So how many former special forces members are there?

Long story cut short, I met a Danish family living close by, with kids about the same age as ours. We’ve started becoming friends, and have gotten together a couple of times.

This last time we got together, the father told me how he had been a member of the Danish special forces. :rolleyes: OK, he had gone through the training and decided it wasn’t for him, but whatever.

If all the people who claim they are former special forces were to suddenly disappear from the world, would the world shift on its axis?

I have a longtime friend who was in the US Army Special Forces. I knew him while he was in the special forces, stationed in Kuwait and in California and a couple of other places.

The thing I always found funny was that being in Special Forces sounds all badass and covert ops and whatnot, but he was a linguist. He did some interrogations in Kuwait, but his primary job was to read news publications in Arabic and write summaries and briefings for higher ups. Not glamorous. There are a lot of special forces jobs that aren’t about parachuting behind enemy lines and assassinating dictators.

My brother-in-law is a “Navy SEAL”. He doesn’t brag about it but it was included in the online dating profile my sister found all those years ago and a while back when I wanted to set up target shooting on their property, I was informed that he “can’t handle guns” due to “PTSD.”

I saw his resume once when he was searching for a teaching job. He listed his… Navy career… on it: he spent four years in as a cook from 91-95.

I bet his SEAL stuff is just so badass that it’s, you know, deeply classified and the whole file is in some secret, more-secure-than-Knox room in the Pentagon basement. Or whatever.

A good rule of thumb is if they talk about it they probably didn’t actually do it.

Although people who are paying attention may notice that I do sometimes disappear for weeks at a time due to totally deniable covert-ops that don’t take place in such areas as Afghanistan and which I have nothing to do with at all.

This, I believe, is absolute truth. I went thru OCS with 3 SEALs - no BS - they had the proper insignia on their uniforms and when asked, they pretty much blew off any conversation about what they’d done. (The OCS students were all former enlisted folks with 5 -10 years of service, and it was in the late 70s, so Vietnam Vets were still on active duty.) Really, the only indication that they were different from the rest of the herd was when we did our little PT tests. While most of us were sweating and struggling, these guys looked like they were having a day on the playground…


There’s one in every bar, every night.

It wasn’t Special Forces but I almost got burned by my skepticism last summer for something similar. I overheard a guy in a restaurant telling a group of women how he was a charter Gulfstream jet pilot for the U.S. government and other notable groups like rock bands. My BS meter was pinging off the scale during one story about him having to fly a deported terrorist from the U.S. into Jordan in bad weather.

Aviation is my hobby and I know enough to tell if he is an actual pilot. I walked over and asked him about how you would go about doing a precision nigh time approach into Jordan while avoiding dangerous air space in the region. His answer was quite detailed and he told me all about the instruments and procedures in a Gulfstream. He said he had some pictures of the Heads Up Display his iPhone so I asked to see it. He showed me not only that but pictures of George W Bush and George H W Bush standing with him beside his plane plus dozens of celebrities and pictures of him at various Middle Eastern airports. I guess he was telling the truth. I talked to him for a while to see how I could get a job like that.

I agree that most so-called Special Forces types are lying however.

Probably over 100,000 from U.S. forces alone. It’s overly complicated but the actual term “Special Forces” can be both generic and specific. Prior to the 80s many units existed that would be considered generically “Special Forces” but were not under the U.S. Special Operations Command. But I wouldn’t nitpick that a Navy SEAL from the early 80s wasn’t a member of “Special Forces” just because they left service prior to the establishment of USSOCOM.

USSOCOM was created in the late 80s to serve as a unified command for the dispersed special units that had been created organically in prior decades. Generally after that time, if you’ve served under USSOCOM regardless of which specific unit it would be acceptable to refer to yourself as having been in the Special Forces. Generally you are only under USSOCOM when deployed, when stateside you’re associated with the appropriate command in your branch. So it might also be acceptable for someone who was a Navy SEAL but then was discharged without ever being deployed (and thus never serving under USSOCOM) to say they were former special forces.

Outside of the US many militaries had many thousands of special forces. I think during the Cold War Soviet Spetsnaz was enormous, with 50000+ active.

If he was just a linguist he was not in Special Forces. Special Forces means something very specific, Green Berets (18 series MOS). Although all Special Forces go through language training, being a linguist or interrogator is a MOS under Military Intelligence. It is possible to be a linguist and be assigned to Special Operations Command and even work with Special Forces but it is not the same. Special Forces is a very intense multi-year training program. And the term Special Forces is specifically an Army term. So if someone claims to be from another branch and says they were Special Forces you know they are bullshitting you.

To answer the OP currently in the Army I would approximate there to be 6,000 active duty Special Forces soldiers and somewhere below 2,000 part time National Guard SF. (wiki shows a little less but there has been some expansion) But each branch has there own type of Special Operations. But like I said in the US the term Special Forces is very specific to the Army. In other countries the terms can be interchangable. I have no idea how many former Green Berets there are since they were stood up in 1952. They do have an association that will investigate false claims. The SEALS do that too.

He fits within Martin Hyde’s explanation of special forces, so I will let the two of you duke that out. I am confident my friend is not in any way bullshitting me.

nm, beaten to the punch.

What kind of hat did he wear? I don’t mean that as a joke. Only Special Forces can wear a green beret. He may not have been bullshitting you, you may just not have understood him. Most confusion is that with in the military the difference between being in Special Operations and Special Forces is enormous. To those outside of the military such terms seem interchangable. They are not.

US Special Forces Command is a joint command comprising special operations units from all branches. Navy SEALS, Army Special Forces and what is commonly known as Delta all fall under it. There are also plenty of cooks, clerks, MI, Civil Affairs and other things. If your friend was a linguist then his Army job (MOS) would be 97L Translator/Interpretor. If your friend was an interogator his job would be 35M Human Intelligence Collector.

Special Forces is tiered, too. Don’t forget that. Rangers and Airborne are technically “special forces”.

There’s a reason I’m using the genericized term “special forces.” In the military community especially when talking internationally we generally will use the term “special forces” to talk about any specialized unconventional military force. If we were talking specifically about the United States military we would probably avoid the generic usage. However the OP was asking about someone who claimed to be in Denmark’s special forces. So to accurately answer the question how many ex-special forces there are in the world we can’t for example count all of Soviet Spetsnaz (which like USSOCOM had many different units that fell under that umbrella term and had more specific specialties) but then only count as American special forces members of the Army with the Special Forces tab (classically known as Green Berets by most.) In the American military you would distinguish between Special Operations Forces and U.S. Army Special Forces, but when we’re discussing the generic military term special forces, which is used commonly in conversation about international forces, such a distinction would not factor in.

The OP was not asking just about the United States, so you can’t be hung up on specific American group names. In Russian I believe Spetsnaz literally means “special forces” which shows how this term is genuinely used by a wide range of militaries. Definitely it means different things In different places, my understanding is at its height Spetsnaz was huge and would cover a lot of MOS (rather the Soviet equivalent obviously) but if you start getting really picky about the details it makes the question impossible to answer. In some tinpot dictatorships the units called special forces aren’t even trained in unconventional warfare but just are ultra loyalists to the dictator who are used to crush protests and who receive higher pay.

Your brother in law is Steven Segal?

Steven Segal lied about being a SEAL?

I did go shooting out there once but I had to wait until he wasn’t home before my sister would let me because she is thoroughly convinced he really and truly was a SEAL and that he really does get twitchy and whatever around small arms fire. I let my teenage nephew pop off a couple .223 rounds and burn through one magazine in a .45 and when my BIL got home from work a couple hours later and the boy told him about it, he made a big production about how my nephew smelled like gunpowder and that he (the BIL) had to leave the room to lie down and blah blah.

There are "Special to task "forces but they’re not S.F…

Yes in the U.S. S.F. means Green Berets, but generally the term is used to describe highly trained unconventional troops, so SEALS and DELTA are S.F., as are the Danish Jaeger Corps, SAS etc…

As to how many there are, I can attest to the fact that the S.A.S. regiment is the largest in the British Army, judging by just how many people I have met in pubs etc. who have shared their "secret"with me.

And then again of course there are people whos parents who never talk about what they did in the war, so obviously they must have been doing something really covert and dangerous.

In the U.K. all S.F. and ex S.F. if they don’t actually know someone themself,will know someone, who knows someone who does.

If someone appears in a public situation and claims to be (usually) ex S.F. old comrade organisations will, and do, check him out.