What do these Military terms mean?

In IMHO, there’s a thread about Navy Seals, with this post :

What exactly do the various titles mean? What do Navy Seals, Green Berets, Rangers, Airborne, etc… do to distinguish themselves from plain military?


They are all to one degree or another elite units. First you have to be Airborne. This means you have to go to jump school and be stupid enough to jump out of perfectly good airplane. Then you can try for Rangers. Then there is the Green Berets, more properly US Army Special Forces.

All of these units have special tasks to do and much higher physical requirements than a regular unit does. They undergo mounds of specialized training, and are usually out at the sharp end when things get ugly.

And some of the stuff that Delta puts their guys through is available- there are several books that have been written by former Delta operators, most notably Inside Delta Force by Eric Haney.

All of these units go through more physical training, general combat training and specialization. Basically what distinguishes them from general soldiers, is that they are just much better soldiers. As for each specific unit:

Seals- Highly skilled in underwater demolition, small unit combat, and amphibious landings. For example, Seal units in the Iraq war captured off-shore oil platforms and pumping stations in the early stages of the war. ]

Green Berets- Small unit land forces. They are the guys that will sneak into enemy territory to gather intelligence, blow up bridges, and secure key areas in advance of the main army.

Rangers- These guys are very similar to Green Berets but they operate with bigger units. For example blowing up a bridge might require 10 soldiers, but securing an airfield will take 100. The Green Berets will do the first, and Rangers will do the second. Rangers are skilled in helicopter assault, medium sized unit combat, and securing objectives quickly.

They are more or less uber soldiers, whereas the Berets and Seals are more “tricksy”. A Green Beret or Seal unit does not want to get into an extended fire fight. They want to sneak in, accomplish their objective, and sneak out. Rangers on the other hand will rush in, shoot up the place, and then hold the territory.

Airborne units are more or less basic soldiers that jump out of planes. For example in the Iraq war, airborne troops parachuted into Northern Iraq and attacked from there. Your typical airborne soldier is better than your generic soldier, but they don’t go through the insane training the other units do.

BUDS: Basic Underwater Demolition School

SFOD-D: Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta
U.S. Special Forces used to distinguish themselves from regular troops by way of their colored berets, and to some extent, still do, with Airborne wearing the red beret, the Green Berets wearing a green one, and IIRC, Rangers wear a black beret. The Army switched to black berets in place of the BDU cap for everyday wear a few years ago, but probably switch back to the camo patterned BDU cap in a “field” or “tactical” environment (if they’re not wearking their K-pots). So if I’m still right about Rangers wearing a black beret, they might possibly pass through a bunch of regular troops unnoticed, unless someone happened to notice their regimental crest/unit patch.

The Navy SEAL’s “Budweiser” emblem is fairly distinct. I don’t think Delta does much to distinguish themselves from anyone, as they are kinda the military equivalent of “Fight Club;” as in, “The first rule of Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club; the second rule of Fight Club is that you do NOT talk about Fight Club,…”

Airborne are a cut above your regular troop, but, IMHO, not that much of a cut above; other than jumping out of perfectly good aircraft for no other reason but to land in the smack-dab middle of an enemy formation, I don’t think that they are in any better physical condition than your average “leg” infantryman, and considerably less sane.

Now Rangers do go through quite a bit more (than Airborne) to earn their Ranger tab. If Special Operators were to be compared to a high school athletics program, then Rangers might be considered “Junior Varsity,” with Green Berets, Delta, and the Navy SEALs being “Varsity” of one type or another.

And the screening and testing that Delta, Green Berets, and especially the SEALs go through just to qualify for acceptance into their training programs would probably make your average person break down and cry just to contemplate.

I’ve deliberately left off mentioning anything about the US Marine’s Force Recon because, quite frankly, I just don’t know that much about 'em, and don’t want to talk out of my ass.

IMO, and in my experience, the only truly “sane” combat types are Armor and Artillery.

[Shamless Plug]

Armor: lots of guns, lots of ammo, lots of armor, lots of mobility. Okay, so you’re a big target; you’re also a tough one, and even if The Bad Guys score a hit, odds are they’re still going to catch a shit-storm of return fire for their trouble. “Welcome to the House of Pain, asshole!”

[/Shameless Plug]

Artillery: lobbing one metric assload of death and destruction on The Bad Guys from over-the-horizon. Sounds like an eminently reasonable and sane way to engage your adversary. Leave “bravery” for the “Heroes” looking to catch a bullet and a medal.

In the US military structure, there are lots of special units…

The US Army has three distinct special operations components:

Rangers: Ground-based, airborne-qualified. Scouting, reconnaissance, sustained operations. Rangers date, in some form, from the US Revolutionary War, with the modern era Rangers dating back unit-wise to World War II, where they did much of the point/cliff work at Normandy. The modern units are best used as point/reconnaissance units, rather than as standing forces.

Special Forces: The original green berets, these date from the late 50’s/early 60’s, and serve as small units, with principle operations being to serve as active covert operations and as military advisers to indigenous forces, with intelligence/surveillance missions tossed in.

Delta Force: Special urban, close quarter battle. Focus is on small units, rapid actions, high rate of fire.

The US Marine Corps has Marine Reconnaissance Forces, which serve as point forces, with an emphasis on early, small-unit action.

The US Navy has Sea Air Land Team (SEAL Teams), which are all-climate, land, sea, or air-deployable small units. They are descended from World War II-era underwater demolition experts, and follow two basic approaches: intense small unit CQB, with high volume of fire, or covert demolitions.

The US Air Force has ground-based components, focusing on specialised advance units to take and secure or destroy air fields, as well as forward air controllers, who are cross-trained to serve with other special forces units, in order to skillfully call in air-strikes and the like. There are also specialised Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps rescue and recovery units who basically fly in and recover high-value personnel like the occupants of US aircraft.

There are also, at least in the US Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, specilised rescue divers who do crazy shit in dangerous water, but these are generally not viewed as special operations people. But training-wise, the training and operational requirements are similarly exclusive.

The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) was profiled in the April 2002 issue of Popular Mechanics. They do all kinds of crazy stuff and they recruit from the elite forces of the other branches.

When the rest of the Army switched to black berets, the Rangers switched to tan.


The Air Force elite unit is called a Pararescueman, or Pararescue Jumper (PJ for short). Other elite Air Force ground units are Combat Controllers and TAC-Ps (Tactical Air Control Party), that act as liaisons with the other services and call in close air support.

For example, the late Pat Tillman in his Ranger beret.

Pat Tillman was a hero and the Rangers rock, but those tan berets are lame-o. Why not dark green, or even orange? Tan. Feh.

Orange berets are used by the MFO Multinational Force and Observers in the Sanai. The American contingent wears orange berets too as you can see be the picture linked.

Damn on preview it doesn’t go to the picture I want. Click on “mission” and look at the picture labeled “support batt”.

The Ranger berets were originally black … until the pinheads in the US Army, led at the time by Shinseki, decided that the regular troops felt all icky, and needed to feel “special”. So everybody got a black beret as standard headgear, and then the Rangers went with tan.

So where does the Joe Team fall in this heirarchy?

I think this will probably get better responses in the GQ forum…

French and Indian War, man. Rogers - Wikipedia’_Rangers
I’ve got an ancestor who didn’t make it home from St. Francis.

The whole “beret” thing started with the SAS, whose berets were tan. There is much more tradition in the tan beret and actually looks better IMO.

The SAS (Special Air Service) is the British equivalent of the American Delta Force (kind of, they also have a SWAT-like role, for instance, the Iranian Embassy siege in the 80’s). The SBS are an elite unit in the Royal Marines (who are already considered an elite unit).

Time out. The original black beret was worn by tankers not Rangers. The black beret was worn by British tankers. Their American counterparts started wearing them at the latest by the early 70s. It was the uniform for tankers at Fort Knox and Germany for a while. The Rangers later started whining that they didn’t have a beret like the SF so they started wearing a black beret too. When too many local commanders were changing the uniform (which was within the rules at the time) the army put their foot down and changed the rules by about 1980. SF got the green, Airborne the maroon, Rangers the black. They only had the black beret for about 20 years before it was taken away from them and given back to the regular soldier.

My college roommate joined the army, and made Ranger. He said a couple years later though that he was tired of the Rangers, because they attracted a real shoot-em-up-yehaw type. He wanted to try for SF, because it’s more intellectual.

A teacher I worked with made it through the Q (qualification) course for SF, and he told me they all had to have a medical field specialty, and had to operate on a goat as a test. Nowadays, you have to be passable in another language, too. SF doesn’t have any officers below captain, because if you’re not at least captain, you don’t have enough experience as an officer to be trusted commanding SF units.