united states special operations command

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Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha.
United States Army Special Forces a.k.a. “Green Berets

The United States Army Special Forces, known as the Green Berets because of their distinctive service headgear, are a special operations force tasked with five primary missions: unconventional warfare (the original and most important mission of Special Forces), foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, and counter-terrorism. 

The first two emphasize language, cultural, and training skills in working with foreign troops. Other duties include combat search and rescue (CSAR), counter-narcotics, counter-proliferation, hostage rescue, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian demining, information operations, peacekeeping , psychological operations, security assistance, and manhunts; other components of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) or other U.S. government activities may also specialize in these secondary areas. Many of their operational techniques are classified, but some nonfiction works and doctrinal manuals are available.

As special operations units, Special Forces are not necessarily under the command authority of the ground commanders in those countries. Instead, while in theater, SF units may report directly to a geographic combatant command, USSOCOM, or other command authorities. The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) highly secretive Special Activities Division (SAD) and more specifically its Special Operations Group (SOG) recruits from the Army’s Special Forces. Joint CIA-Army Special Forces operations go back to the MACV-SOG branch during the Vietnam War. The cooperation still exists today and is seen in the War in Afghanistan.

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The U.S. Army conducted one of the most complex joint-training exercises in over a decade: a major JFE exercise Aug. 5-6, 2015, at the Army’s National Training Center on Fort Irwin, California, honing the U.S. Armed Forces’ abilities to project decisive combat power globally. This joint-training exercise, dubbed “Dragon Spear,” focuses on the interoperability, interdependence, and integration of conventional and Special Operations Forces in a complex, dynamic combat scenario. This joint exercise includes more than 1,500 fighting forces from: The United States Army Special Operations Command, Joint Special Operations Command, XVIII Airborne Corps, and the U.S. Air Force.

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Naval Special Warfare Development Group
The Navy’s Tier 1 Special Missions Unit

The United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG), or DEVGRU, is a U.S. Navy component of Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOCThe primary mission of the Joint Special Operations Command is ostensibly to identify and eliminate terror cells worldwide. JSOC is a component command of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and is charged to study special operations requirements and techniques to ensure interoperability and equipment standardization, plan and conduct special operations exercises and training, develop joint special operations tactics and execute special operations missions worldwide). 

It is often referred to as SEAL Team Six, the name of its predecessor which was officially disbanded in 1987. DEVGRU is administratively supported by Naval Special Warfare Command and operationally commanded by the Joint Special Operations Command. Most information concerning DEVGRU is classified and details of its activities are not usually commented on by either the White House or the Department of Defense. Despite the official name changes, “SEAL Team Six” remains the unit’s widely recognized moniker. It is sometimes referred to in the U.S. media as a Special Missions Unit.

DEVGRU and its Army counterpart, Delta Force, are the United States military’s primary counter-terrorism units. Although DEVGRU was created as a maritime counter-terrorism unit, it has become a multi-functional special operations unit with several roles that include high-risk personnel/hostage extractions and other specialized missions.

The Central Intelligence Agency’s highly secretive Special Activities Division (SAD) and more specifically its elite Special Operations Group (SOG) often works with—and recruits—operators from DEVGRU. The combination of these units led to the most significant special operations success in the Global War On Terror.

Pararescuemen, also known as PJs (Pararescue Jumpers), are United States Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and Air Combat Command (ACC) operatives tasked with recovery and medical treatment of personnel in humanitarian and combat environments. These special operations units are also used to support NASA missions and have been used to recover astronauts after water landings. They are attached to other SOF teams from all branches to conduct other operations as appropriate. Of the 22 enlisted Air Force Cross recipients, 12 are Pararescuemen. They wear the maroon beret as a symbol of their elite status, and to symbolize the blood shed by past PJs, as well as the blood current PJs are willing to shed to save lives.

Teamwork

Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Horner kneels and spots for Sgt. Tyler E Payne [from the Army Marksmanship Unit] while he engages long range targets during the 2014 United States Army Special Operations Command International Sniper Competition on Fort Bragg. Horner and Payne made up the Army Marksmanship Unit team who won this year’s competition. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Shelman Spencer, USAJFKSWCS)

Official promotional poster for the United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command posted on their official Facebook page, and interestingly enough, the guy in the picture is wielding an H&K G3 battle rifle. When asked about the rifle, they responded with;

Interesting comments. The men in the arena remain steadfast in their training and developing tradecraft regardless of weapons system…

It could be foreign weapons training, or maybe the guys over there just prefer a little more stopping power than the 5.56mm provides.

Nevertheless, It’s an interesting picture.

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. – A sniper team uses a buddy fire technique to shoot targets during the 4th annual United States Army Special Operations Command Sniper Competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., Dec. 3. The participants use their training and skills throughout 14 diverse lanes of competition in hopes that they will take first place. (Photo by Sgt. Jared Gehmann)

A 20-year veteran, Master Sgt. Brendan O'Connor, formerly a senior medic on a 2nd Battalion, 7th SFG (A) Operational Detachment Alpha, was presented the award while he stood before family, friends, and fellow Soldiers.

“For the men who were with him that day, Master Sergeant O'Connor is a savior,” said Adm. Eric T. Olson, commander of United States Special Operations Command, who presented the award to O'Connor.

“For all Americans, he is a hero, and for all members of special operations across the services, he is a source of enormous pride,” he said.

O'Connor was instrumental in keeping his team alive during an intense battle with more than 250 Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan on June 22, 2006. While making a temporary stop during a patrol, his team and their attached Afghan National Army soldiers were attacked from all sides with small-arms fire, heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, recoilless rifles and mortars.

During the 17 ½ hours of sustained combat that followed, O'Connor and his team fought off wave after wave of Taliban attackers from a group of small compounds, fighting for their lives against insurgents who were intent on killing or capturing the beleaguered defenders. Much of the combat was so close that the defenders of the compounds could hear cursing and taunting from the enemies who swarmed the perimeter.

After hearing two Soldiers were wounded at another location, O'Connor removed his body armor and low-crawled under heavy machine gun fire to treat and extract his wounded comrades. O'Connor then carried a wounded Soldier back to a safer area, again passing through intense fire. One teammate commented that as he was crawling, machine gun fire “mowed the grass” around him.

“I don’t think that what I did was particularly brave,” said O'Connor. “My friend needed help and I had the opportunity to help him, so I did. I think I’m lucky to get this sort of recognition; there are so many other Soldiers who do similarly brave things overseas and are happy with just a pat on the back when they get home.”

O'Connor is the second Soldier to be awarded the DSC for actions taken in Operation Enduring Freedom. The first was a 5th Special Forces Group Soldier, Maj. Mark Mitchell in 2003. Before Mitchell there had been none since the Vietnam War. The DSC is the second highest award for valor, surpassed only by the Medal of Honor.

“I’ve never been more honored, but this medal belongs to my whole team,” said O'Connor.

“Every member was watching out for the other, inspiring each other, and for some, sacrificing for each other. We all fought hard, and it could just as easily be any one of them standing up here getting it pinned on; every one of them is a hero,” he said.

O’Connor retired as a Sergeant Major in 2016.