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The 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D) — commonly known as Delta, Delta Force and as the Combat Applications Group by the Department of Defense — is a Special Operations Force (SOF) and an integral element of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

Delta Force's primary tasks are counterterrorism, counterinsurgency and national intervention operations, although it is an extremely versatile group capable of assuming many covert missions, including, but not limited to, rescuing hostages, raids, and eliminating covert enemy forces. Delta Force conducts missions similar to those attributed to the British Special Air Service (SAS), on which it was originally modeled.


The unit was started by Colonel Charles Beckwith in 1977. Throughout its creation, the unit had the benefit of experience from the British SAS, with which Colonel Beckwith served and trained while on loan through an officer exchange program with the British from 1961 to 1962.

The unit took part in Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue American hostages from the US Embassy in Tehran in 1980. The mission failed due to an overly complex plan, inadequate Special Operations Aviation training for the accompanying aircrews, a collision between a rescue helicopter and a refueling tanker aircraft, and mechanical problems that reduced the number of available helicopters from the initial eight to only five (one fewer than minimum required) before the mission contingent left the refueling site to stage for the attack.

After that failure, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), also known as the "Nightstalkers", was founded and made responsible for the transporting of special forces personnel to and from Areas of Operation.

In 1999, writer Mark Bowden published the book Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, which chronicles the events that surrounded the October 3, 1993 Battle of Mogadishu.[1] The book, in a short brief, relates Delta Force's involvement in the operations that occurred before the events leading to the battle.[1] The book was turned into a film by director Ridley Scott in 2001.

In 2006, Bowden published another book, Guests Of The Ayatollah: The First Battle In America's War With Militant Islam, which chronicles the events of the Iran hostage crisis. The book contains first-hand accounts of Delta Force's involvement in the failed rescue attempt. An accompanying piece on The Atlantic Monthly's web site contains pictures and interview videos from some of the participants.

1st SFOD-D has also participated in operations in a variety of foreign locations, including in Beirut, Lebanon and extensively in Central America, fighting the Salvadoran revolutionary group Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front and assisting the CIA-funded Contras in Nicaragua.[2]


The Pentagon tightly controls information about Delta Force and publicly refuses to comment on the secretive unit and its activities.

Delta operators are granted an enormous amount of flexibility and autonomy, similar to their US Navy counterparts in DEVGRU. They will rarely wear any general uniform and civilian clothing is the norm on or off duty.[2] This is done to conceal the identities of these "secret soldiers".[2] When military uniforms are worn, they lack markings, surnames, or branch names.[2] Hair styles and facial hair are allowed to grow to civilian standards in order for the force to be able to blend in and not be immediately recognized as military personnel.[2]

This special status, which sets the force apart from the "regular army," is mentioned in the book Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden (though less so in the film of the same name).[1] Delta operators are allowed a significant degree of latitude in their personal grooming standards.[1] They are allowed to grow their hair longer than what "normal" army regulations would allow.[1]


According to the book Inside Delta Force by Command Sergeant Major Eric L. Haney (ret.), the smallest unit is a team, consisting of four to five members.[2] Each team specializes in HALO/HAHO, SCUBA, or other skill groups.[2] The next tier is the troop level, consisting of four to five teams.[2] Squadron level (there are three squadrons) consists of two troops (Short gun-assault and Long gun-sniper) which are broken down into troops and teams as needed to fit mission requirements.[2]

In Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda, Army Times staff writer Sean Naylor describes Delta as having nearly 1,000 operators.[3] Naylor wrote that approximately 250 of those are operators trained to conduct direct action and reconnaissance missions.[3] Those soldiers are divided into three squadrons — A, B, and C —with each squadron subdivided into three troops.[3] Two are assault troops while a third troop specializes in reconnaissance and surveillance and is known as the "recce" troop.[3] The remaining soldiers in Delta are highly trained specialists in mechanics, communications, intelligence, and other support activities, on top of a headquarters staff.[3]

Naylor also wrote that Delta maintains an aviation platoon using aircraft painted in civilian schemes and with fake identification numbers, different from the aircraft of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne).[3] This aviation platoon allegedly uses as many as twelve AH-6 and MH-6 Little Birds.[3] A Defense Department Web site also refers to an award given to the Aviation Squadron HQ, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-DELTA (Airborne). [4]

Recruitment and training

Most recruits come from the United States Army Special Forces and the 75th Ranger Regiment.[5] Personnel must be male, in the rank of Sergeant (E-5) or above and attend a Delta briefing even to be considered for admission. Since the 1990s, the Army has posted recruitment notices for the 1st SFOD-D [6], which many believe refers to Delta Force. The Army, however, has never released an official fact sheet for the force. The recruitment notices placed in Fort Bragg's newspaper, Paraglide, refer to Delta Force by name, and label it "...the Department of Defense's highest priority unit..." [7]. The notice states that all applicants must be 22 years or older, have a general technical score of 110 or higher, and be in the ranks of E-5 through E-8, with at least four and a half years in service.

Such recruits are men with skills such as proficiency in a foreign language or other desirable traits. The selection process is based on the UK SAS model [8][9]. The selection course begins with standard tests including: push-ups, sit-ups, and a three mile run. The recruits are then put through a series of land navigation courses to include an eighteen-mile, all-night land navigation course while carrying a thirty-five pound rucksack. The rucksack's weight and the distance of the courses are increased and the time standards to complete the task are shortened with every march. The physical testing ends with a forty-mile march with a forty-five pound rucksack over very rough terrain which must be completed in an unknown amount of time. It is said that only the highest-ranking members of the Pentagon are allowed to see the set time limits, but all assessment and selection tasks and conditions are set by Delta training cadre.[9][2] The mental portion of the testing begins with numerous psychological exams. The men then go in front of a board of Delta instructors, unit psychologists and the Delta commander who ask the candidate a barrage of questions and will dissect every response and mannerism of the candidate. The candidate will eventually become mentally exhausted. The unit commander will then approach the candidate and will tell him if he has been successful. If an individual is selected for Delta, he will then go through an intense 6 month Operator Training Course (OTC), where they will learn the art of counter-terrorism. This will include firearm accuracy and various other munition training.[2]

On many occasions, Delta Force will cross-train with similar units from allied countries such as the Australian Special Air Service, British Special Air Service, Canadian JTF 2, French GIGN, German KSK and Israeli SM, as well as helping to train other U.S. counter-terrorism and national intervention units, such as the FBI's HRT.Template:Fact


Known operations

Delta Force in modern conflicts

G.I. Joe, the official code name for Special Counter-Terrorist Unit Delta, has been operating since 1982, primarily battling Cobra.

Fred Pushies alleges that Delta Force assisted in providing security at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. They supposedly used a mobile command post disguised as a Budweiser delivery truck.

In his book Killing Pablo, Mark Bowden suggests that a Delta Force sniper may have eliminated Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. There is no hard evidence of this though and credit is generally attributed to Colombian security forces.

On August 8, 1993 members of Delta Force were sent in with U.S. Army Rangers and Navy SEALs in the conflict in Mogadishu, Somalia on which the movie Black Hawk Down was based. They were sent in to secure several of Mohammed Farah Aidid's top lieutenants, as well as a few other targets of high value. The mission was compromised after two UH-60 Blackhawks were shot down by RPGs. This resulted in an ongoing battle and led to the death of five Delta operators (a sixth was killed by mortar fire some days later), six Rangers, five Army aviation crew and two 10th Mountain Division soldiers.

In January 1997, a small Delta advance team and six members of the British SAS were sent to Lima, Peru immediately following the takeover of the Japanese Ambassador's residence.[10]

Members of Delta Force were also involved in preparing security for the 1999 Seattle WTO Conference, specifically against a chemical weapon attack.[11]

Delta Force was also involved in the offensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 [12].

Though the Mullah was not present, some papers and computer disks were said to have been seized in the raid. Critics later alleged that the second unit was unnecessary, claiming that it was very large and uncoordinated. As a result, they say, the defenders were alerted early and the number of friendly casualties was in fact higher than reported. According to the book Shadow Wars by David Pugliese, Delta operators wanted a quiet insertion method which was denied as command opted for a combined Ranger assault. Taliban fighters apparently ambushed the team when they were extracting and several Delta operators were severely wounded.

One of several operations in which Delta Force operators are thought to have played important roles was the 2003 invasion of Iraq[13]. They allegedly entered Baghdad in advance, undercover, along with SEALs from DEVGRU. Their tasks included guiding air strikes, and building networks of informants while eavesdropping on, and sabotaging, Iraqi communication lines.

Delta Force has formed the core of the special strike unit which has been hunting High Value Target (HVT) individuals like Osama Bin Laden and other key al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership since October 2001, the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom. It has been variously designated Task Force 11, Task Force 20, Task Force 121, Task Force 145 and Task Force 6-26.

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Women in Delta Force

Women are not allowed to be a Special Forces Operator and therefore cannot be a member of SFOD-D. Having said that, however, they can call their branch manager and request to be attached in a support role within their MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). All female Joes are officially "support personnel," on paper at least.

See also

  • List of special forces units
  • Weaponry used by Delta Force


  • Beckwith, Charles (with Donald Knox) (1983). Delta Force
  • Haney, Eric L. (2002). Inside Delta Force. New York: Delacorte Press, 325. ISBN 9780385336031.
  • Bowden, Mark (1999). Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. Atlantic Monthly Press. Berkeley, California (USA). ISBN 0-87113-738-0 about operation Gothic Serpent
  • Bowden, Mark (2001). Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw. ISBN 0-87113-783-6 about the hunt for Pablo Escobar
  • Bowden, Mark (2006). Guests Of The Ayatollah: The First Battle In America's War With Militant Islam. Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 0-87113-925-1. 
  • Bowden, Mark (May 2006). The Desert One Debacle. The Atlantic Monthly.
  • Naylor, Sean (2005). "Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda", Penguin Group, New York about Operation Anaconda
  • Griswold, Terry. "DELTA, America's Elite Counterterrorist Force", ISBN 0-87938-615-0
  • Robinson, Linda, Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of the Special Forces
  • National Geographic Documentary: Road to Baghdad
  • Pushies, Fred J., et al. (2002). U. S. Counter-Terrorist Forces. Unknown: Crestline Imprints, 201. ISBN 0760313636.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Bowden, Mark (1999), Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, Berkeley: Atlantic Monthly Press, ISBN 0-87113-738-0 
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Haney, Eric L. (2002). Inside Delta Force. New York: Delacorte Press. pp. 325. ISBN 9780385336031. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Naylor, Sean (2006), Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda, Berkeley, ISBN 0425196097 
  4. Washington Headquarters Service, Department of Defense, Joint Meritorious Unit Awards.
  6. Mountaineer. SFOD-D seeking new members. Fort Carson, Colorado: Mountaineer (publication). January 16, 2003.
  7. Fort Bragg's newspaper Paraglide, recruitment notice for Delta Force. Retrieved on June 28, 2007.
  8. Adams, James (1987). Secret Armies. Hutchinson. p. 102. "The course itself was loosely based on what Beckwith, Meadows (who had also served at Hereford) and others had learned from the British and Germans" 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Beckwith, Charlie A (1983). Delta Force. Harcourt. 
  10. Special Forces Operational Detachment - Delta
  11. News: Delta's down with it (Seattle Weekly)
  12. September 2003 Engineer Update
  13. W:\pmtr\ventura\#article\noonan.vp

External links

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