Category: Special Forces

Israel’s Special Forces – Shayetet 13

Israel’s Special Forces – the Shayetet 13 – is a branch of the Israeli Navy and one of the top special forces in the world.  This elite commando group was first organized in 1948 and has participated in almost every major Israeli war since. The Shayetet 13, together with the Sayeret Matkal and Shaldag Unit, comprises the Special Forces units of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Initially, the Israel Defense Forces debated the need for a Special Forces unit, which initially restricted both the size and the budget of the Shayetet 13. Though started in 1948, their existence was not made public until 1960.

Organization and Training

The Shayetet 13 is composed of three specialized units –

Raids – This group is responsible for special recon and direct action on land, but on sea they are responsible for counter-terrorism and hostage rescues.

Underwater – This second group deals with underwater attacks and sabotage, Beach Recon and Beachhead Recon and Security

Above Water – The above water group in the Shayetet 13 is responsible for surface attacks and also the sea transportation of units both to and from a target area.

To become a member of this elite commando group, recruits must first endure a 20-month training program and is comprised of the following:

The Selection Process – The selection process takes place twice a year. During this process, cadets will endure both physically and mentally challenging tests. This process is overseen by physicians and psychologists in order to prevent mental burnout and to prevent physical injuries. The selection phase further evaluates the cadet’s capacity of operation in both stressful and fearful situations.

Basic and Advanaced Infantry Training – Once the selection process is successfully completed, recruits advance to the next phase of the process – six months of basic and advanced infantry training.

Preparation Phase – The next phase is three months long and is known as the Preparation phase. During this portion of the training, recruits are given advanced infantry and weapons training and demolitions. They are also given parachute training and additional schooling in the basic elements of maritime warfare. Before the course is completed, they will have also learned how to operate small vessels and endure long swims and forced marches.

Advnaced Combat Diving – The group receives four weeks of advanced training of combat diving, where in addition to the basics of combat diving, they will learn to cope with various ‘extreme’ situations including cold, dark and/or clouded water as well as surviving underwater in high-risk situations.

Dedicated Phase – Finally, those who are still in the program will undergo the final phase – The Dedicated Phase. This training lasts for approximately one year and further trains recruits in advanced diving techniques, underwater demo, parachuting into the sea and various other sea-to-land excursions. Three weeks are dedicated to counter terrorism at the IDFs school. During this final phase, recruits are assigned to one of three specialty groups based on their strengths and interests, where they receive specific training in the specialized area of their group.

Israel’s Special Forces – Shayetet 13 is highly respected throughout the world and considered by many to be comparable to the US Navy SEALs.

Top Ten, Most Elite Special Operation Units in the US Military

Below is a list of the top ten, most elite special operation units in the US military and a brief overview of each.

View a brief video on the movie – Zero Dark Thirty

10.  USMC Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team

Also known as FAST, is ready for rapid deployment when US Government installations throughout the world require additional security.  They are stationed at different naval command posts throughout the world.  This unit of close to 500 Marines is specially trained using the state-of-the-art weapons.

9.  USAF Pararescuemen, PJ

The primary mission of the US Air Force’s Pararescuemen is to recover aircrew members who are either downed and/or injured in harsh environments.  They also provide on the scene emergency medical treatment to stabilize the injured while evacuating them.  The conditions sometimes warrant them to act as aircrew gunners and scanners as some missions require enemy evasion.


8.  US Army 75th Ranger Regiment

This elite infantry unit, aka:  Rangers, is a Special Operations unit headquartered at Ft. Benning, GA.  The unit is made up of a single Special Troops Battalion and three special operations battalions, specially trained with a variety of skills needed for a number of different specialized missions.  These three light infantry battalions are can be rapidly deployed and take turns rotating into the “Ranger Ready Forces”, where they are on constant readiness with the ability to respond to any crisis, anywhere in the world, in less than 18 hours.

7.  USMC Anglico

The US Marine Corps Special Forces – ANGLICO – are most noted for their proficiency in controlling Close Air Support (CAS).  They are, however, also trained in ground based fires such as cannon and rocket artillery and precision guided munitions.  The well-rounded training of the Anglico’s makes them the only firepower control team in the US Department of Defense who operates full time and have been fully trained to control and coordinate fire support from the air, on the land and on the sea.

6.  USMC MARSOC – Activated in February of 2006, this specially trained Marine Corps group is a module command of the US Special Operations Command encompassing the USMCs contribution to SOCOM.  The primary capabilities of MARSOC include direction action, special reconnaissance and also foreign internal defense.  They are also in charge of counter-terrorism, information operations and unconventional warfare.  These highly, specialized trained individuals must functionally capable of operating in fast-paced, often remote and complex, environments.

5.  US Army Intelligence Support Activity

This top secret US Army intelligence unit’s primary function is to gather intelligence information that will pave the way for a plan of action.  Some of the sources for their information includes (but is not limited to) local operatives working undercover and the monitoring and tracking of radio communications.

4.  USMC Force Reconnaissance

Active since June of 1957, the USMC Force Reconnaissance are capable of performing both deep reconnaissance as well as direction action operations.  This specialized task force is trained to operate independently behind enemy lines, while unconventional special ops, while supporting conventional warfare.  Their primary focus is to support the Marine expeditionary and amphibious operations.

3.  US Navy Seals

Probably one of (if not) the most well-known Special Ops group, the US Navy Seals are highly specialized and trained in the air, on the land and the sea.  Their roots can be traced back to WWII when the US Navy realized the necessity to develop secret reconnaissance of landing beaches and coastal defenses.  This discovery resulted in the establishing of the Amphibious Scout and Raider School in 1942.


2.  US Army Delta Force

The US Army Delta Force unit generally consists of versatile, quiet professionals.  They are involved in unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, information operations as well as various other roles.  Delta force members refer to themselves as “The Unit”.  Delta Force was first organized in November of 1977 and is known for its versatility in conducting various types of covert operations, such as hostage rescues and raids.

1.  US Navy DEVGRU, SEAL Team 6

This US Naval Special Warfare Development Group has a classified number of teams deployed worldwide.  The original Team 6 was initially dissolved back in 1987, but then re-established by the US Navy as the Special Warfare Development Group – DEVGRU.  Most information about DEVGRU remains highly classified and neither the White House nor the Department of Defense will comment on the details of its activities.

The brief descriptions listed above for each of these specialized units merely scratches the surface of these deep, secretive and specialized units.  They are among the best of the best, trained to acclimate to almost any weather, environment or situation, making them the top ten, most elite Special Operations nits in the US Military.

US Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance

Often abbreviated as Force Recon or even FORECON, the US Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance special operations, a top US special forces team, provide certain elements regarding military intelligence to the command sector of their Marine Air-Ground Task Force, supporting their force commanders as well as their subordinate operating units, the Fleet Marine Force (FMF).

FORECON performs both deep reconnaissance and direct action missions, though the majority of the direct action operations are now under MARSOC – the US Marine Special Operations Command, and their Marine Special Operations Team (MSOT).  This change in responsibility freed Force Recon to place most of their focus on their intelligence-gathering missions.

FORECON operates independently behind enemy lines, often performing unusual missions that support the conventional warfare.   They, like the Navy SEALs, receive land, sea and air training for insertion and extraction missions.  Their focus generally remains primarily in supporting Marine operations.  FORECON has two different types of missions:  Green operations and Black operations

A Brief Look at Green Operations

Green operations involve the collection of vital intelligence using both amphibious and ground reconnaissance.  They often travel deep into enemy territory far beyond any artillery or gunfire support, so their safety greatly depends on their ability to move about undetected.  If even one round is fired, the mission is said to be unsuccessful.

A Brief Look at Black Operations

FORECON black operations require direct action.  Unlike the green operations which are out scouting to locate potential problems, black operations require direct action and are almost always carried out within fire support.  Close air support is one vital skill that is often exercised in a direct action mission.  They also provide protection – or Personal Security Detail – for vital personnel.


FORECONFORECON training has a number of phases.  Within each phase, candidates are specially trained both as an individual and as a unit in areas such as recon and surveillance and combatant diving.  They also must successfully complete a number of programs including a Basic Airborne Course, Multi-Mission Parachute Course and Scout Sniper Course.  They also receive six month’s training in Special Operations.  Once certified, they go into a six month deployment phase.

This is but a brief overview highlighting a few of the many detailed tasks and missions of FORECONs highly trained soldiers.  The US Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance is an incredible group of specialized Marines whose motto is “Swift, silent, deadly”.


The US Navy’s DEVGRU, or Special Warfare Development Group, is the elite group who used to be known solely as the Navy’s Seal Team 6.  Most of DEVGRUs information is highly classified.  DEVGRU is considered one of the top (if not the top) special operations unit in the US military.

View brief video on DEVGRU’s Operation Neptune Spear and movie – Zero Dark Thirty

Initially, head of the Seal Team 6 – Richard Marcinko – was given just six months to get this team ready.  Marcinko was looking for soldiers with combat experience, which let him know they could perform even under fire and those who had good language skills, which would allow them to communicate and blend into various cultures while involved in an operation.  Since then, the selection and training process has properly evolved assuring team members are the “best of the best”.


Team training for this top US special forces team is intense and to this day remains highly classified.  One former SEAL member stated that in one year, the entire Team Six (DEVGRU) force will shoot off more rounds of ammunition than the total allowance for the entire US Marine Corps.  Along with shooting skills and range firing, SEAL Team 6 recruits are also trained in close-quarter combat and stress shooting under a number of different conditions.  Drop-out rate during the training is believed to be close to 50%.


Initially, SEAL Team Six was dedicated exclusively to counter-terrorism, which includes international maritime responsibility.  Their objectives often include ships and oil rigs and any type of coastal embassy, naval or civilian base or any other type of military or civilian base that is accessible from any type waterway (sea or inland).

In addition to counter-terrorism, the SEAL Team Six extended responsibilities includes the covert infiltration of known international “hot spots” where they carry out recon and/or security assessments of any US military bases or Embassies.  Their input is then used to better secure these bases and Embassies – as well as prevent casualties – should a terrorist attack occur.  They also are called in when a personnel/hostage situation is deemed high-risk.  Some changes in their mission did occur once the team was renamed.  However, counter-terrorism still remains one of their primary missions.  DEVGRU tandem trains with the US Army’s Delta Force and the teams are generally deployed together.

Most recently, this US Navy DEVGRU SEAL Team 6 was applauded for their cover mission – Operation Neptune Spear – which ended with the killing Osama Bin Laden.

Top Ten Special Operations Forces in the World

Countries throughout the world train special operation forces within their military, so coming up with a list of top special operations forces in the world is difficult at best.  All special ops forces train their military men to be the best of the best, to take the impossible task and make it possible.  In that respect, all Special Operations units are top.  While the list below may not be everyone’s top ten, some of those listed would certainly be a part of any top ten lists.

Step back in time as you step into the Firearms and Ordnance Gallery at the Armed Forces History Museum.  Here, reality awakens within, as you marvel at the weapons and feel the power of destruction housed throughout this extensive gallery.  Authentic weapons from around the world (including some used by Special Forces) dating throughout history can be witnessed in this astonishing collection.  The oldest piece on display is a rare bayonet from the Revolutionary War.

View a recent AFHM video on the movie – Zero Dark Thirty

10.  Russian Spetsnaz

What sets the Russian Spetsnaz apart from other specially trained special ops units around the world is their daily exposure to physical punishment.  The purpose for this portion of their training is to teach them to endure physical pain and to work the mind to “enjoy” it since it is impossible to ignore it.  They are permitted to leave the training anytime they desire.  Their missions generally involve reconnaissance and close quarter combat.   Many of the bodyguards chosen for the high-tanking political figures of Russia are chosen from the Spetsnaz.

9.  Pakistan Special Service Group – This Pakistan Special Service Group (SSG) is also known as “Black Storks” a name derived from their unique headgear the “Maroon Beret”.  The SSG has ten specific missions for which they are trained:

  • Asymmetric Warfare
  • Special Operations
  • Counter-Proliferation
  • Unconventional Warfare
  • Foreign Internal Defense
  • Special Reconnaissance
  • Direct Action
  • Hostage Rescue
  • Counter-Terrorist
  • Personnel Recovery

This elite group from Pakistan is somewhat similar to the US Army’s Green Berets and the British Army’s SAS.  They often conduct exercise missions with Special Forces from other countries such as China and the UK.

8.  Austria Eko Cobra

This special ops tactical unit is involved mainly in counter-terrorism.  The group retains a low profile, despite their high-speed involvement in the war on terror.  In Europe, they are known for their competitive edge over other countries at S.W.A.T. and other competitions throughout Europe.  Though their covert missions are carried without with little or no media, they are still considered by many as one of the best trained counter-terrorist units in the world.


7.  French Army Special Forces Brigade

This French Special Ops group has one of the most rigorous qualification training programs in the world.  This group is subdivided into three specially trained areas:

  • 1er Régiment de Parachutistes d’Infanterie de Marin which is based in Bayonne.
  • 13e Régiment de Dragons Parachutistes based in Martignas-sur-Jalle.
  • 4e Régiment d’Hélicoptères des Forces Spéciales, the unit based in Pau.

6.  Polish GROM

Activated in July of 1980 in response to terrorist threats, GROM is one of five Special Ops units in Poland.  They are trained to respond to a variety of threats and unconventional warfare roles.  Their existence was not even acknowledged by the Poland until 1994.  Within five years, the group converted to a special military formation in compliance with NATO standards.  They are revered among the newest members of NATO as the best commando unit.

5.  German GSG9

The GSG9 is a special operations unit of the German Federal Police, specializing in counter-terrorism.  The group was formed after the failed attempt of the German Police to successfully free 11 Israeli athletes who were kidnapped in Munich in 1972 during the Summer Olympic Games.   They recognized, as a result, that their forces were not properly trained or equipped to handle such situations.  They have since been trained in deployed in situations when hostages are taken, kidnapping is involved or in cases of terrorism or extortion.

4.  Israeli Shayetet 13

This Special Ops group shares the Israeli Army motto:  “Never Again”, referring to the Holocaust.  Though they are one of three special units, the Shayetet 13 bears the closest resemblance to the US Army’s Delta Force.  They are specially trained for rescuing hostages and in counter-terrorism.  Though they remain an extremely secretive group, the most public noted mission was Operation Spring of Youth.  During this operation, the Shayetet 13 went into Beirut Lebanon where they hunted down and killed all the terrorists involved in the 1972 Munich massacre of 11 Israeli athletes.

3.  US Army Delta Force

The US Army’s Delta Force is the only official US counter-terrorism unit focused on hostage rescues, counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism.  To be selected for this specialty force team, an individual must undergo a rigid physical test that begins with sit ups and push-ups and a 3 mile run – all to be completed within an undisclosed time frame.  Next, the each prospective member must complete an 18-mile hike over rugged, mountainous terrain carrying a 35 lb backpack and compass, but no a map.  This physically grueling entrance test does not end there.  Another 45-mile hike is then required, this time with a 45 lb backpack and an even shorter time limit.  Afterwards, each individual must further undergo a number of mental exams where examiners attempt to confuse and thus break the individual.  Once the above requirements are successfully completed, the recruit is then permitted to enter into the actual 6 month training program for the Delta Force.

2.  US Navy SEAL Team 6 – DEVGRU

The first commanding officer of SEAL Team 6 was Dick Marcinko – a US Navy representative for the Joint Chiefs of Staff task force Terrorist Action Team.  The team was created in October of 1980 after a failed attempt in 1979 to rescue American hostages being held in Iran.  As a result, the US Navy recognized the imminent need for a specially trained counter terrorist team.  SEAL Team 6 (or currently DEVGRU – Naval Special Warfare Development Group) consists of four line squadrons – Red, Blue, Gold and Silver.  The men within these units are the elite of the elite of special op forces and are trained on Sea, air and land, making them a well-rounded, highly trained group of individuals.

1.  British SAS

The British SAS follow the sea, air and land training of the SEALs; however their training in counter-espionage is more in-depth and complex than the SEALs.  Both the SAS and SEALs receive comparable training as they sometimes work closely.  They are trained in numerous fighting techniques and remain the primary model in which most national commando units are based.

The above Special Ops Forces list may not be a conclusive top list for everyone.  Given the number of excellently trained units around the world, they all maintain the highest integrity and require their team members to constantly challenge themselves under some of the most extreme grueling circumstances experienced by man.  They must always be ready for the worst of the worst, but who better to be ready than the best of the best.  The ten Special Ops units above have certainly proved themselves time and again and therefore have earned them a spot on this particular list of the top ten Special Operations Forces in the world.