Delta Force and Navy SEALs are two elite, specialized forces that are part of the United States Military. While they share a few similarities they are different types of operational units.
Delta Force is part of Task Force Green in the United States Army. It primarily deals with hostage rescues as well as counter-terrorism. It also is involved in direct action and special reconnaissance work against high-value targets.
Meanwhile, the Navy SEALs is short for “Navy, SEa, Air, and Land teams”. It is a component of the Naval Special Warfare Command unit and is tasked with handling special operations. It primarily handles small-unit maritime military operations that begin and return to a source of water.
What are the differences between the two special ops units? There are several notable things to keep in mind if you are considering joining either task force.
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What Is Delta Force?
Delta Force is short for 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D).
It’s usually shortened to Delta Force, Combat Applications Group, or CAG.
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Soldiers are known to go by the name “operator,” a term that originates with the Green Berets. DELTA was formed in 1977, 25 years after the Army Special Forces was established. It is headquartered in Fort Liberty, North Carolina.
Also known as “The Unit,” Delta Force operates under Task Force Green within the United States Army.
The elite special mission unit is under the operational control of the Joint Special Operations Command. It handles counter-terrorism missions along with hostage rescue situations.
It is often compared to the U.S. Navy SEALs, SEAL Team 6, or DEVGRU, which is considered the maritime counterpart of the U.S. Army Delta Force. The two serve as the primary counter-terrorism special-ops in the United States Armed Forces.
Delta Force is notorious for performing some of the most sophisticated, classified, and dangerous missions in the U.S. Military.
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What Are Navy SEALs?
The U.S. Navy SEALs is short for “Navy, Sea, Air, and Land Teams.” It is more commonly referred to by its abbreviation. The primary special ops force is a segment of the Naval Special Warfare Command.
The Navy SEALs were established in 1962, ten years after the formation of the Army Special Forces. It was the second special-ops unit to get created in the United States, fifteen years before DELTA.
SEALs perform small-unit maritime military operations. They originate and return from a body of water like an ocean, sea, river, swamp, or coastline.
U.S. Navy SEALs are one of the most respected units in all of the military because these highly trained soldiers are capable of operating in all environments, including sea, air, and land.
The SEALs continue to serve as the selection pool for the highly secretive and trained Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The joint operations the SEALs serve with SOG go back to Vietnam and remain evident to the present day.
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What Does Delta Force Do?
The vast majority of operations that are assigned to Delta Force are classified and never known to the general public.
However, it is known that The Unit serves some of the most important and dangerous missions in the U.S. Military.
DELTA has been awarded some special honors for their work in service in missions like Operation Urgent Fury and the Modelo Prison Hostage Rescue Mission.
Delta Force also assisted in the capture of Manuel Noriega and was active during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The Unit was recently awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its involvement in the conflicts in Afghanistan.
There are some notable differences between Delta Force and SEALs. In addition to having different training and selection processes (more information, below) Delta Force operators also come from different backgrounds.
Unlike SEALs that are only selected from one branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, DELTA operators come from a variety of different units across different branches of the U.S. military.
Some of these operatives originate from the SEAL community. In fact, DELTA members first trained and worked along with SEALs before moving to Delta Force.
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Therefore, their roots are more aligned with SEAL training and culture, though they also incorporate Delta Force methods – establishing a collection of the two different cultures.
Regardless, both units are capable of executing some of the most challenging military operations ever witnessed.
For example, DEVGRU was responsible for the rescue of Captain Phillips out at sea, and for Operation Neptune Spear in Pakistan resulting in the death of Osama bin Laden.
What Do Navy SEALs Do?
U.S. Navy SEALs are regularly considered one of the most, if not most, physically fit and demanding special units in all of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Like Delta Force, most of what the Navy SEALs have seen in the field is not widely reported because the information is highly classified.
Navy SEALs operate on some of the most dangerous and demanding missions known to the U.S. Military.
SEALs are a rare military force in that they are equipped to handle missions on any landform. They are specialists in the water, yet also serve missions on land and air.
The special-ops force is broken into several different teams and structures. SEAL teams are small units that are based out of different places in the United States or abroad.
It has heavily influenced other special units around the globe.
Delta Force Selection Process
The duration of the Delta Force selection process is not incredibly long, typically about six months, yet remarkably demanding.
Before a potential candidate can even begin screening for Delta, they will have already served in the special operations community.
Typical candidates are plucked from the Green Beret or Army Ranger population and will have served in that capacity for several years.
Here are the different stages of completing physical testing, as well as mental testing and OTC.
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Stage I of Physical Testing
The U.S. Army has advertised Delta Force recruitment since the 1990s.
The book “Inside Delta Force” by Eric Haney is a very detailed insight into the selection process for U.S. Delta Force.
It begins with a selection course that includes standard tests like push-ups, sit-ups, and inverted crawls. Prospective operators are also asked to complete a 2-mile run in a designated amount of time in addition to a 100-meter swim (that is also completed fully dressed).
Stage II of Physical Testing
Candidates are then put through a series of land navigation courses in order to further assess physical fitness.
The course is incredibly challenging. It reportedly is an 18-mile all-night land navigation course that soldiers attempt to complete while carrying a 40 lb. rucksack.
The rucksack weight is then increased over the duration of the course. The demands and time requirements to complete the task also are intensified.
Stage III of Physical Testing
The physical testing ends with a 40-mile march that includes a 45 lb. rucksack over extremely challenging terrain.
Though details have been reported about the demands of the physical testing course, no one knows the exact time it is required to complete the course in order to qualify for DELTA.
The information is left confidential and only the senior officer and NCO in charge of the selection process are aware of the time limits.
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Mental Testing for Delta Force
In addition to the physical requirements to make U.S. Delta Force, candidates must also pass a mental portion of the exam.
It reportedly includes numerous psychological tests.
After completing the exams, candidates are then placed in front of a board of DELTA instructors, psychologists, and a DELTA commander. The board asks the candidate a barrage of questions in order to dissect every mental component of the soldier.
After the interview process, the unit commander will approach the candidate and notify the individual if he or she has been selected for the special-ops forces.
The Unit has reportedly been considering female candidates more in recent memory. However, because operators need to blend in, Delta Force has regularly recruited women operatives for specific mission objectives since the 1980s.
Operator Training Course (OTC)
If the person is selected to continue the training portion of Delta Force, the soldier then undergoes an intense six-month training period known as Operator Training Course (OTC).
OTC teaches the specialized skills of the unit including counter-terrorism and counterintelligence techniques. The training also includes firearm accuracy and other specialized weapons training.
It is reported that during OTC, the soldier maintains little to no contact with family and friends.
A few of the members in training, or current Delta Force members, may pursue further training and testing in order to get considered for the Special Activities Division (SAD) of the CIA.
The training includes preparation for the highly sought-after and confidential Special Operations Group (SOG).
Types of OTC Training
The different types of training that one can expect during the Operator Training Course (OTC) include:
- Marksmanship: Operators are known to develop into some of the best marksmen available. The training intensifies as the shooting accuracy increases.
- Demolitions and Breaches: Trainees are given the expertise and knowledge to pick locks, make bombs with common materials, and more.
- Combined skills: Hostage handling skills are addressed along with advanced driving skills and tradecraft.
Delta Force is clearly one of the most elite armed forces not only in the United States but in the entire world as well.
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Navy SEALs Selection Process
Like Delta Force, the U.S. Navy SEALs endure one of the most intense training and testing periods of any member of the United States Armed Forces. It is intended to locate only the most physically and mentally prepared for the specialized unit.
Physical Requirements for Navy SEALs
The U.S. Navy has many different physical requirements necessary to join its elite task force.
The candidate must pass a series of physical tests including a pre-enlistment medical screening, ASVAB, AFQT, C-SORT, and PST.
Physical screening is extremely intense. It reportedly includes passing a 500-yard swim, a series of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and 1.5 mile run in very demanding times.
Navy SEAL Training
When candidates are able to successfully pass physical screenings, they are then accepted into the actual training for the special ops unit.
SEALs endure one of the most rugged and intense training periods of any soldier. The average candidate spends more than a year going through and completing formal training.
Once the training is complete, the graduate is honored with a Special Warfare Operator Naval Rating and Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) 5326 Combatant Swimmer (SEAL).
Naval officers receive a similar honor though with the designation of Naval Special Warfare (SEAL) Officer.
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Navy SEAL Training Timeline
Though terms are subject to change and cannot be taken as a cardinal rule, here are some general expectations for training time and completion:
- Naval Special Warfare Prep School = 8 weeks
- Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training (BUD/S) = 24 weeks
- Parachute Jump School = 3 weeks
- SEAL Qualification Training = 26 weeks
SQT graduates then progress to Navy SEAL Trident and subsequently spend 18 months of pre-deployment training before becoming officially “deployable.” The training includes:
- Individual Specialty Training = 6 months
- Unit Level Training = 6 months
- Task Group Level Training = 6 months
Those that enlist in U.S. Navy SEALs with a medical rating attend an additional level of training. The same is true of officers.
Women in the U.S. Navy SEALs
Women were not allowed to pursue a position in the U.S. Navy SEALs until 2015. However, the special unit currently remains an all-male branch.
There are reports that the U.S. Military plans to encourage female soldiers to consider joining the elite force in the future, but they do NOT plan to lower the training standards.
The U.S. Army Delta Force and U.S. Navy SEALs are two of the most demanding and challenging special units to join in all of the military.
The entrance exams, requirements, physical testing, mental testing, and training are highly demanding.
However, it does lead to one of the most thrilling and fulfilling careers in all of the U.S. Armed Forces.
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If you are considering pursuing a special-ops team further, it is a good idea to start with a general branch of the U.S. Military (Army, Navy, Air Force, etc) and learn more about entrance requirements.
Then, read more about military culture and what to expect. If it still seems like a good fit to you, then consider enlisting and then pursuing an elite force.
Most operators spend a long time before they reach that point, having to endure and get accustomed to standard military culture first.
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