Green Berets Vs. Rangers Vs. Delta Force: Some MAJOR Differences

green berets vs rangers vs delta in numbers

Are you interested in joining one of the elite forces of the Army?

You know who I’m talking about: Rangers, Green Berets, the elusive Delta Force.

You probably have a lot of questions, like:

How does one go about joining one of these units?

What is the training like?

What sort of missions do they support?

It’s not without good reason that the general public doesn’t know much about these special operations units.

Most of the missions that these units support are highly classified, and secrecy is integral to keeping elite soldiers safe in the field.

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The 3 Tiers Of Specialization

What Are Army Rangers?

Army Rangers Selection Process
What Are Green Berets?
Green Berets Selection Process

What Is Delta Force?
Delta Force Selection Process

The 3 Tiers Of Specialization

While all three units are highly elite in their own right, to understand the differences between them, try to think of them as “tiers of specialization,” with Rangers being the lowest specialized tier and Delta Force being the highest.

What this means is that the amount of specialized training it takes to be a Ranger is less than what it takes to be a Green Beret, which is then less than what it takes to be Delta.

green berets vs rangers vs delta in numbers

I’ll go into the specifics in a minute, but for now, do what you can to absorb this idea of “tiers of specialization,” rather than compare the three units by any other standards.

Additionally, each unit has very different jobs.

In short, here are the 3 major differences of Army Rangers Vs. Green Berets Vs. Delta Force:

1. Army Rangers are elite light infantry

They are a large scale force that is typically involved in joint special operations raids, airborne assaults, reconnaissance missions, and search and rescue.

ranger regiment insignia

Think of them as a smaller, highly trained, and very mobile version of an Army company that is tasked to deal with specific situations.

Need an airfield quickly taken over?  Call the Army Rangers.

US Government requires a communications array to be taken over and destroyed?  Call the Army Rangers.

Have a power plant in enemy territory that needs to be secured?  Call the Army Rangers.

2. Green Berets are teachers (and practitioners) of unconventional warfare

Green Berets specialize in 5 primary missions: unconventional warfare, counter-terrorism, reconnaissance, direct action missions, and foreign internal defense.

green beret insignia

This can involve everything from supporting, training, and equipping foreign fighting services, to conducting reconnaissance deep behind enemy lines.

Need a military unit capable of counter-narcotics specialization?  Call the Green Berets.

Training the indigenous peoples of a 3rd world country how to fight?  Call the Green Berets.

Need to keep the peace in some worldwide hotspot?  Call the Green Berets.

3. Delta is a direct-action unit specializing in the most secret ops

Officially known as 1st Special Forces Operation Detachment Delta, Delta Forces’ primary responsibility involves highly specialized and sensitive missions.

delta force insignia patch

Along with their Navy SEAL Team 6 (DEVGRU) counterparts, they carry out some of the most complex, dangerous, and highly classified missions.

The kinds of missions you rarely hear about on the news.

Got a lead on where Saddam Hussein is hiding out?  Call Delta Force.

42 hostages being held hostage in enemy territory?  Call Delta Force.

Need someone to swoop in and round up a well known drug-lord?  Call Delta Force.

Here’s a more detailed description of Army Rangers Vs. Green Berets Vs. Delta Force.

Related Article: Which Branch Of The Military Should I Join?

What Are Army Rangers?

Army Rangers, just like Green Berets, are part of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM).

SOCOM is based out of MacDill Air Force Base just outside of Tampa, Florida.

The first thing that you should understand about the US Army Rangers is this:

There is the 75th Ranger Regiment, and then there is Ranger School.

Rangers are NOT identified by the Ranger tab seen on the left shoulder of some soldier’s uniforms.

What they are identified by is the tan beret.

ranger tab and tan beret

A Ranger tab denotes that a soldier has been through and passed Ranger School: a 61-day gruel-fest that is not for the faint of heart.

Differences Between Attending Ranger School And Being A Ranger

Almost any soldier can attend Ranger School, and it is understood to be valuable leadership training that a soldier thinking of making a career out of the military should consider.

army ranger school
Army ranger school.

However, being a member of Ranger Battalion, the ones who wear the tan beret, is something entirely different.

Whereas regular soldiers who attend Ranger School live the Ranger life for 61 days, members of the 75th Ranger Regiment live the life 24/7/365.

Additionally, every soldier in a Ranger Battalion (aka “Ranger Batt”) goes through Ranger School, usually once they achieve the rank of Specialist (E-4) and before they get their first leadership position.

US Army Ranger Selection Process

To join Ranger Battalion, you need to sign a contract with an addendum marking you as an X-Ray applicant.

If you’re infantry, then you’ll be an 11X-Ray, meaning that after Basic and Advanced Infantry Training and Airborne School, you’ll go to the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP).

Compared to RASP, Basic Training, Advanced Individual Training, and Airborne School will feel like summer camp.

RASP Phase 1

RASP is eight weeks long, split into 2 four-week phases.

Phase One, testing phase, consists of 6 to 12 mile ruck-marches with a 50-pound pack, timed 5 mile runs, medical skills tests, and psychological exams.

army rasp training program

However, according to some, the most grueling part of phase one in RASP is the day and nighttime navigation tests.

Using only a map and compass, Ranger candidates must make their way to an objective, working sometimes as a group and other times individually.

RASP Phase 2

Phase Two begins the Ranger skills training, consisting of combat driving, marksmanship and tactics, and even some explosives and breaching training.

us army ranger training

If you successfully complete RASP, you get the esteemed honor of donning a tan beret, a symbol to the world that you’re a real Army Ranger.

What Are Green Berets?

army green berets standing at attention

Traditionally, Green Berets are experts in unconventional warfare.

Essentially, in addition to being highly adept soldiers, they’re also going to extremely proficient in the culture that they are assigned to operate in.

In fact, one of the longest courses that a Green Beret is required to go through is language school.

Not every SF member is going learn Arabic, Farsi, Pashtu, or Dari (the most commonly used languages where Americans operate in the Middle East today).

Since the Green Berets operate worldwide, some groups are required to learn Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, and some African languages.

Green berets teaching Honduran soldiers

Short History Of The Green Berets

Though Special Forces can trace their roots back to the beginning of the Korean War, the unit that we recognize today as the Green Berets officially started in the early sixties and the early stages of Vietnam.

Green Berets teaching south Vietnamese soldiers

When conventional war tactics failed in the foreign jungle terrain, Green Berets stepped up.

They were the ones responsible for training the South Vietnamese in unconventional warfare (also known as guerrilla warfare).

Since Vietnam, Green Berets have fought in every known—and many unknown—conflicts the US has been involved with.

Army Green Beret Selection Process

Similar to how a new recruit can sign up to enter RASP right after Airborne School, if a recruit is over the age of 29 and a male (sorry, ladies), instead of RASP, he could option to go directly to SF selection.

SF selection, formally known as Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) and colloquially known as the “Q Course,” is a two-year process.

However, before a soldier even gets to the Q Course, he has to pass a 19-day pre-selection course called Special Forces Preparation and Conditioning (SFPC).

army sfpc training

This short course consists of physical training and land navigation tests, and is intended to weed out soldiers that are not prepared for the rigors of the Q Course.

But passing SFPC and getting into the Q Course doesn’t mean you’re a Green Beret.

The Q Course consists of six distinct phases (the sixth really just being the graduation), and each one presents its own unique challenges.

Q Course Phase 1

Phase I of the Q Course covers course orientation and Special Forces history, and lasts for seven weeks.

In that time, students cover everything from military planning and decision making to an Airborne operations refresher, as well as the familiarization of how SF operates worldwide.

airborne school zipline

Q Course Phase 2

Phase II, Language and Culture training, sends the candidate to the Defense Language Institute for 18 to 25 weeks, depending on the language he was assigned.

At DLI, students become adept in the conversational application of their specific language, as well as educated on the historical and current political, economic, and ethnic components associated with their training.

Q Course Phase 3

Phase III, small unit tactics and SERE training, is probably the most infamous of all the phases.

shooting qualifications green beret training

The phase lasts 13 weeks, and while the majority of it covers such skills as advanced marksmanship and urban operations, at the end of the training, a student has to endure a five-day survival, evasion, resistance, and escape test (SERE).

The test is exactly what it sounds like: a student has to prove that he can procure food and water while alone in the wilderness.

green beret participating in sere training

He has to evade aggressive tracking techniques, typically involving dogs.

The candidate also has to resist “simulated” interrogation techniques (like open hand slaps to the face while strapped to a chair), and escape capture.

Although you may not be an official Green Beret after SERE, if you pass, in my book you are an official badass.

Q Course Phase 4

Phase IV is MOS (military occupational specialty) training, and it’s here that each soldier either becomes a medic, an engineer, a weapons specialists, a communications specialist, or, if you’re going through the Q Course as an officer, a Special Forces Detachment Officer.

This phase lasts anywhere from 14 to 50 weeks depending on the training.

Q Course Phase 5

The fifth phase of the Q Course is called “Robin Sage,” named for the nearby town of Robbins, North Carolina and for the WWII veteran colonel Jerry Sage who was one of the leading figures in teaching unconventional tactics.

Robin Sage lasts four weeks, and serves at the final test for Q Course candidates.

The phase puts all the skills the candidates have learned over the previous phases to the test.

trainee participating in robin sage green beret training

In a fictional country called “Pineland,” which covers fourteen rural counties across North Carolina, students work together to devise a plan to recruit, train, and assist faux-guerrilla soldiers in the overthrow of an oppressive regime.

Once they present their plan to their commander, students parachute into Pineland and carry out their mission.

After Phase V, a student gets to move on the Phase VI, graduation, where he gets to don his Green Beret and officially join the ranks of the US Army Special Forces.

green beret graduation day

What Is Delta Force?

Delta Force is overseen by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

aerial view of ft bragg north carolina

Like how “Special Forces” is synonymous with “Green Berets,” Delta Force also goes by a few names.

Officially, the elite unit’s name is 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, however they are also referred to as Combat Applications Group (CAG), “The Unit,” and Task Force Green.

If you are a member of Delta, then you are called an “operator.”

History Of Delta Force

Delta was formed in the late 1970s by Colonel Charlie Beckwith in response to a string of high-level hostage situations and international terrorist incidents.

Charlie Beckwith, Founder Of Delta Force

Designed after the United Kingdom’s Special Air Service (SAS) unit, Delta is a direct-action unit that recruits the best of the best from all corners of the military.

Note: The Army has never officially released any information regarding the specifics of Delta. All information is based off former members’ memoirs, interviews, etc., and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Delta Force Selection Process

Unlike the 75th Ranger Regiment and Special Forces, you cannot sign up for Delta selection without prior service.

To join, you have to have two and a half years remaining on your contract, be of the rank E-4 (specialist/corporal), and have scored high on the military aptitude test (the actual minimum score is unlisted).

Delta Force Operators Escort General Schwarzkopf - Gulf War 1991
Delta Force Operators Escort General Schwarzkopf – Gulf War 1991

Delta selection and assessment is highly classified and always changing. In my experience, I knew one guy that went through the process.

When he got back, though disappointed that he didn’t make the cut, he told us a little about it.

Of course, he left out all classified information.

He said that when he landed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and met up with a group of other Delta applicants, four black SUVs pulled up outside the airport and parked in exact unison.

In a coordinated act of impressive and strange synchronization, my colleague told me that all the passenger doors to the SUVs opened at the exact same time, that four ridiculously muscled men with beards, sunglasses, and wearing civilian clothes waved him and the others over, ushered them into the SUVs, then took off at an incredible speed.

No one talked, he said. Once the actual selection process started, he said there was no yelling or degrading talk like there is in other selection processes.

You either did what they asked you to do, or you couldn’t, and if you couldn’t then you were politely asked to pack your bags and go home.

My old colleague told me that he made it through the entire selection process—and impressive feat considering that the attrition rate is rumored to be around ten percent—however once it came to the psychological interviews and exams, he was informed that he wasn’t Delta material.

So What Happens In The Selection Process?

The selection process involves a series of fitness tests—pushups, running, swimming (in full clothing, mind you)—and an ever-increasingly difficult series of land navigation courses.

The final land navigation course is apparently forty miles long and requires the applicant to carry a forty-five-pound rucksack.

Apparently, the most difficult (or frustrating) part of the navigation course is that you are not given any details about time standards.

In fact, keeping an applicant in the dark about most of the training is one of the ways that the Delta cadre best assess an applicant’s mental resolve.

If you pass Delta selection and are invited into the unit, you then have to complete a six-month intensive training program known as the Operator Training Course (OTC).

OTC is designed to make each operator an outstandingly proficient marksman, demolitionist, bodyguard, and—for lack of a better word—spy.

That’s right.

In addition to being able to shoot multiple moving targets without even looking down the barrel of their gun, operators are trained in espionage-related tasks, such as urban camouflage, surveillance and counter-surveillance, and combat driving.

In fact, many Delta Operators are plucked from the ranks by the CIA’s Special Activities division to carry out some of the most secret operations our country requires.

delta force members become cia sad members

At the end of OTC, all of the skills an operator learned over the past six months are put to the test.

If you pass, there’s no special colored beret to don, no special badge or tab to put on your uniform.

In fact, you’ll probably never wear a uniform ever again.

That’s Delta. Think you got what it takes?


So there you have it…

These are the biggest differences between Army Rangers, Green Berets, and Delta Force.

As i stated in the beginning of this article, each of these groups have very specific missions.

As such, they are trained to a certain degree of specialization.

Each has an important mission, and are all important assets to the US Military.

Green Berets Vs. Rangers Vs. Delta Force: Some MAJOR Differences
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