The Quiet Professionals
Special Operations Forces (SOF) are known as the Rangers, Green Berets, Night Stalkers, Delta Force, SEALS, Air Force Special Tactics, and Marine Raiders but there are other SOF that you rarely or may never hear mentioned.
Each branch of the United States Armed Forces has its own Special Operations units. The parent command of all SOF is U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), which is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Comprising only about 3.5 percent of Department of Defense personnel, SOF are reportedly working in up to 76 countries on any given day, and they’re tasked with carrying out the military’s most secretive and specialized missions.
SOF missions are characterized as extreme in risk, precise in execution, and able to deliver a high payoff, the impacts of which will be felt for decades. Special Operators are entrusted to perform missions that exceed the authority given to conventional military units. Often called the “quiet professionals”, they are continually “trained for certainty, while being educated for uncertainty”— a hallmark of SOF.
SOF by the Numbers
On average, Special Operators are or have:
Average age of 31
Married with 2 children
8 years of experience with conventional military forces prior to Special Operations selection
Minimum of 2 or more years of specialized training to be mission-ready and undergo extensive, continuing education
SOF State of Affairs
- The increasing global need is outpacing SOF’s ability to grow resulting in more frequent and violent deployments.
- SOF are delaying retirement and deploying with illnesses and injuries. For example, one Navy SEAL received cancer treatments between his 8th-9th and 9th-10th deployments.
- SOF experience more musculoskeletal injuries than general military services.
- Every front-line special operator experiences some degree of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
- Many special operators suffer from the effects of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
- Divorce rates are escalating at an alarming rate due to the constant deployments and negative effects of those deployments on the service member and their families.
- Depression and suicide rates are up sharply amongst SOF.
- Cancer rates are higher in SOF, our nation’s most elite forces than in the civilian population.
- SOF is not considered “boots on the ground” hence their classified operations are rarely reported, nor their casualties.
- SOF has been in a state of perpetual combat and foreign assistance deployments since 911.
- Although roughly 3.5% of the entire Department of Defense, SOF have the highest casualty rates amongst all the services (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard).