1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D)
The 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), commonly known as Delta within the US Army or as Delta Force by the general public and officially recognized by the Pentagon as the Combat Applications Group, is a Special Operations Force (SOF) and an element of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
The force's main task is counter-terrorism, although it is extremely versatile. Delta Force is believed to conduct missions similar to those regularly attributed to the British Special Air Service (SAS), after which it was modeled.
The Pentagon tightly controls information about Delta Force and publicly refuses to comment on the secretive unit. The unit took part in Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue American hostages from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1980. The mission failed due to an overly complex plan, inadequate Special Operations Aviation training for the aircrews, a collision between a rescue helicopter and a re-fuelling tanker aircraft, and mechanical problems with the helicopters transporting the rescuers, caused by a severe sandstorm clogging the engine intakes and reducing visibility to nothing. After the debacle, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment was created to transport special forces personnel to and from Areas of Operation.
Since the 1990s, the Army has posted recruitment notices for the 1st SFOD-D, which many believe refers to Delta Force. The Army, however, has never released an official fact sheet for the force.
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. The book, in a short brief, relates Delta Force's involvement in the operations that occurred before the events leading to the battle. The book was later turned into a film by director Ridley Scott in 2001.
According to the book Inside Delta Force by CSM Eric L. Haney (ret.), the smallest unit is a team, consisting of four to five members. Each team specializes in HALO/HAHO, SCUBA, or other skill groups. The next tier is the troop level, consisting of four to five teams. Finally, squadron level (there are four squadrons) consists of two troops (Assault and Sniper). Squadrons are broken down into troops and teams as needed to fit mission requirements.
Each individual member of Delta is known as an operator such as in the Australian SAS. This was to avoid confusion with the CIA's term operative.
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 soldiers. Naylor wrote that only 250 of those are operators trained to conduct direct-action and reconnaissance missions. Those soldiers are divided into three squadrons—A, B, and C—with each squadron subdivided into three troops. Two are assault troops while a third troop specializes in reconnaissance and surveillance and is known as the "recce" troop. The remaining soldiers in Delta are highly trained specialists in mechanics, communications, intelligence and other support activities, and a headquarters staff. Naylor also wrote that Delta maintains an aviation squadron based somewhere else on the East Coast.
SFOD in Modern Conflicts
One of several operations in which Delta Force operators are thought to have played important roles was the invasion of Iraq in 2003. They allegedly entered Baghdad in advance, undercover with long hair and moustaches, along with SEALs from DEVGRU, guiding air strikes, building networks of informants while eavesdropping on and sabotaging Iraqi communication lines.
The force was also involved in the offensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2002. Many observers strongly suspect that members of Delta Force made up one of two units involved in a raid on a residence belonging to Mullah Omar. According to the Pentagon, the level of resistance to that operation was minimal.
The Mullah was not present but 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.
Delta Force operators are granted an enormous amount of flexibility and autonomy, as with their Navy counterpart, DEVGRU. They reportedly do not maintain any general uniformed presence and civilian clothing is the norm on or off duty while at Ft. Bragg. This is done to conceal the identities of these "secret soldiers". Uniforms are rarely worn, if at all, with any markings, names, or branch names on them. 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.
This special status that sets the force apart from the "regular army" is depicted quite accurately in the book Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden, and the film of the same name. The Army Rangers in the media, elite by their own right, have the standard "high and tight" haircuts (**Rangers no longer sport the high & tight, as their mission has drastically changed), yet the Delta operators are seen to be sporting much longer styles with side burns, un-shaven faces, and non-military issue helmets (actually hockey helmets, more to protect from bumps and scrapes while entering buildings than against gunfire, as noted in the book) and boots.
According to Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, Delta Force members are typically referred to by other personnel as "D-Boys", "Operators", "Rocks", or simply "Delta". The book also mentions that they hold little regard for rank within their force and refer to one another only by nicknames. Throughout the book Delta soldiers are recorded as expressing contempt for other, more regular US Army units, dismissing their training and combat performance.
Delta's unconventional nature also allows its operators to carry highly customized weapons. Although their standard weapon of choice may be the M4 carbine, they also use the SOPDMOD Special Operations Peculiar Modification) kit on the M4, and it is not unusual to find them carrying foreign weapon systems that are often used by the enemy in the Area of Operation (AO). This is to either help them "blend in" with the locals or to use the ammunition from slain enemy fighters.
Additionally, in his book Killing Pablo, Mark Bowden suggests that a Delta Force sniper may have assassinated Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. There is no hard evidence of this though and credit is generally attributed to Colombian security forces.
- Operation Eagle Claw: Iran, 1980
- Operation Urgent Fury: Grenada, 1983
- Operation Acid Gambit: Panama, 1989
- Operation Just Cause: Panama, 1989
- Operation Desert Shield: Iraq, 1990
- Operation Desert Storm: Iraq, 1991
- Operation Restore Hope: Somalia, 1993
- Operation Gothic Serpent: the operation that led to the Battle of Mogadishu
- Operation Enduring Freedom: Afghanistan, 2001
- Operation Anaconda: Afghanistan, 2002
- Operation Iraqi Freedom: Iraq, 2003
Recruitment and Training
Most recruits come from the United States Army Special Forces (Green Berets) and 75th Ranger Regiment, but recruits are also drawn from all branches of the Army, including the Army Reserve and Army National Guard.
Their main compound, called the Security Operations Training Facility, stands in a remote area of Fort Bragg, North Carolina and is thought to house less than 200 personnel. This is a testament to their rigorous training and very highest of standards, which is further demonstrated by a 7% percent success rate through selection and training. Reports of the compound mention numerous shooting facilities for close-quarters battle, long-range sniping and counter-sniping, a dive tank, an Olympic size swimming pool, a huge climbing wall, and a mock-up of an airliner.