A secretive and elite group of warriors
Delta Force, or simply The Unit, allowed officers below the rank of captain – superior to all lieutenants – into the unit. The minimum acceptable rank would be sergeant, three full ranks above a humble private first grader. Delta Force is the leading grassroots military Anti-terrorism United States unity acting on foreign soil.
The U.S. Army’s Delta Force – one of Washington’s leading special forces – is still largely hidden from the public, despite more than three decades since its inception and dozens of Hollywood films. The Pentagon has never really confirmed the existence of The Unit and so far has given very few details about the group, its organization, or even the total number of Delta “operators”.
They worked top secret. The army wouldn’t even speak the word “Delta”. If they had to be referred to, it was “operators” or “the dreaded D”. The Rangers they adored called them D-Boys. Secrecy, or at least its appearance, was central to its purpose. It enabled dreamers and politicians to have both.
But the unit – technically the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta (1st SFOD-D) – is part of the army and has all the formal insignia associated with belonging to this bureaucracy. As a result, part of the department’s formative history is publicly known.
Delta Force team in an undisclosed location (Photo: Pinterest)
The US Army originally planned the Delta Force as “an organization that can operate worldwide and that is able to respond appropriately to highly sensitive situations, including international acts of terrorism,” explains a 1977 analysis of the proposed unit carried out by the Center Army is held in military history.
The center maintains a number of records to keep track of army units, their history, and their honors. The staff helps determine which battalions and squadrons the army will keep or even bring back to life if the ground combat division upsets things.
Both Delta Force and SEAL Team Six of the Navy trace their origins back to an outbreak of political violence in the 1970s. It was then that Washington watched acts of terrorism become a major problem in Europe and the Middle East.
In 1972, Palestinian militants shocked the world when they attacked Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Smaller groups such as the radical left Red Army faction and ethnic Basque separatists carried out a campaign of bombings and assassinations across the continent.
In the foreground of this picture you can see a Delta Force Operator with a CAR-15 (Photo: DoD / Staff Sergeant Dean W. Wagner)
An Army officer, Col. Charlie Beckwith, was personally responsible for urging his superiors to create Delta Force.
In the 1960s, Beckwith embedded himself in the United Kingdom 22nd Special Air Service Regiment in Malaysia. His influence, if not his actual handwriting, is clearly evident in the 1977 review. Beckwith’s concept for the Delta Force is based on his experience with the SAS.
“The proposed organization will provide a highly specialized force with a rich ranks structure built on small teams made up of mature, professionally trained, psychologically prepared individuals who are able to make immediate judgments,” the narrative reads .
These goals largely reflect Beckwith’s perception of SAS members. He was particularly impressed with her selection process.
“What the [SAS] Regiment ended with what I thought were men who enjoyed being alone, who could think and act alone, men who were strong and determined, ”writes Beckwith, who died in 1994, in his memoir Delta Force.
The analysis is also attached to a draft organizational document called the Order and Equipment Table. Army officials use these diagrams as a starting point for figuring out how many soldier units should have and what equipment they need.
Delta organizational level
Delta Force is no different. As of July 1978, the unit used a formal TOE that put the organization’s official strength at 21 officers and 151 enlisted soldiers.
The proposed organization divides the unit into separate groups for administrative tasks and troops for actual operations. Depending on the circumstances, medical personnel, intelligence specialists and radio operators from the administrative side could go on missions.
The operational part called E Detachment controlled four 20-man teams or F-Detachments.
This naming convention followed the practice of designating the basic building blocks of special units as A, B and C departments. The 12-man Operational Detachment As – commonly referred to as “A-Teams” – are still the basis of the army’s elite formations.
In addition to larger teams, Delta had more officers with higher ranks than a normal special unit or other similarly sized units. Today a regular army infantry company with more than 130 soldiers has only five officers.
“The high level of sensitivity of the company and the required level of technical training fully justify this hierarchy structure,” says the analysis. “The required professional qualification is not to be found in abundance among freshmen and lieutenants.”
The NCOs in the F departments would be the primary “doers”, the review says. The F departments could function as a 20-man team, 20 one-man elements, or almost anything in between, according to the plan.
Just like the elite troops of the British Army, these “fighters of the organization” have to act as “single operators”, according to the analysis.
Unlike Beckwith, the Army expected their commandos to spend most of their time training and working with friendly forces overseas rather than launching raids themselves. The Army Special Forces are already devoting a lot of time to working with American allies.
We don’t know how long Delta Force stayed with this organization. The official historical data map has no more updates after 1979.
The next year, the elite commandos took part in the failed attempt to save American citizens in Tehran after the Iranian revolution. Eight special operators died in an accident after Washington called off the raid.
The unit could now have nearly 1,000 highly skilled soldiers, wrote journalist and author Sean Naylor in Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda.
In July 2014, secret troops tried to rescue the American journalist James Foley and other prisoners from the Islamic State terrorists in Syria. The following month, the Sunni extremist group murdered Foley. They were credited with eliminating the world’s most wanted terrorist at the time, the notorious Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He was killed in a raid by the unit.
This image, from a video released by the Department of Defense on Wednesday, October 30, 2019, and shown at a Pentagon briefing, shows members of the CAG (Delta Force) and U.S. Army Rangers, figures in the lower right, referring to the Grounds of the Islamic. Head of State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Saturday, October 26, 2019. (Ministry of Defense via AP)
And whatever Delta’s structure now, Beckwith’s legacy will undoubtedly continue to affect the force.