Forces Command exercises command and control over five active component
groups. Additionally, it exercises training oversight of two Army
National Guards groups. Each Special Forces Group is regionally
oriented to support one of the war fighting commanders-in-chief
(CINCs). Special Forces soldiers routinely deploy in support of the
CINCs of U.S. European Command, U.S. Atlantic Command, U.S. Pacific
Command, U.S. Southern Command and the U.S.Central Command.
On November 27,1990, the U.S. Army 1st Special Operations
Command was redesignated the U.S. Army Special Forces Command
(Airborne). The mission of USASFC (A) is to train, validate and prepare
Special Forces units to deploy and execute operational requirements for
the U.S. military's warfighting commanders in chief throughout the
Besides USASFC (A), there are five active component groups and
two US Army National Guard groups [as of 1994 there were five active
and four guard and reserve groups]. Each group has three battalions, a
group support company and a headquarters company. The companies have
six Operational Detachment Alphas, or A-teams, assigned to them. The
ODA is the heart and soul of SF operations.
Special Forces Operational Detachment A (SFOD A)
"A Detachment" or "A Team" is the basic SF unit. This twelve man unit
is specifically designed to organize, equip, train, advise or direct,
and support indigenous military or paramilitary forces in UW and FD
operations. The detachment has a commander (Captain), XO (Warrant
Officer), and two enlisted specialists in each of the five SF
functional areas: operations, weapons, engineers, medical, and
communications. Each SF company has one SFOD A trained in combat diving
and one SFOD A trained in military free-fall parachuting.
Special Forces Operational Detachment B (SFOD B)
SF company headquarters, also known as a "B Detachment," is a
multi-purpose C2 element with many employment options, It cannot
isolate and deploy SF teams independently without significant
Special Forces Operational Detachment C (SFOD C)
"C Detachment" provides command and control, and staff planning and
supervision for SF battalion operations and administration. The SFOD C
plans and directs SF operations, provides command and staff to operate
a FOB, and provides advice and staff assistance on employment of SF
elements to joint SOC, JSOTF and other major headquarters.
Unlike any other divisional-sized unit, USASFC (A) is not
located in one place, but spread out from coast-to-coast and throughout
Special Forces units perform five doctrinal missions: Foreign Internal
Defense, Unconventional Warfare, Special Reconnaissance, Direct Action
and Counter-Terrorism. These missions make Special Forces unique in the
U.S. military, because it is employed throughout the three stages of
the operational continuum: peacetime, conflict and war.
Foreign Internal Defense operations, SF's main peacetime mission, are
designed to help friendly developing nations by working with their
military and police forces to improve their technical skills,
understanding of human rights issues, and to help with humanitarian and
civic action projects.
Unconventional Warfare (UW) includes a broad spectrum of
military and paramilitary operations conducted in enemy-held,
enemy-controlled, or politically sensitive area. UW includes, but is
not limited to, guerilla warfare, evasion and escape, subversion,
sabotage, and other operations of a low visibility, covert, or
Often SF units are required to perform additional, or collateral,
activities outside their primary missions. These collateral activities
are coalition warfare/support, combat search and rescue, security
assistance, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, countermine and
Coalition warfare/support emerged as a result of Operation Desert
Shield/Desert Storm. This activity ensures the ability of a wide
variety of foreign troops to work together effectively in a wide
variety of military exercises or operations.
U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) traces its lineage to the
1st Special Service Force (Devil's Brigade) and derives its heritage
from elements of the Office of Strategic Services (Jedburghs,
Operational Groups and Detachment IO 1).
Special Forces soldiers have earned the title of "Quiet Professional."
They have been involved in peacetime operations and armed conflicts
around the world over the past five decades. In addition to service in
Vietnam, Special Forces were recently employed in Panama during
Operation Just Cause and during Operations Desert Shield and Storm.
Desert Storm Commander, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, described Special
Forces as the "eyes and ears" of conventional forces and as the "glue
that held coalition forces together".
Special Forces soldiers continue to serve at home and abroad
providing humanitarian assistance and assisting with foreign internal
defense in friendly foreign nations. Recent humanitarian assistance
missions include Promote Liberty, Provide Comfort, Sea Angel,
Guantanamo, Cuba, Hurricane Andrew, and Restore Hope.
On November 27, 1990, the U.S. Army 1st Special Operations
Command was redesignated the U.S. Army Special Forces Command
(Airborne). Its mission: to train, validate, and prepare Special Forces
units to deploy and execute operational requirements for the
In defense planning, decision makers look to Special Operations
Forces (SOF) to provide a strategic economy of force in support of
conventional forces; to expand the range of available options; and to
provide unique capabilities. The U.S. Army Special Forces are known as
"Force Multipliers". It is said that a 12 man Special Forces A-Team can
render the fighting power of a light infantry company.
SOF reinforce, augment, supplement, and complement conventional forces
before, during, and after a conflict, thereby increasing the efficiency
and effectiveness of our military effort. For instance, SOF can be used
early in an operation to prevent conflict and conserve resources. When
conflict is imminent, SOF may be employed in a variety of prehostility
missions to signal determination, demonstrate support to allies, and
begin the complicated processes of positioning forces for combat and
preparing the battlefield.
During conflict, SOF may be most effective in conducting
economy-of-force operations, generating strategic advantage
disproportionate to the resources they represent. SOF can locate,
seize, or destroy strategic targets; obtain critical intelligence; test
an enemy's defenses; diminish his prestige; disorganize, disrupt, and
demoralize his troops; and divert important resources.
SOF expand the options of the National Command Authorities,
particularly in crises and contingencies-such as terrorism, insurgency,
subversion, and sabotage-that fall between wholly diplomatic
initiatives and overt use of large conventional forces. SOF allow
decision makers the flexibility to tailor U.S. responses to encompass
this wide range of possibilities. Its small size, ability to react
rapidly, and relatively self-sufficient nature provide the United
States with military options that do not entail the risk of escalation
normally associated when larger, more visible, conventional forces are
employed. This enables decision makers to prevent a conflict or limit
its scope and, therefore, better control U.S. forces and resources once
they have been committed. SOF are the best choice for actions requiring
a rapid response or a surgically precise, focused use of force.
Decision makers may choose the SOF option because it provides
the broadest range of capabilities that have direct applicability in an
increasing number of missions-whether military, humanitarian, or peace
operations-in support of U.S. foreign policy.
SOF training is some of the most rigorous in the world, and it
produces some of the most professional and expert military operators.
They are mature forces who demonstrate superior performance in small
groups or as part of an integrated U.S. response with other military
forces as well as non-Department of Defense government and civilian
The small, self-contained units can work swiftly and quietly
without the noticeable presence of conventional military troops. Even
under the most austere conditions, they are able to operate without the
infrastructure often needed by a larger force.
Because of this, they can penetrate enemy territory on missions
such as personnel recovery; surgical strikes prior to conventional
force operations; intelligence gathering; and pathfinding and target
designation for air strikes. SOF also employ an extraordinary inventory
of sophisticated weapons and technology. Often SOF units act as a
proving ground for new equipment before it is transferred to
Although a superior military force, SOF need not use military
force in a mission. Language skills, cross-cultural training, regional
orientation, and understanding of the political context of their
operating arenas make them unparalleled in the U.S. military. Their
skills enable them to work as effectively with civilian populations as
they do with other military forces to influence situations favorably
toward U.S. national interests. This ability to apply discrete leverage
is one of SOF's most important contributions to our national military
In an era of regional focus, reduced forward-based forces,
decreasing resources, and growing uncertainty, SOF play a critical role
in U.S. defense strategy by providing strategic economy of force,
expanded options, and unique capabilities. SOF give the United States
efficiency without compromising effectiveness and flexibility to
respond to the unforeseen and unexpected.
Special Forces Career Management Field (CMF) 18 includes
positions concerned with the employment of highly specialized elements
to accomplish specially directed missions in times of peace and war.
Many of these missions are conducted at times when employment of
conventional military forces is not feasible or is not considered in
the best interest of the United States. Training for and participation
in these missions are arduous, somewhat hazardous, and are often
sensitive in nature. For these reasons, every prospective Special
Forces Soldier must successfully complete the 3-week Special Forces
Selection and Assessment (SFAS) Course. The purpose of SFAS is to
identify soldier's who have potential for SF training. The program
assesses tactical skills, leadership, physical fitness, motivation, and
ability to cope with stress. Activities include psychology tests,
physical fitness and swim test, runs, obstacle courses, rucksack
marches, small unit tactics, and military orienteering/land nav
Each SF volunteer will receive extensive training in a
specialty that prepares him for his future assignment in an SF unit. SF
units are designed to operate either unilaterally or in support of and
combined with native military and paramilitary forces. Levels of
employment for Special Operations forces include advising and assisting
host governments, involvement in continental United States-based
training, and direct participation in combat operations. The Special
Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) teaches and develops the skills
necessary for effective utilization of the SF solider. Duties in CMF 18
primarily involve participation in Special Operations interrelated
fields of UW. These include foreign internal defense (FID) and direct
action missions as part of a small operations team or detachment.
Duties at other levels involve command, control, and support functions.
Frequently, duties require regional orientation to include foreign
language training and in-country experience. SF places emphasis not
only on unconventional tactics, but also on knowledge of nations in
waterborne, desert, jungle, mountain, or arctic operations.