a compound in the suburb of Abbottabad and killed Osama bin Laden, the man that America had hunted for 10 years. Although one of the helicopters crashed due to mechanical trouble, the SEALs escaped with bin Laden's body. The world erupts in a firestorm of SEAL publicity that is undoubtedly good for Naval Special Warfare's recruitment but complicates things for the normally secretive counterterrorist SEAL team. Chinese officials are reportedly seen inspecting the wreckage of the crashed Blackhawk.