Special Forces

THIS IS MATERIAL FROM THE ICE CAVE. IT HAS NOT YET BEEN FORMATTED.

Date: Tue, 29 Sep 1998 11:06:03 -0700

From: The Saint of Killers

Would some of the experts out there like to give me a rundown on the world's 'best' (or most well-known) special forces units, what they're trained for, etcetera?

I ask firstly because it's something that would be genuinely useful, and secondly because I was in a conversation the other day where an English friend of mine was tooting loudly that the British SAS were the greatest fighters in the world, while an Australian friend of mine was arguing that it was the Australian SAS and an American friend of mine, against all odds, was telling them that the Navy SEALS and the Green Berets were the best. I sat back and wondered why no one mentioned the Speznatz.

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Date: Tue, 29 Sep 1998 15:10:49 -0500 (CDT)
From: Don Juneau <moc.oi|uaenujd#moc.oi|uaenujd>

I ask firstly because it's something that would be genuinely useful, and
secondly because I was in a conversation the other day where an English
friend of mine was tooting loudly that the British SAS were the greatest
fighters in the world, while an Australian friend of mine was arguing
that it was the Australian SAS and an American friend of mine, against
all odds, was telling them that the Navy SEALS and the Green Berets were
the best. I sat back and wondered why no one mentioned the Speznatz.

Up to a certain point, it becomes what one newsgroup calls a "dick-size war" (DSW) - the "majors" in this case being the US, Britain, France, Germany, Israel, and the USSR (when still in business - see below). (And all this is just my opinion and probably-outdated knowledge. <shrug>) That level of "eliteness", on a level playing field, will generally cancel out each other. <G> Which is why, if ever the SAS go up against the Green Toupees, "level playing field" is the where the claymores have been set…

One idea I saw, regarding US elite forces, was the "coup-breakers" - if the Rangers mutinied, the Special Forces could take them; if the SF did, the SEALS would do them. If the SEALS tried "aggressive promotion", then… I think the covert organisation in question was to stop them. (Forget the source - anyone?)

However, that does break down on the "known goals" side of things; the Rangers are battlefield combat-oriented, with reconnaisance <sp?> being one of their prime tasks. They're a subset of a lesser (in this example - don't hassle me on it) Airborne forces, which *were* one of the early elite units (WWII). A similar position is that of the US Marine Corps Force Recon, but with even more emphasis on the recon aspects - the Marines are generally seen as a more elite force than the basic Army/Navy.

Special Forces occupies a somewhat odd niche, necessitated by the driving force behind their creation: the Communist expansion in Eastern Europe, and (eventually) worldwide. One of the original (and IIRC still primary) tasks of the SF was to raise and lead partisan forces in the "occupied" countries - parachuting into the Warsaw Pact and building guerilla companies to raise hell in the rear. (This was practiced on a lesser scale in SouthEast Asia and [possibly?] Nicuragua <sp?>, but the SEA actions were mainly concentrated on ethnic minorities in friendly/unsecured areas, as opposed to trying the same thing in North Vietnam. If Nic, it was as part of the whole Contra thing.)

While SF still takes a whole range of battlefield and recon/special-ops training in stride, the language specifications and cross-training were designed for "cadre", playing the "hearts and minds" game; arguably, the ability to be a "one-man band" can prove to make a "better" fighter, but IIRC there's no real baseline for comparison.

One of SF's current primary tasks is counter-terrorism, which works better. (Rangers, as far as I know, don't have CT as a primary. Nor Force Recon. I may be wrong…) We're not speaking of the classic "sneak-in-and-wipe-out-the-camp" anti-guerrilla/terrorist/Boy Scout <G> op, but rather the "infiltrate/exterminate" and the gamut of hostage/hijacking/takeover/etc. situations.

Oh, while we're here, let's add the SEALS: originating in the old Underwater Demolition teams (UDT), they've gone more recon/special-ops/CT as well - but with a much smaller "base" than SF, given the size *and composition/drawing-pool* of the Navy. (Significanly fewer people join the Navy to crawl through swamps with a knife in their teeth then either the Army or Marines - only the Air Force gets less, I assume. <G>) Thus, they're a smaller, more-intensely-trained force - without the "broadening" of the "hearts-and-minds" partisan-ops training. Given a level playing field (all full of tiger-pits and flamethrowers, of course <G>), the SEALS have a bit of an edge over the SF. (Put the SF in first and give them a little time with the native population, and the SEALS have a significantly-greater problem than, say, a pre-positioned Ranger or Force Recon unit.)

On the CT scale, the US seems to be (see below) highly trained, but with little experience. (If Marcincko is to be belived [and I don't swallow everyhting thrown at me], SEALS have engaged in a certain amout of CT, but still…) Primary US military CT has been the "Delta Force" (or current name), which recruited (my info is dated, so no "current" phrasing) from all brances of the military, but IIRC was mainly Army, and as far as I know haven't actually participated in that many CT ops, versus the long public record of the SAS (more below - this is getting long <G>) and GSG-9, for example.

Let's go to SAS - again, old elite tradition, recon/spec-ops/battlefield basis gradually moving into CT over time. As opposed to the SF, their "behind the lines" training is as more of an independant unit, *not* working with the native population. (The Special Boat Service [SBS] is the Royal Navy version, IIRC.) The SAS has a *much* longer "operational" history, and significantly more spec-ops veterans than any US elite force. ("Spec-ops" veteran is obviously one who did spec-ops, but I mean it as more "veteran" than "I snuck around Iraq for a month"; IIRC, they've still got members who'd hunted Malaysian insurgents in the '50s.) Due to their more "operational" nature, the *severe* training regimen (troops have *died* on training marches), and the greater depth of knowledge (veterans), in my opinion they have a significant advantage over US elite units head-to-head.

Closing out this load of text and opinion/fact, Spetznatz: before the final collapse/breakup of the USSR, the Spetznatz were good at what they did - but they weren't the "Swiss Army Soldier" of the US SF, nor the "kick-all-ass" of the SEALS or SAS. Instead, they were a *mix* - independant, behind-the-lines sabotage and hellraising units. CT was only in their training as "what the enemy will use, and how to defeat/avoid it". The native population were to be ignored, or used as supply/forced assistance/victims, whatever the need may be. One of the primary Spetznatz tasks, reflecting the SF's "rear-area-havoc" task in case of a Warsaw Pact/NATO war, was infiltration and sabotage of facilities, utilities, and supplies - but while the SF's partisans would keep going, the Spetznatz would do their job and wait for the front lines to pass them by, then report in for duty.

Don't assume the Spetznatz were crude in this, however; within the limits of their training, indoctrination (more important in the Soviet scheme of things than on the Western side), and equipment, they were *fully* as capable as the "average" elite unit - which, given their tasks, weren't to be their primary opponents. Head-to-head, versus Rangers or Force Recon, *and depending on the situation*, it'd be fairly even. Verus SEALS, SF or SAS, there's a slight edge for the Western forces - but not much. The Soviets got a lot of mileage out of their space for training ("build a replica of the primary targets at Ramstein airbase"), and I suspect were *much* free-er <word?> with releasing troops/units for "black" spec-ops duty - SE Asia, Africa, possibly the Middle East or Central America. And don't forget Afghanistan - they lost, and nastily, but I suspect their spec-ops were roughly as effective as comparable US operations; Afghanistan was tough enough for the British back in their colonialist days…

(Note that last: "comparable". SE Asia was, for the most part, somewhat different - invading a country is different from the gradual buildup of "advisors" to combat-forces. As well, the Muslim background produced many more "ready-made" martyrs and fanatics [no offense meant], and the mountainous nature of the country made it even more difficult. [Sneaking through a green countryside is easier than sneaking up a granite escarpment.])

Ah well. I'm afraid there's half-thought-out ideas, dropped trains-of-thought, and a fine muddle of actual fact and my own opinions/understandings/ideas floating around there. (I are not a Professional Writer.) However, there's also some good data, and possibly-useful reasoning/ideas. (At the very least, something to pick apart and correct, for those more knowledgeable than I. <G>)

Hope this helps!

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From: "Jon"

Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 00:42:30 -0400

My Criminal Justice instructor was in the US Army for about 13 years. According to him, the Green Berets, while considered 'Special Forces', only serve in intelligence gathering and education (teaching under-dogs that we have allied with how to fight). The true elites of each branch of the US Military are the Army Rangers, the Navy SEALS, and the Marine Corps' Recon.

'Delta Force' is not a true unit, but is instead the overall nickname for several specialized units of the Air Force. I have no knowledge of these individual Air Force units, but I assume they are all considered 'Special Forces'.

If I'm wrong in any of this, please correct me. I'm just passing along info from a discussion that occurred 2 months ago.

Incidentally, don't completely dismiss the SEALS. I know a Ranger that trained against Marcinko (?) and his SEAL Team 6. He said those guys were Psycho (tm) and truly had no concept of self above duty. They did literally anything it took to get the job done.

That's the extent of my knowledge on the subject, however flawed it may be. I guess I'll shut up now ;)

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From: Shane Ivey
Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 11:04:34 -0500

«'Delta Force' is not a true unit, but is instead the overall nickname for several specialized units of the Air Force. I have no knowledge of these individual Air Force units, but I assume they are all considered 'Special Forces'.»

Actually, Delta Force is definitely an Army unit.

From www.specialforces.net:

1st SFOD-Delta

"Delta force"

Like Seal Team 6, 1st SFOD-Delta does not officially exists even when it's commonly know that they took part in the failed attempt to rescueAmerican hostages from the US Embassy in Tehran 1979. As a Counter-Terrorist outfit, 1st SFOD main mission is in hostage rescue, barricade operations and specialized reconnaissance.

During Operation Just Cause Delta rescued an American businessman that was jailed for running and underground radio station. During the Gulf war they participated in "Scud Hunting" with the British SAS teams.

http://www.specialoperations.com/deltaforce.html has a number of fun Delta Force links, including an ostensible "job announcement" for Delta Force officers.

Note that http://www.specialoperations.com/foreign.html has a bunch of links regarding international special operations units.

Unfortunately, the US Army's official Special Operations Command page at http://www.usasoc.soc.mil/ seems to be down at the moment.

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Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 09:46:31 -0700

From: Gil Trevizo

… and in Mogadishu, they, and the similarly-vaunted US Army Rangers, got pinned down and slaughtered by a bunch of Somali twelve-year olds with AK-47s.

Did anyone else catch the Frontline documentary on that little misadventure? It really brought all this talk about which spec-ops unit is the "best" and who can take out who into perspective. Fact is, when you look at the history of each unit, you'll see several times where the snake-eaters got themselves in for more than they could handle and had to get bailed out, simply because they forgot that they are, fundamentally, very good for recon and sabotage but mostly dangerous to themselves in infantry combat. Now most spec-ops units understand this, though they often began to believe their own reputation as bad-ass mofos and than think they can play Rambo. The SEALs did that in Grenada and Panama and got their ass kicked, Delta Force and the Rangers ate it in Mogadishu, Special Forces took heavy losses with their MACV-SOG teams in Laos because of this, and so on.

Paperback novels and Hollywood movies aside, special operations are not killing machines and usually follow an SOP of avoiding enemy contact where possible. They are well-trained professionals who have a specific job, and for my money, I would pick the US Army Special Forces as the "best" here - they leave most of the Rambo nonsense to the SEALs and SAS, and concentrate on the most useful and most pressing special operations duty since WW2 - counterinsurgency.

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From: "Clairr O'Connor & Kevin Honan"

Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 15:59:32 +0100

… and in Mogadishu, they, and the similarly-vaunted US Army Rangers, got
pinned down and slaughtered by a bunch of Somali twelve-year olds with AK-47s.

A rather heart warming incident, similar in fact to the spectacle (also in Somlia) of Canadian paratroopers being forced to rely on food parcels from their families for supplies and UN (mostly Pakistani) troops shooting Somali civilians in a firefight and then using their bodies as cover.

Did anyone else catch the Frontline documentary on that little
misadventure? It really brought all this talk about which spec-ops unit is
the "best" and who can take out who into perspective. Fact is, when you
look at the history of each unit, you'll see several times where the
snake-eaters got themselves in for more than they could handle and had to
get bailed out, simply because they forgot that they are, fundamentally,
very good for recon and sabotage but mostly dangerous to themselves in
infantry combat.

Now most spec-ops units understand this, though they often

began to believe their own reputation as bad-ass mofos and than think they
can play Rambo. The SEALs did that in Grenada

Always happy to hear about Grenadans kicking Yankee ass, how this particular incident happen?

Paperback novels and Hollywood movies aside, special operations are not
killing machines and usually follow an SOP of avoiding enemy contact where
possible. They are well-trained professionals who have a specific job, and
for my money, I would pick the US Army Special Forces as the "best" here -
they leave most of the Rambo nonsense to the SEALs and SAS, and concentrate
on the most useful and most pressing special operations duty since WW2 -
counterinsurgency.

I don't know…..my only experience of Special Forces was in 1994. We were visited by Alcoholics Anonymous and they brought along three people to see us. One of the people was an Irishman who had emigrated to London in the late '40's and joiend the British Army. He ended up in the SAS, serving in Malayia mostly as well as elsewhere. He said he couldn't sleep at nights and turned to drink. The man was in his mid-sixties, but looked a lot older. It's a strange experience, seeing a man old enough to be your grandfather crying his eyes out in a class room becuase "Those bastards made me do things God did not put me on this earth to do". I'd be suspicious of any claims to the righteousness of the uses SF are put to…

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From: Thomas Woodall
Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 17:52:06 EDT

To the best of my knowledge, the Grenadans (Is this the right term?) did no ass kicking. The Navy Seals who died in Grenada were done in by the stupidity of those in command. The idea was to use forces from all areas of the military. The result was that people who knew nothing of spec. ops. dropped the fully loaded SEALs into deep water during rough weather with overloaded packs. They promptly sank and drowned. Chalk one team up to the fools in charge. The Cuban and Grenadian forces were far less impressive in the actual fight. As for Samalia, the US troops were Spec. Force units and were hit by not only AK47s but larger weapons as well. They were in the open without armored support. Special forces are not designed for police actions in heavily armed cities. You need armor to protect them and President Clinton pulled the armor out. The result was a bloody mess. Keep this in mind for your DG scenarios. Special forces are light infantry who carry a higher volume of firepower than standard light infantry, but who lack armor. They hit hard and fast and get out if there are heavy defenses.

Special Forces personnel are good for DG operations because they travel light and hit hard for such a small package. They are also easier to cover up for, since they could be said to be on a black op. if they are gone. A regular Infantry soldier would be less likely to not be missed or accepted as killed in action during peacetime. As for training in torturing, it has been proven and is taught in at least the CIA that such techniques are more harmful than helpful in extracting information. The mind is what is to be broken and more often than not the mind hardens as the body breaks. So, torture as described here is not taught or used by the CIA at this time (or I should say not as of five years ago, things may have changed but I doubt it).

According to historical accounts Apache tribes could keep alive a victim, while slowly skinning him over a three day period. I'm not certain what method they used, but rest assured they did not do it to extract information.

I hope some of this helped.

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From: Allan Goodall
Date: Thu, 01 Oct 1998 23:05:51 GMT

Actually, there was a request for Bradleys and an AC-130 gunship for the Mogadishu raid. It was Defense Secretary Les Aspin, not Clinton, who turned down that request. Aspin resigned 2 months after the raid.

The Philadelphia Inquirer had an excellent overview of the raid last year. It was available on the Philadelphia Online web site. It may still be available. It's an interesting, and chilling, account.

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Date: Thu, 01 Oct 1998 21:19:49 -0700

From: Gil Trevizo

began to believe their own reputation as bad-ass mofos and than think they
can play Rambo. The SEALs did that in Grenada

Actually, Imandos was pretty much correct on this account. The SEALs botched themselves by getting drowned before the shooting began, and then when it did, they found themselves up against armored vehicles with nothing stronger than LAW rockets to back them up. Had the Grenadans facing them had a little more backbone, the SEALs would very likely have been overrun at that target.

Now in Panama… that was truly a clusterfuck for the men in green faces… but hey, all SOF units have these kind of little incidents in their histories. My point was that what makes a special operations unit most useful is not that it is elite so much as that they are well-trained for a specific task. Comparing one SOF unit to another just leads down that same Ubersoldier mentality that most often leads such units into trouble.

Tying this into DG (somehow), a case in point might be the final story in the Alien Intelligence anthology, and maybe even the whole botched operation in Cambodia that closed DG down (officially). There's been talk about how DG shouldn't mess with magic to fight the Mythos, but how much more effective would they be in using more brainpower means (a la conventional CoC) than in going down the testosterone route of elite specialization and heavy firepower?

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