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Description of Special Forces

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What is Special Forces?

Special Forces is a unit of the United States Army.  They are more informally called "the Green Berets" for the hat that they wear as part of their uniform.  There are seven Special Forces groups of about 2,200 Soldiers.  Five groups are active duty and two groups are National Guard.

The active duty groups are located across the United States:

1st SFG is at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington
3rd SFG is at Fort Bragg, North Carolina
5th SFG is at Fort Campbell, Kentucky
7th SFG is at Eglin AFB, Florida
10th SFGA is at Fort Carson, Colorado

The National Guard groups are located in over 18 states across the country with the headquarters in:

19th SFG in Salt Lake City, Utah
20th SFG in Birmingham, Alabama

All of the seven groups fall under the command of the United States Army Special Forces Command (USASFC) located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

USASFC falls under the command of United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC).  USASOC is the command for all Army Special Operations Forces and is located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  Under its command falls USASFC, USAJFKSWCS, Ranger Regiment, 160th SOAR, and other units.

Special Forces Soldiers receive their training at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.  This school is known as the Special Forces "Schoolhouse".  In earlier years the school was called the John F. Kennedy Institute for Military Assistance (IMA).

The Army, Marines and Navy have other units that are considered to be "Special Operations Forces".  While Army Special Forces can also be referred to as "Special Operations Forces" or SOF the other SOF units such as Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force PJs, STS, CTTs, Marines in Force Recon or MARSOC are not "Special Forces".

The Special Forces Soldier

The Special Forces Soldier is a hand-picked individual who is highly trained in Special Operations.  He is Airborne qualified and has attended and successfully completed a rigorous training program known as the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC).  The enlisted Soldier has one of five Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) and is usually school-trained in several more.  The Special Forces MOSs are Weapons, Communications, Medical, Engineer (Demolitions), and Intelligence.

Special Forces Training

Special Forces training is lengthy and demanding.  Only the very best complete the training.  Training includes basic Airborne school, the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course (SFAS), the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC), SERE, and language training.  This training takes at least one year.  Once on a Special Forces detachment the SF Soldier undergoes constant training in advanced skills such as HALO, Combat Dive, MOS cross-training, language, sniper, etc.  Learn more about Special Forces training.

Special Forces Military Occupational Specialties (MOS)

18A - Special Forces Officer.  Each SF detachment is led by a Special Forces officer.  On the twelve-man Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) this is usually a Captain (O3).

180A - Special Forces Warrant Officer.  The Assistant Detachment Commander is a WO1-WO3. The 180A specializes in operations, intelligence, anti-terrorism, personnel recovery, interagency coordination, and unconventional warfare. Higher ranking SF warrants serve at company, battalion, and group level as well as on staff positions within the greater Special Operations community.  Learn more about Special Forces Warrant Officers.

18B - Weapons Sergeant.  A weapons specialist who can operate and maintain a larger variety of U.S. and foreign light and heavy weapons.

18C - Engineer Sergeant.  A specialist in engineering, field fortification, construction trades, rigging, sabotage, explosives and demolitions.

18D - Medical Sergeant.  A first-response and trauma medical technician. Trained in many medical areas beyond trauma to include dentistry, sanitation, veterinary care, and more.

18E - Communications Sergeant.  Knowledgeable of a host of communications gear from HF to SATCOM and computer networking and programming.

For more information on the Special Forces MOS positions see "SF Team Members" at

Special Forces Missions

There are five core missions for Special Forces:

Unconventional Warfare (UW).  Special Forces conduct UW to advise, assist, organize, equip, and train indigenous forces to conduct guerrilla warfare or other operations such as evasion and escape, subversion, and sabotage - usually for long durations in denied areas.  See the following link for more information on unconventional warfare.

Foreign Internal Defense (FID).  Advise, assist, train, organize friendly foreign military units in support of United States national objectives.

Special Reconnaissance (SR).  Reconnaissance or surveillance in denied areas usually in support of the theater commander to gather intelligence on the enemy or gather information about the terrain, local population, or other information.

Direct Action (DA).  Short duration strikes and small scale offensive operations to capture or destroy personnel, equipment, facilities or to recover personnel or equipment.  DA operations are usually in support of strategic or operational objectives or in support of conventional forces.

Counterterrorism (CT).  Offensive operations to counter a terrorist operation or kill, capture or defeat a terrorist or terrorist organization.

Other secondary or collateral missions for Special Forces include counternarcotics (CN), personnel recovery (PR), humanitarian assistance (HA), security force assistance (SFA), coalition support and liaison (CST), and other missions as needed or when directed.

More Information about Special Forces Missions

Learn more about Special Forces missions at link below:

Videos about Special Forces

Special Forces National Guard - iguardutah

National Guard 18 Series Special Forces


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