Why Green Berets are the smartest, most lethal fighters in the world

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Special Operations Command

Though the US Army celebrates its birthday as June 14, 1775, it didn’t have the special operators with their distinctive green beret until much later.

Army Special Forces got its start on June 19, 1952, and since then its soldiers have been at the forefront of fights in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan and are now advising US-backed forces inside Syria.

They call themselves the quiet professionals, and they are one of the most elite fighting groups in the world.

Their mission is unconventional warfare – taking small teams to train and lead guerrilla forces.

Special Forces soldiers usually work together in a 12-man A-Team, with each man holding a specific job: The ranking officer is the team leader, the weapons sergeant knows just about every weapon in the world, the communications sergeant tees up ordnance or extract, and the medics can take lives as quickly as saving them.

It may seem crazy to send only 12 guys into a hostile country, but it’s not crazy when they are Special Forces.


The US Army Special Forces are known for their exceptional skill and professionalism in modern war.

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Department of Defense

Alongside the CIA, they were the first Americans on the ground in Afghanistan only one month after 9/11.

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Department of Defense

There they linked up with the Northern Alliance and brought Hamid Karzai into Kabul.

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US Army

Riding on horses in the beginning of that war …

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Wikimedia Commons

… or on ATVs …

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Department of Defense

… they were both feared and respected.

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US Army

But the Special Forces don’t take just anybody.

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Special Operations Command

The Army selects this elite few from among the best soldiers who come to Special Forces Assessment and Selection.

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US Army

The training is physically exhausting …

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Wikimedia Commons

… and requires exceptional endurance and mental skill.

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Special Operations Command

After just 24 days at SFAS, they move on to another year of training.

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Special Operations Command

That year includes language training (every Special Forces soldier learns a second language), specialty skills — such as weapons or radios — and finally Robin Sage, the culminating training exercise.

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Special Operations Command

But it’s only the beginning of their Special Forces career as they don the green beret for the first time …

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US Army

… and earn the “Long Tab” of the Special Forces.

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US Army

They’ll move on to a Special Forces group and start training within their 12-man teams.

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Wikimedia Commons

That might mean High Altitude Low Opening training …

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Department of Defense

… i.e., jumping out of an airplane …

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US Army

… with an oxygen mask, since they’ll be above 30,000 feet.

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US Army

Or breaching and clearing rooms.

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Department of Defense

What Special Forces would call Close Quarters Battle.

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Department of Defense

The object being to get through the doorway as quickly as possible …

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Department of Defense

… and overwhelm a hostile force with blistering small-arms fire.

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Department of Defense

All in a matter of seconds, of course.

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Special Operations Command

It’s not only Navy SEALs in the water.

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Wikimedia Commons

The Special Forces have their own diving school.

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Department of Defense

And if their group needs winter training, they’ll get that too.

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US Army

Ultimately, all this training gets them ready for their mission as the masters of unconventional warfare.

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Department of Defense

That may mean direct action — kicking in doors and going after the bad guys,

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Department of Defense

Or helping foreign governments with their own defense …

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US Army

… and training their military to help them fight.

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US Army

Most recently, Green Berets and other elite special operations forces have embedded and advised with Iraqi security forces and Kurdish militia fighters to take on ISIS.

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Kurdish People’s Protection Units fighters at the eastern entrances to the town of Tal Abyad in Syria’s northern Raqqa countryside.
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Thomson Reuters

And with much of Mosul, Iraq, now liberated and US-backed forces closing in on Raqqa, the ISIS capital, that strategy seems to be working.

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A US fighter near a military vehicle north of Raqqa.
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Thomson Reuters

One thing is certain when it comes to the Special Forces.

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US Army

They have their pick of the best small arms …

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US Army

… and really, really big arms.

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Wikimedia Commons

They have some of the most highly skilled shooters in the military …

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Special Operations Command

… who are both extremely accurate and fast — and can remain so when fired upon.

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Special Operations Command

They have some of the best equipment …

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Special Operations Command

… from their Humvees …

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Special Operations Command

… to helmets.

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Wikimedia Commons

They are supported by the finest helicopter pilots in the world …

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Wikimedia Commons

… and in Special Forces, even the dogs are elite.

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Reuters

As wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down …

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Reuters

… the US Army Special Forces will continue to train for the next fight …

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Special Operations Command

… and will most likely be the first ones called in to battle …

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Wikimedia Commons

… to live up to their motto: De Oppresso Liber — To Liberate the Oppressed.

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Special Operations Command