These Are the Most Elite Special Operations Forces in the U.S.

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From Business Insider

Ever since the Osama bin Laden raid, America has gone bonkers for US Navy SEALs and Military Special Operators in general.

Putting 100 thousand troops and countless private support personnel on the ground in any given country sometimes referred to as "nation building" is a costly strategy. Putting a boot or two on Osama bin Laden's door arguably cost more in political currency Pakistan wasn't too happy than actual currency.

Though it was the SEALs who performed that raid in Abbottabad, it's worth noting there are quite a few more SpecOps units in the US than just SEALs Green Berets and Marine Snipers, etc. so we here at Business Insider have made things easy by assembling a comprehensive list of all the SpecOps units we could find.

An earlier version of this story was written byGeoffrey Ingersoll.

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Division Marine Recon

[Special Operations Forces - Photo GalleryExtensive gallery of high quality U.S.Special Operations Forces photos - SEALs, Delta, Rangers, Special Forces etc.](http://www.americanspecialops.com/photos/ "Special Operations Forces - Photo Gallery") [www.americanspecialops.com](http://www.americanspecialops.com/photos/ "Special Operations Forces - Photo Gallery")

Marine Reconnaissance teams provide intelligence for active small unit operations on the battlefield. Those with Marine Sniper quals can also provide accurate demoralizing small arms fire from a distance.

Marine Recon is arguably in the top five of all special operators capable of harassing an entire enemy battalion for long periods of time; tracking enemy units for larger American forces; or conducting well-orchestrated raids on high-valued targets.

These guys are the gems in the crown of the United States Marine Corps.

Air Force Special Operations Weatherman

[Special Operations Forces - Photo GalleryExtensive gallery of high quality U.S.Special Operations Forces photos - SEALs, Delta, Rangers, Special Forces etc.](http://www.americanspecialops.com/photos/ "Special Operations Forces - Photo Gallery") [www.americanspecialops.com](http://www.americanspecialops.com/photos/ "Special Operations Forces - Photo Gallery")

No, it's not a joke. They can literally forecast the weather above a fight, kill the enemy, and direct artillery simultaneously.

The official mission of the U.S. Air Force field weatherman is as a ground-level, small-unit meteorologist who provides accurate forecasts for the purpose of air asset deployment (bombs and stuff).

USMC Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company ANGLICO

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The Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company is another group that often finds itself in the shadow of sexier special operations units like the SEALs. A single ANGLICO Marine can coordinate a hellish rain of fiery artillery and air-strafing fire on the enemy though, whereas all a SEAL can do is pull a trigger.

Typically they don't deploy as individuals, but like any SpecOps group, in teams of four or five.

A typical ANGLICO team:

  • Team Leader (Captain or Navy Lieutenant): any ground MOS - typically JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller)-qualified artillery officer.
  • Team Chief (Sergeant), typically qualified as JFO (joint fires observer) and as a JTAC.
  • Radio Chief (Corporal or Sergeant).
  • Junior Radio Operator (Private First Class / Lance Corporal).
  • Fire Support Man / Scout Observer (Private First Class / Lance Corporal).

USMC Amphibious Recon Platoons

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Amphibious Recon Platoons draw their personnel from Battalion Recon Units and typically support direct action Force Reconnaissance Operations as well as Naval Fleet Operations.

They hold all the same certs, generally speaking, of Recon Marines because they are Recon Marines. The only difference are their tasks:

To determine characteristics of beaches available for landing, and report the information to the commander at sea.

  1. By hydrographic reconnaissance of water near the shore line.
  2. By examining terrain in immediate vicinity of beach.
  3. By noting beach defenses, such as wire, mines, and other obstacles; troops in immediate vicinity; other defenses.

Air Force Combat Controllers

[Combat Controller in JapanPhoto of a Command Combat Controller (CCT) in Japan - more AFSOC photos at www.americanspecialops.com](http://www.americanspecialops.com/photos/combat-controllers/cct-japan.php "Combat Controller in Japan") [www.americanspecialops.com](http://www.americanspecialops.com/photos/combat-controllers/cct-japan.php "Combat Controller in Japan")

Combat controllers are among the most elite in the military. Top 10 easy. These guys are independent operators, like Marine Recon, except with more air assets.

They are experts at stealth insertion well behind enemy lines and are often just a disembodied voice for other ground troops, like SEALs, as they provide air support coordination. They're often on the ground picking targets in America's bombing campaigns and likely played a key role in the Libyan revolution.

They hold a lot of the most high-speed special operations certifications:

  • Combat Control Orientation Course, Lackland AFB, Texas.
  • Combat Control Operator Course, Keesler AFB, Miss.
  • U.S. Army Airborne School, Fort Benning, Ga.
  • U.S. Air Force Basic Survival School, Fairchild AFB, Wash.
  • Combat Control School, Pope AFB, N.C.
  • Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
  • U.S. Army Military Freefall Parachutist School, Fort Bragg, N.C., and Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz.
  • U. S. Air Force Combat Divers School, Panama City, Fla.

Army 'Combined Applications Group'

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The uncontested number oneheavy-weight champ. The operators of operators, crème de la crème even the SEALs who killed bin Laden wish they were a part of this crew.

Combined Applications Group is their old name, some call them Delta, but that was never an official name either. These guys are the absolute tip of the spear Matt Bissonnette, one of the SEALs on the bin Laden raid, mentioned them in his book "No Easy Day" as if they were gods.

They are also the only group of special operators outside of SEAL Team 6 (ST6) where direct close contact with the enemy is a guarantee upon acceptance, regardless of whether America is officially at war or not.

They recruit from the nation's highest special operations units, only twice a year, to include ST6.

These are just a couple initial tests they have to pass:

  • A timed 18-mile 'ruck-march' at night in which the candidate must carry 35 pounds in their rucksack.
  • A timed 40 mile route while carrying a 45 pound ruck sack over rough, steep terrain.

Then they have a rigorous battery of psychological tests. If, after those tests, they're found to qualify, they attend a six-month training course.

If they pass the course, they cease to exist. It's said they work hand-in-hand with the nation's highest paramilitary and intelligence agencies.

US Navy SEALs

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SEAL stands for Sea Air and Land special operators, thus the word SEALs. There are eight "Teams" of Navy SEALs: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10.

Despite having a number, SEAL Team 6 is not counted in the "numbered" teams. They're commonly called "rainbow" because they break personnel down into subsections under four colors Red, Blue, Gold, and Silver (with a special Gray squadron, the boat squad).

Prospective Navy SEALs attend a course called Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL, or BUD/S.

Total SEAL training consists of:

  • Preparation School

    4 - 12 weeks at the Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School.
  • Indoctrination Test

    3 weeks of physical tests.
  • BUD/S

    25 weeks. Week 3, "Hell Week," 135 hours of continuous physical demand.
  • Post Grad

    28 weeks at SEAL Qualification Course, which includes all specialized training courses to produce combat ready Navy SEAL.
  • The final test: killing the enemy and coming home

SEAL Team Six Rainbow

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At Navy SEAL balls, I've heard it's common to hear SEALs ask each other, "Are you a number, or a color?" The colors are (or possibly used to be) Red, Blue, Gold, and Silver.

They're a firm number 2 under Army CAG.

SEAL Team 6, the 'colored' SEALs, are those who do off the grid, or "black," operations, directly under Joint Special Operations Command (and so, by a short chain, the president). Under the designation, Naval Special Operations Development Group, or DEVGRU, these SEALs have three primary missions:

  • Counter Terrorism

    Since 2001 SEAL Team Six has been focused on operations in and around Afghanistan. The unit is also able to carry out pre-emptive CT operations.
  • Close Protection

    DEVGRU sometimes provide security for VIPs. For instance DEVGRU provided Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai with close protection in the early days of his Presidency.
  • Special Reconnaissance

    DEVGRU operators, especially those trained as snipers, are experts at reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence gathering operation.

Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams FAST

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FAST teams get a bum rap from a lot of other special operations units, in large part for them being comprised of regular straight-leg infantry. Grunts, in other words. Nonetheless, they perform a special set of tasks.

Their most common mission is to deploy and reinforce American diplomatic missions and embassies.

The Marines within Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams are skilled in:

  • Counter surveillance.
  • Physical security.
  • Urban combat techniques.
  • Close quarter combat (CQB).
  • Martial arts.

Force Reconnaissance Marines

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Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance, otherwise known as Force Recon, are a company-sized (about 200) recon and direct-action element that falls directly under the Marine Expeditionary Force commander, or the Naval Strike Group commander, depending on whether they're aboard a ship or on land.

Because of their direct line to a commander, Force Recon often finds itself in the position of performing, lets say, "highly sensitive," special operations making "Recon" a bit of a misnomer.

The sheer amount of training and the scope of their operations put them in a close heat with numbered SEALs for the number-three rank as top operators.

There are a number of courses they attend, some of which are:

  • Marine Corps Combatant Diver Course Navy Diving Salvage and Training Center, Naval Support Activity Panama City, Florida.
  • Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School* Navy Remote Training Sites; NAS North Island, CA or NAS Brunswick, ME.
  • Army Airborne School* Fort Benning, GA.
  • United States Army Static Line Jumpmaster School (Fort Benning, Georgia).
  • United States Army Ranger School (Fort Benning, Georgia).
  • Special Operations Training Group Schools (i.e. Urban Sniper, HRST, etc.).
  • Recon and Surveillance Leaders Course Ranger School, Fort Benning, GA.
  • Pathfinder Course Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, or Army Air Assault School, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Marine Special Operations Command MARSOC

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