Delta Force. DEVGRU. Two tier-one special operations units. What are their similarities, their differences? Let’s take a dive into all there is to know about Delta Force and DEVGRU. Let’s start off with Delta Force. Delta Force is also known as CAG, which stands for Combat Applications Group, and is officially referred to as First Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta. It is an elite tier-one special operations force of the United States Army. Okay, now on to DEVGRU. DEVGRU stands for Development Group, and it is also known as SEAL Team Six. Like Delta Force, it is an elite tier-one special operations force, but is a component of the United States Navy. Both of these entities fall under JSOC, which stands for Joint Special Operations Command. Headquartered in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, JSOC is a component command of U.S. SOCOM, which stands for United States Special Operations Command. JSOC is charged to study special operations requirements and techniques, ensure interoperability and equipment standardization, plan and conduct special operations exercises and training, and develop joint special operations tactics. All right, we just mentioned how they’re both tier-one special operations units. Let’s go over what exactly being a tier-one special military unit or SMU means.
Joint Special Operations Task Force JP-05.1 defines a special mission unit as a generic term to represent a group of operations and support personnel from designated organizations that is task organized to perform highly classified activities. There are three different tiers of SMUs in the United States military: tiers one, two, and three. Tier three SMUs, also known as white elements, consists of entities such as the US Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions, Marine Corps Recon battalions, Navy Riverines, Air Force 142nd Fighter Wing, etc. Tier two SMUs, also known as gray elements, consist of entities such as the Navy Seals, Navy SWCCs, Marine Raiders, Air Force Combat Controllers, PJs, Army Rangers, Army Special Forces, Night Stalkers, etc. Tier one SMUs, also known as Black elements, consist of yours truly, DEVGRU and Delta Force, and then the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron, the US Army’s Intelligence Support Activity, and the Regimental Reconnaissance Company. These are the only five Tier 1 SMUs that have been publicly disclosed. Tiers are defined by their funding, training, capabilities, and prestige. As you can see, the lower the tier, the less special they are. We say capabilities very loosely, by the way, as it is evident and clear that tier two units such as Seals, Special Forces, and the like are very capable and highly trained forces.
Tier one is just the best of the best, whereas tier three is more conventional. All right, let’s go over the history of Delta Force and DEVGRU. We’ll go over Delta Force first. Delta Force was founded in 1977 by Colonel Charles Beckwith. After numerous well-publicized terrorist incidents in the 1970s, a change was needed. These incidents led the US government to develop a full-time counter-terrorism unit, and Colonel Beckwith was tapped to do so within 24 months. The initial members of the unit were screened from volunteers and put through a specialized selection process in early 1978, involving a series of land navigation problems in mountainous terrain while carrying increasing weight. With Beckwith serving some time with the British Special Air Service, or SAS, the structure of Delta Force was inspired by them. We will go over the structures for both of these units later in the article. Two famous missions Delta Force has been a part of are Operation Red Dawn, which was locating and capturing Saddam Hussein, and Operation Black Swan, the capture of Sinaloa Cartel leader El Chapo. Here is a list of operations conducted by Delta Force. If you want a deeper look into Delta Force and its history, here are some books that we recommend you read.
They are: Inside Delta Force by Eric Haney, Relentless Strike by Sean Naylor, and Delta Force by Charles Beckwith. All right, let’s go over DEVGRU’s history now. DEVGRU, or at the time, SEAL Team Six, was formed in 1980 by Commander Richard Marcinko. After the failure of Operation Eagle Claw, the Navy asked Marcinko to form their own elite unit capable of responding to extreme threats. It was referred to as SEAL Team Six because at the time, there were only two SEAL Teams: SEAL Team One and SEAL Team Two. And Marcinko wanted to confuse the Soviets by having them think that there were six SEAL teams. He personally selected the unit’s members from the US Navy’s SEAL teams. Some famous missions DEVGRU has been a part of include Operation Neptune’s Spear, which was the raid resulting in the death of Osama bin Laden, and the Maersk Alabama hijacking and rescue, which was the rescuing of Captain Richard Phillips and his crew from Somali pirates. You might be familiar with this mission because they made a movie about it, Captain Phillips. Here is a list of missions that DEVGRU has participated in. If you want some further insight into the history and creation of DEVGRU, here are a couple of books that we recommend you checking out.
They are Rogue Warrior by Richard Marcinko and Inside SEAL Team Six by Don Mann. We’ll start off with the structure and makeup of Delta Force. Delta Force mainly recruits from the army, even though every single branch, including the Coast Guard, can join. Out of the army, a majority of those recruited are either Special Forces or Rangers. Support billets do exist, though, so it’s not just exclusively SAF operators that they seek. SAF or not, much more will be expected out of you if you try out for Delta. We will go into the selection process later in the article. Delta Force’s structure consists of squadrons and as previously mentioned, is inspired by the SAS’s structure. There’s Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta squadrons, which are the Assault squadrons. Then there’s Echo squadron, which is their aviation squadron, and the Gulf squadron, which is their intelligence gathering squadron. Hotel squadron is a nuclear disposal squadron, and there is also a combat support squadron. Let’s move on to DevGru. DevGru mostly recruits from the Navy. SEALs make up a majority of those who they recruit, but they also take SWICs, EOD technicians, SARCs, and fleet rates for support. Here is the list of the rates that DevGru recruits from, taken from the official US Navy instruction.
There’s a lot. Remember, even the highest-tier special operations unit needs support personnel, so don’t think you need to be a SEAL to be in DevGru. While you may not operate, you’ll still be a part of the community. A select few US Air Force, para-rescuemen, and combat controllers, or CCTs, are also embedded within DevGru, but PJ’s billets are being replaced with SARCs as of late. Like Delta Force, DevGru also consists of squadrons. There are six of them, each with their own insignia and purpose. They are gold, red, blue, silver, black, and gray. Out of the six squadrons, there are four assault squadrons: gold, red, blue, and silver, respectively. Here is the insignia for the red squadron, known as the Red Men. This is the gold squadron’s insignia. They are referred to as knights or crusaders. This is the blue squadron’s insignia. They are known as the Pirates. And here is the Silver squadron’s insignia. If you look closer, they use imagery from the other three assault squadrons. Now onto the gray squadron and the black squadron. Here, this is the gray squadron’s insignia, and this is the black squadron’s insignia. The gray squadron, also known as the Vikings, is trained to drive the custom vehicles used by Dev Group.
It also includes divers. The black squadron used to be the sniper unit, but now it conducts advanced force operations and works on reconnaissance, surveillance, and espionage. Now that you know some of the history, structure, and capabilities of Delta Force and DevGru, let’s go over the selection processes for both of them.
Delta Force’s assessment and selection course is grueling, challenging, and has a high attrition rate. It is approximately one month long, held twice a year, and is somewhere in the Appalachians. During this month, candidates are subjected to numerous amounts of physical, mental, and psychological tests. There’s apparently even a 40-mile ruck run to finish up the course with the standards and requirements completely unknown to those who are being tested. If a Delta Force candidate is selected after the one-month-long selection process, they move on to what is called OTC or Operator Training Course. Here they learn marksmanship, advanced demolition, executive protection, tradecraft, hostage rescue, tactical driving, lock picking, espionage techniques, and much more. After the OTC, they are assigned to one of Delta Force’s squadrons. Okay, on to DevGru. DevGru’s selection for its operators is called Green Team. The selection process occurs once a year and lasts for about six months. During these six months, candidates are constantly evaluated and tested on various skills and missions. The attrition rate in Green Team is roughly 50%. There’s also an assessment and selection for its enablers, but not much information is known about it.
Just know that you will be held to a higher standard regardless of your rating. If you want to know more about the requirements for service members who want to apply to the Delta Force and DevGru, we will leave a link in the description to the official US Navy’s instruction, 1306-979. Well, that’s all we’re going to talk about for Delta Force and DevGru. We went over their similarities, differences, capabilities, history, and their selection processes. If you want to learn more, go join a tier two SMU and prove yourself there so you can eventually apply to one of them. Keep in mind that information about these units is highly classified, and there’s most likely a lot about these units that no one will ever know. If you enjoyed this article and learned something from it.