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Old 01-22-2004, 19:05   #1
The Reaper
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What is Special Forces - A Primer


From the recruiter's offices.

Mostly correct, though it is a couple of years old and IIRC pre-dates the GWOT and the 18X program.

Good overview material for the novice.


Part I

What Is SF?

SF, commonly referred to as Green Berets, are strategic, multipurpose forces capable of rapid response to various contingencies throughout the world. Their mission is to organize, train, equip, and direct indigenous forces in unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense. For this reason, they possess foreign language and area orientation skills. Most SF soldiers work on a 12-man Operational Detachment "A" (SFODA) team, sometimes called an A Team.

How Are SF Different from Conventional Army Forces?

Regional Orientation

Each SF soldier is assigned to one of five SF Groups. Each Group is responsible for several missions in a designated area of the world, or area of operations (AO). The SF soldier closely studies his Group’s AO and trains to the unique demands of this area of the world.

Intercultural Communication

The SF soldier learns a foreign language and works closely with the indigenous people in his Group’s AO. Unlike the conventional soldier, the SF soldier is often called upon to interact closely with, and live under the same conditions as, people of a foreign culture. Not only does he perform his job expertly, he also serves as a representative of the United States (U.S.).

Missions and Collateral Activities

Soldiers in general purpose units train for conventional warfare; in contrast, SF soldiers are called upon to accomplish a wide variety of unconventional missions. The SF soldier serves in the roles of teacher and helper, as well as warrior. SF plan, conduct, and support special operations in all operational environments.

The U.S. Army organizes, trains, equips, and provides SF to perform seven primary missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, direct action, special reconnaissance, counterproliferation, information warfare/command and control warfare, and counterterrorism. (Counterterrorism is a primary mission only for designated and specially organized, trained, and equipped units.) In addition to the seven primary missions, SF may participate in any of several collateral activities: security assistance, humanitarian assistance, coalition liaison, counterdrug activities, personnel recovery, and countermine activities.


Unconventional warfare is a broad spectrum of military and paramilitary operations, normally of long duration, predominately conducted by indigenous or surrogate forces who are organized, trained, equipped, supported, and directed in varying degrees by an external force. It includes guerrilla warfare and other direct offensive and low-visibility, covert, or clandestine operations, as well as the indirect activities of subversion, sabotage, intelligence collection, and evasion.

Foreign internal defense is the participation by civilian and military agencies of a government in any of the action programs taken by another government to free and protect its society from subversion, lawlessness, and insurgency. The primary SF mission in this interagency activity is to organize, train, advise, and assist host nation military and paramiltary forces.

Direct action operations are short-duration strikes and other small-scale offensive actions by special operations forces to seize, destroy, or inflict damage on a specified target or to destroy, capture, or recover designated personnel or materiel.

Special reconnaissance is reconnaissance and surveillance conducted by SF to obtain or verify, by visual observation or other collection methods, information concerning the capabilities, intentions, and activities of an actual or potential enemy. SF may also use hydrographic or geographic characteristics of a particular area. It includes target acquisition, area assessment, and poststrike reconnaissance.

Counterproliferation is action taken to locate, identify, seize, destroy, render safe, transport, capture, or recover weapons of mass destruction.

Information warfare/command and control warfare are actions taken to achieve information superiority in support of national military strategy by affecting adversary information or information systems while leveraging and protecting U.S. information and information systems.

Counterterrorism includes offensive measures taken by civilian and military agencies of a government to prevent, deter, and respond to terrorism. The primary mission of SF in this interagency activity is to apply specialized capabilities to preclude, preempt, and resolve terrorist incidents abroad.

Collateral Activities

Security assistance is a group of programs authorized by the Foreign Assistance Act, the Arms Export Control Act, or other related U.S. statutes. The primary SF role is to provide mobile training teams and other training assistance. Public law prohibits personnel providing security assistance from performing combat duties.

Humanitarian assistance is any military act or operation of a humanitarian nature, including disaster relief, noncombatant evacuation operations, and support to, and/or resettlement of, displaced civilians.

Coalition liaison and other security activities ensure the physical security of important persons, facilities, and events.

Counterdrug activities are measures taken to disrupt, interdict, and destroy illicit drug activities.

Personnel recovery includes activities designed to locate, recover, and restore to friendly control selected persons or materiel that are isolated and threatened in sensitive, denied, or contested areas.

Countermine activities attempt to reduce or eliminate the threat to noncombatants and friendly military forces posed by mines, booby traps, and other explosive devices.

Degree of Expertise and Responsibility

Each member of an SFODA is a self-sufficient expert in his branch or MOS and is capable of directly applying his skills or instructing others in his specialty. His specialized training and expertise prepare him for levels of responsibility that are higher than what he would normally experience in the conventional Army. He is expected to exercise more initiative, self-reliance, maturity, and resourcefulness than his conventional counterpart.

Sense of Community

Team members work closely together and rely on each other for long periods of time, both during deployments and in garrison, developing close interpersonal ties, team cohesion, and esprit de corps. The sense of community and support among soldiers and their families is generally considered higher in SF than in the Army as a whole.


Rewards for a job well done are not motivators in SF. SF is strong in terms of intangible rewards: job satisfaction, training opportunities, professionalism, responsibility, and feelings of camaraderie and belonging.

Common Myths About SF

A common misconception about SF is that the work is glamorous and filled with the adventure and excitement of exotic travel and direct action missions. In reality, the SF soldier spends a great deal of time preparing for missions and training exercises. He studies to maintain his MOS and language skills and analyzes his Group’s AO. When he does deploy, he may find himself living in conditions that most Americans would consider austere at best. The work is physically and mentally demanding and frequently extends for long periods of time.

Characteristics of the Successful SF Soldier

Although there is prestige in wearing the Green Beret, SF soldiers are not boastful or arrogant. They are more accurately described as “quiet professionals.”

Successful SF Soldiers Tend to Be:

Team Players
Good Trainers
High Initiative
Completely Trustworthy
Superior in Technical Skills
Skillful in Dealing With People
Open to Different Cultures
Strongly Committed to SF

Last edited by The Reaper; 01-22-2004 at 19:08.
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