There are about 29,000 men from the Army, Air Force and Navy directly involved in Special Forces and operations teams.
Special Forces of the US Army, are concentrated in the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) whose headquarters are located on Fla. McDill air force base. The marine corps is not part of this.
Non-conventional soldiers for a non-conventional war, these highly trained men are however not able to blend into the local population, their mission being essentially limited in duration: identifying targets, hit a military target, free hostages, or remove an enemy.
The USSOCOM was created in 1987 after the Pentagon had learned from the resounding failure in April 1980 attempt to free U.S. hostages in Iran. The operation “Desert One” then resulted in the death of eight men in the desert near Tabas (East).
It brings together men of the U.S. Army, the US Air Force and Navy.
The Army Rangers
On the side of the US Army, the most famous commandos are the Rangers. These are particularly distinguished to the actions in Panama in 1989 to dislodge general Manuel Noriega. They have also conducted lightning raids during the 1991 Gulf war, with no loss. But in October 1993, 18 members of the Rangers and Delta Force (counter-terrorist unit) were killed in Mogadishu while they were on the trail of the war chief Somali Mohamed Farah Aidid. The 75th Ranger regiment is based at Fort Benning (Georgia).
The Air Special Operations Regiment
The US Army also has an airborne component: the 160th aviation regiment of special operations (SOAR), whose men are nicknamed the “night stalkers” (hunters of the night). Based in Fort Campbell (Kentucky), this unit uses MH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters to transport commandos behind enemy lines. Their motto is: “death watch in the dark”.
The Body Of The Special Forces
The other pillar of the army is the body of the Special Forces, known as the Green berets. Their primary mission is “special recognition”: infiltrate the enemy zone by land or air to monitor a region or a site, but also locate targets to hit.
Special Forces must remain there independently for days, weeks, or even months. They have particularly did this just before the Gulf wars.
Special Forces are divided into five active units, including the 5th airborne group that trained in the Gulf and Pakistan in recent years. In August 1992, four months before the arrival of American soldiers in Somalia, they were already there.
The Delta Force
Finally, the Delta Force is the anti-terrorist unit of the army. Involved in the Iranian fiasco of 1980, its essential role is to save hostages. Based in Fort Bragg (North Carolina), its workforce – secret – consist of Rangers, green berets and paratroopers from the famous 82nd airborne division (82nd Airborne), that fought in Normandy in June 1944. His men were in Panama and in the Gulf.
On the side of the US Air Force, there is the 16th air brigade of special operations. Made up of 7,000 men, it has AC-130 Spectre (a C – 130 transformed into a platform of flying artillery), of MH-53 Pave Low helicopters and MC – 130 Combat Talon long-range action aircraft allowing penetration at night and low altitude to drop paratroopers and equipment. The motto of this unit based at Hurlburt (Florida) is “anytime, anywhere”.
In the case of operations in Afghanistan, the USAF can also count on men of the 720th special tactics (TSG) group, also based at Hurlburt. Commandos are especially trained to seize an airport to prepare the arrival of the air reinforcements.
Finally, the U.S. Navy has commandos know as SEALs (SEa, Air, Land – sea air, Earth), these famous combat divers are masters in the art of underwater commando operations, but also in reconnaissance and intelligence missions.