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Army Rangers Vs Navy Seals 2023


The US Army Rangers are the Army’s elite fighting force. The type of person that’s in the regiment is motivated. They don’t settle for second best.  But how do these elite warriors compare to the Navy’s Seals? The Navy SEALs are the Navy’s legendary maritime Special Operations Force. 

Today, I will cover the difference between Army Rangers vs Navy Seals, two of the most renowned special operations units in the United States military. 


Historical Overview

Army Rangers

If military units factored their age, the Army Rangers would be like an old man with a cane, and the Navy Seals would be like a baby in diapers. The 75th Ranger Regiment can trace its lineage all the way back to the French and Indian War in the mid 1700s. A man named Robert Rogers would stand up in formal long-ranging units known as Rogers Rangers, whose devastating quick strike tactics would inspire informal ranger units up through the Civil War.

 Almost 200 years later, a modern ranger unit was reborn during the outbreak of World War II.

Consisting of an elite core of 500 volunteers, these warriors would see more close hand combats than any other American soldier during the War. It was during their participation in the D. Day landings that the Rangers gained their famous motto, Rangers Lead the Way. 

After fighting in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Army Rangers evolved into the 75th Ranger Regiment as we know it today. They would move on to make a worldwide name for themselves by partaking in several global impacting missions and conflicts, and were called upon to lead the way in the global war on terrorism.

Navy Seals

While the Army Rangers were making a name for themselves long before World War II, the Navy Seals were just beginning to find their footing. The Seals traced their lineage back to the underwater demolition teams of World War II. Equipped with just a K bar, swim fins, and explosives, the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) of the Navy SEALs would insert behind enemy lines, avoiding detection by the enemy.

They were so effective that they were a part of every major amphibious landing in the occupation of Japan, and even had their hand in D day alongside the Army Rangers. The UDTs continued to develop and master their craft throughout the Korean War and into the Vietnam War, but their mission set wasn’t enough. The Navy needed a special unit capable of operating not just from the sea, but also the air and land. This led to President JFK establishing the first two SEAL teams in 1962.

Throughout the years, they would be involved in several major conflicts, from Grenada, the Iran Iraq War, Panama, the Gulf War, Somalia intervention, the war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and much more. The Seals would build a reputation for themselves and became well known for their motto, The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday. 

Key War Milestones

 Army RangersNavy Seals
WW IIParticipated in the D. Day landings, Gained their famous motto, Rangers Lead the Way.Part of every major amphibious landing in the occupation of Japan, Had their hand in D day alongside the Army Rangers.
Post WarParticipated in Korean and Vietnam Wars, Evolved into the 75th Ranger Regiment.UDTs developed their craft throughout the Korean War and into the Vietnam War, led to the establishment of first two SEAL teams in 1962.
Notable ConflictsSeveral global impacting missions and conflicts, Lead the way in the global war on terrorism.Involved in major conflicts from Grenada, Iran Iraq War, Panama, the Gulf War, Somalia intervention, the war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and much more.

Modern-Day Operations 

The US Army Rangers are bad ass, and there’s no doubt about it. As the US Army’s premier direct action raid force, the 75th Ranger Regiment is one of the most capable and lethal fighting forces the world has ever seen. The US Navy Seals are the heart of the Naval Special Warfare Combat Force, excelling in virtually every environment. There’s a reason why SEAL stands for Sea, Air and Land. It’s a testament to their ability to conduct a variety of high stake special operations missions wherever required. There is very little a Navy SEAL can’t and won’t do. 


Mission Sets and Specialties

When you compare the Seals to the Rangers, how exactly do they match up? You might be tempted to think things are pretty straightforward. Hell, both are special operations units in two different branches. The Army is known as a land-based branch and the Navy is known as a maritime based branch. And the main separator must be the water, right? If only it were that simple. 

Army Rangers have their hand in combat diving, and the Seals have been operating in strictly land environments throughout the Middle East for years. And that’s just one example of many.

SOCOM

While the Army Rangers are primarily a land-based unit and the Seals are a maritime-based unit, they both fall under SOCOM. As a result, they share mission sets, but each have their own respective specialties.

One way of boiling it all down would be like this. The Rangers are like a hammer and the Seals are like a scalpel. But what do we mean by that? Rangers are a specialized light infantry, meaning they operate in larger numbers than Navy Seals do, who operate in platoons within teams. 

Thus, Rangers are very good at direct action raids against in place targets. They can launch full scale assaults and cripple the enemy in a short amount of time. Navy Seals, on the other hand, are more so utilized for missions requiring the utmost precision or leaving a smaller footprint in the area of operations. Need to take over a small town or airfield? Call the Rangers. Need to neutralize a few enemy combatants? Call the Navy Seals.

But if you’re more of a stickler and looking for the on-paper mission sets, the Army Rangers’ three main missions are special operations raids, forcible entry operations, and special reconnaissance. Whereas the Navy Seals main missions are direct action, counterterrorism, and foreign internal defense. But both do more than just their main missions. 

Like the Rangers, the Seals also have their hand in special reconnaissance and capture of high-value targets. But due to the way they are leveraged, the Seals are more likely to find themselves conducting unconventional warfare tactics.

Since the Rangers are more of a brute fighting force, they tend not to deal with areas such as foreign internal defense or VBSS missions as much as Seals do. But that’s the beauty of all things SOF. Despite their different mission sets, these operators are versatile and capable of doing very similar things.

Specializations

  • Army Rangers: Specialized Light Infantry
    • The Rangers are like a hammer. 
    • They are very good at direct action raids against in-place targets. 
    • They can launch full-scale assaults and cripple the enemy in a short amount of time.
  • Navy Seals: Precision Unit
    • The Seals are like a scalpel. 
    • They are more so utilized for missions requiring the utmost precision or leaving a smaller footprint in the area of operations.
    • Capable of neutralizing a few enemy combatants with precision

Comparative Roles of Army Rangers and Navy Seals

If you’re more of a stickler and looking for the on-paper mission sets, here they are:

Army RangersNavy Seals
Special operations raidsDirect action
Forcible entry operationsCounterterrorism
Special reconnaissanceForeign internal defense

Despite their different mission sets, these operators are versatile and capable of doing very similar things.

Weapons

The truth about the Seals and Rangers is that these units have way more in common than either would like to admit. Both of these communities have snipers, breachers, medics, weapons experts, you name it, each leveraged unique to their unit structure and operational needs. They both pride themselves on being effective killing machines who can kick down doors and neutralize everyone inside. Naturally, that’s where the rivalry comes from.


Origins & Classifications: Infantrymen vs. Sailors

Origins

 Army Ranger and Navy Seals have different origins. Rangers are infantrymen first, whereas Seals are sailors first. 

Besides the Seabees, the Navy Seals are pretty much the only ground combat elements in the Navy, so a lot of sailors have to catch up in learning small unit tactics and other field skills like land navigation. 

Army Rangers, on the other hand, have at least been introduced to all of that because the army as a whole needs its soldiers to be trained in the basics. These differences are obviously ironed out the longer each spends in their respective careers, but it’s an important point to make nonetheless.

Classification

The army also classifies Army Rangers differently than the Navy does for Navy Seals. While they’re known as the US Army Rangers, the 75th Ranger Regiment is a unit, not a job. 

What do we mean by this? Well, a US Army Ranger can be an 11 Bravo Infantryman, a 68 Whiskey Combat Medic, or a 92 Gulf Cook. 

Each of these have gone through the ranger selection process to get into the unit. Think of it like a special training that separates them from regular army personnel. 

On the other hand, the Navy Seals are a specific job in the Navy. While there are support staff who work in the Seal teams, they don’t have to go through the same selection process as the Seals themselves. If someone wants to become a Navy Seal, they have to change their job or specialty to join that elite group.

So in layman’s terms, Army Rangers are part of a specialized unit and they can have different jobs within that unit. Navy Seals, on the other hand, are a specific job in the Navy and anyone who wants to become a Seal must switch their job to join their ranks.

  • Army Rangers: A unit, not a job
  • Navy Seals: A specific job in the Navy

Differences in Role Classification Between Army Rangers and Navy Seals

Classification FactorArmy RangersNavy Seals
Unit vs JobUnitJob
Job Diversity within the Team
Special Selection Process

Selection Process: The Road to Eliteness

With that said, what does it take to get into the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Navy Seals? Both the Army Rangers and Navy Seals have difficult selection processes with high attrition rates. These communities require their members to be both mentally and physically tough as they will be expected to deal with extremely challenging situations. 

The Army Ranger pipeline is shorter than the Navy Seal pipeline. In fact, Rangers are pretty much the only SOF force that can train you up to speed and send you to the battlefield within a year of starting basic training.

But don’t think that the pipeline pales in comparison to the Seals because you can go down range a bit faster. To get into the 75th Ranger Regiment, you got to pass two main courses. The first course is either Ranger Assessment and Selection Program one, or Ranger Assessment and Selection Program two, which is dependent on your pay grade. 

Higher pay grades go through RASP two. RASP is the filter the Rangers use to weed out those who can’t make the cut or don’t want to be there. Upon completion of RASP, you’ll get the beret and the ranger scroll. Over half of those who try out don’t make it past RASP. 

Next, you also have to pass Ranger School, which is a leadership course where you get the highly renowned ranger tab. 

Not every soldier who gets the ranger tab is in the 75th Ranger Regiment, but everyone in the 75th Ranger Regiment gets the ranger tab. After the pipeline, a newly minted Army Ranger will integrate with their team and will begin working up for the next deployment cycle. The Navy’s SEAL pipeline is known for having arguably the world’s toughest selection process. 

From the recruiting office all the way to when they pin on their tridents, a fraction of a % of people make it through. 

At Basic Underwater Demolition, SEAL Training, or BUDS for short, roughly one in five make it through. BUDS is known for its infamous Hell Week, which is a five and a half day ordeal where candidates are put through the ringer with only four hours of sleep. After BUDS, you will move on to SEAL Qualification Training, jump school, and SERE training. 

Upon completion of the pipeline, a newly pinned SEAL arrives at their unit and will receive roughly 18 months of training before they’re operational. For those who may be interested in joining either of these communities, you may be happy to hear that you can get a guaranteed shot at both of their pipelines.

You can do this with the Army through an Option 40 contract and with the Navy through the Warrior Challenge program. Each will have you jump through a few more hoops than if you were just trying to get a normal job, but you’ll have your fair chance at joining these elite communities. 

But there’s a big difference here. Remember how we said Army Rangers have a multitude of jobs within the regiment? Well, if you don’t make it through their selection process, you can still go back to your original job. 

On the Navy side of the house, if you don’t make it through the SEAL pipeline, you’ll now be needed by the Navy, leaving things entirely up to fate on what jobs will be available to you. It’s important to know the risks you take when signing up for years at a time for the military. So take the calculated risk you’re comfortable with and just don’t quit. 

Army RangersNavy Seals
Shorter pipeline. Trained up to speed and send to the battlefield within a year of starting basic training.Known for having arguably the world’s toughest selection process.
Pass two main courses: Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP) and Ranger SchoolBasic Underwater Demolition, SEAL Training, SEAL Qualification Training, Jump school, SERE training
Over half of those who try out don’t make it past RASP.Roughly one in five make it through BUDS.

Comparative Training and Selection Processes of Army Rangers and Navy Seals

Training and Selection ProcessesArmy RangersNavy Seals
Length of PipelineShorterLonger
Training CoursesRASP, Ranger SchoolBUDS, SEAL Qualification Training, Jump School, SERE training
Attrition RateHighHigh

Ensuring a Shot: Option 40 Contract & Warrior Challenge Program

  • For those who may be interested in joining either of these communities, you may be happy to hear that you can get a guaranteed shot at both of their pipelines. 
  • You can do this with the Army through an Option 40 contract and with the Navy through the Warrior Challenge program.

 Conclusion

Both the Army Rangers and Navy SEALs have earned their seats at the table due to their outstanding records, professionalism, and untold capabilities. In fact, both the SEALs and Rangers each have highly secretive tier one units that operate in the shadows. That’s it for the difference between Army Rangers and Navy SEALs. As always, thank you for reading.

George N.