Below is a list of the top ten, most elite special operation units in the US military and a brief overview of each.

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10.  USMC Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team

Also known as FAST, is ready for rapid deployment when US Government installations throughout the world require additional security.  They are stationed at different naval command posts throughout the world.  This unit of close to 500 Marines is specially trained using the state-of-the-art weapons.


9.  USAF Pararescuemen, PJ – The primary mission of the US Air Force’s Pararescuemen is to recover aircrew members who are either downed and/or injured in harsh environments.  They also provide on the scene emergency medical treatment to stabilize the injured while evacuating them.  The conditions sometimes warrant them to act as aircrew gunners and scanners as some missions require enemy evasion.


8.  US Army 75th Ranger Regiment – This elite infantry unit, aka:  Rangers, is a Special Operations unit headquartered at Ft. Benning, GA.  The unit is made up of a single Special Troops Battalion and three special operations battalions, specially trained with a variety of skills needed for a number of different specialized missions.  These three light infantry battalions are can be rapidly deployed and take turns rotating into the “Ranger Ready Forces”, where they are on constant readiness with the ability to respond to any crisis, anywhere in the world, in less than 18 hours.


7.  USMC Anglico – The US Marine Corps Special Forces – ANGLICO – are most noted for their proficiency in controlling Close Air Support (CAS).  They are, however, also trained in ground based fires such as cannon and rocket artillery and precision guided munitions.  The well-rounded training of the Anglico’s makes them the only firepower control team in the US Department of Defense who operates full time and have been fully trained to control and coordinate fire support from the air, on the land and on the sea.


6.  USMC MARSOC – Activated in February of 2006, this specially trained Marine Corps group is a module command of the US Special Operations Command encompassing the USMCs contribution to SOCOM.  The primary capabilities of MARSOC include direction action, special reconnaissance and also foreign internal defense.  They are also in charge of counter-terrorism, information operations and unconventional warfare.  These highly, specialized trained individuals must functionally capable of operating in fast-paced, often remote and complex, environments.


5.  US Army Intelligence Support Activity – This top secret US Army intelligence unit’s primary function is to gather intelligence information that will pave the way for a plan of action.  Some of the sources for their information includes (but is not limited to) local operatives working undercover and the monitoring and tracking of radio communications.


4.  USMC Force Reconnaissance – Active since June of 1957, the USMC Force Reconnaissance are capable of performing both deep reconnaissance as well as direction action operations.  This specialized task force is trained to operate independently behind enemy lines, while unconventional special ops, while supporting conventional warfare.  Their primary focus is to support the Marine expeditionary and amphibious operations.



3.  US Navy Seals – Probably one of (if not) the most well-known Special Ops group, the US Navy Seals are highly specialized and trained in the air, on the land and the sea.  Their roots can be traced back to WWII when the US Navy realized the necessity to develop secret reconnaissance of landing beaches and coastal defenses.  This discovery resulted in the establishing of the Amphibious Scout and Raider School in 1942.



2.  US Army Delta Force– The US Army Delta Force unit generally consists of versatile, quiet professionals.  They are involved in unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, information operations as well as various other roles.  Delta force members refer to themselves as “The Unit”.  Delta Force was first organized in November of 1977 and is known for its versatility in conducting various types of covert operations, such as hostage rescues and raids.


1.  US Navy DEVGRU, SEAL Team 6 – This US Naval Special Warfare Development Group has a classified number of teams deployed worldwide.  The original Team 6 was initially dissolved back in 1987, but then re-established by the US Navy as the Special Warfare Development Group – DEVGRU.  Most information about DEVGRU remains highly classified and neither the White House nor the Department of Defense will comment on the details of its activities.


The brief descriptions listed above for each of these specialized units merely scratches the surface of these deep, secretive and specialized units.  They are among the best of the best, trained to acclimate to almost any weather, environment or situation, making them the top ten, most elite Special Operations nits in the US Military.


34 Responses to Top Ten, Most Elite Special Operation Units in the US Military

  1. Correa says:

    OOOORRRRAAAAHHHH, FAST Company Pacific. Back in the 1980’s early 1990’s a group of young Marines started this great unit and made it what it is today. Those brothers of mine are really special to me. We look forward to having our reunion at the museum in March 2013.

  2. Alvarado says:

    FAST Pacific hard chargers! Can’t wait for the 2013 Reunion at the Armed Forces Museum next March. Looking forward to seeing all you animals again!! Contact me if you are looking for a FAST Pacific ball cap. If I can get enough interest, I will order more.

    Semper Fi!

  3. Fred Fuentes says:

    Hey, we made the Top 10! MCSF BN PAC FAST CO 1987-1990

  4. Tango says:

    Didn’t know Delta had the “Q” course, lol. Might want to add a line for Vanilla SF.

  5. jonathan says:

    je veux etre de votre équipe

  6. bryan says:

    Solid list but two things bother me rangers should be higher i mean they support delta and devgru and how the hell are the green berets not on this list

  7. Stephen says:

    PJs rescue all of them if they cannot be love, because they are Air Force?

  8. Армия = друзья? says:

    [...] Is the Difference Between the US Army and the US Marines? , Top Ten, Most Elite Special Operation Units in the US Military | The Armed Forces Military Museum , Most Elite Special Forces In The US – Business Insider [...]

  9. Tinhorse34 says:

    What happened to US Army Special Forces ? Especially 7th SFG, I’m kinda partial to them….lol Seems to me that they should fall somewhere around 3 or 4 on this list.

  10. Dave says:

    Who put these units on the List? First of all, the only Marine Special Operations unit is MARSOC. All those other Marine units are not part of Special Operations Command. This was obviously put together by a Marine. Lol! You don’t even have Green Berets on the list but you put those quasi “Elite” Marine units on the list. What a joke. Additionally, Delta has completed more missions and fought in more wars than DEVGRU (SEAL Team 6) and have a better track record. Watch “Delta Force-Tier 1″ on the Military channel on 07/16/13 and learn why Delta is the TOP Elite Operations Unit in the ENTIRE military. Sorry, this is fact. Look it up in real War and Military books. Not the stupid internet.

    • alon2392 says:

      We appreciate your input. Feel free to add any additional information about other operations. We welcome your input and are always open to learning.

    • Brent says:

      First off,we have seen Delta in action when they attempted to rescue the hostages in Iran. Second we seen Delta again with the rangers in Black Hawk down and both were failures. We saw them once again in action during a rescue attempt of a American prisoner held in Panama Dec. 1989 and that damn near became a failure as well. Those are three fact based events that didn’t come from the internet.

      • Airbn51st says:

        bviously by making such a comment as “we have seen Delta in action when they attempted to rescue the hostages in Iran”, clearly shows that you don’t know what you are talking about. The failure of the entire op was due to inexperienced USMC flight crews. The Delta boys never got off of the ground and never directly participated. Also, this list is pure drivel clearly written by someone with a serious Marine Corps bias. All of the quasi special op units organic to the Marine Corps are included, but units with more prestige and legit Socom missions such as Army Sf and Airforce spec ops are not even mentioned. If you are going to include non Spec Op’s units in this list (sorry, but the only true Socom unit the Marines have is Marsoc and nobody outside of the Marine Corps thinks otherwise), then you have to include Army LRS, Pathfinders, TACP’s and scouts, all of the units have just as much of a right to be included in this list as any of the quasi spec ops unit mentioned above. And to not mention CCT’s, PJ’s and Army SF on this list basically destroys any semblance of credibility this list could have had.

  11. jack says:

    why arent the green berets in there

    • alon2392 says:

      Jack: We could only pick ten. Love that people have responded passionately with other special units. They are all worthy. Would welcome any information you would like to post on their behalf – enlightening us all!

  12. Mark says:

    I must say I enjoyed reading through this list. However, I must disagree with the order slightly. I know probably a million soldiers/patriots wrote “How could you leave out (insert their favorite here)?”. So I will just ask why you decided to place the 75th at number 8? Do not get me wrong, I think everyone on this list is amazing and deserve to be here. I just personally think the history behind the 75th should place them above an 8. Great page regardless.

    • alon2392 says:

      Thank you for your input. A number of people came together and put this list together based on a few sources we found. I am sure those who are close and personal with the 75th greatly appreciate (and would agree with) your comment. We appreciate it as well.

  13. Robert F says:

    I retired with 28 years in ISA (GREY FOX, TF ORANGE, et al) in 37 years total service. But that could not have happened since ISA doesn’t exist. As a CWO 4 was on committee that wrote SFAS POI. As a CWO 5 headed the board that wrote MARSOC A&S course. Most elite SF? The boarded14th British Signals Company & ISA. These are where Delta/DEVGRU & SAS/SBS advance to. So far MARSOC is a joke.

  14. hachet says:

    hey, is there anyone out there from 576 or am I the last.

  15. Simon Marcello says:

    My Top 15 U.S. Special-Forces with Military units
    #1.(S.A.D.)-“Special Activities Divission”
    #6.(A.F.S.O.C.-PJ’s)-“Air-Force Special Operation Command Pararescue Jumpers”
    #9.USMC-(F.A.T.S.T.)-“Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team”
    #10.USMC-(M.A.R.S.O.C)-“Marine corps Forces Special Operation Command”
    #12.(U.S.A.I.S.A.)-“United States Army Intelligence Support Activity”
    #13.”US Army 75th Ranger Regiment”

    • Simon Marcello says:

      N my opinion; the US’s sf & elite units r so dominative that S.A.S. would tie for 4th & S.B.S. would tie for 5th.

  16. 2Guns says:

    My Top 14 U.S. Special-Forces with Military units
    #1.1stSFOD “delta Force”
    #4.Air Force Combat Controller
    #5.A.F.S.O.C.-PJ’s)-”Air-Force Special Operation Command Pararescue Jumpers”
    #7. Green-Beret’s
    #8. USMC-”Force-Recon”
    #9. USMC-(F.A.S.T.)-”Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team”
    #10 USMC-(M.A.R.S.O.C)-”Marine corps Forces Special Operation Command”
    #11.”US Army 75th Ranger Regiment”


  17. David says:

    For the record the most Elite unit in the Active Army is the 249th Engineer Battalion. It takes a year long school to even become a member of this Battalion, of which their are only 4 companies and that includes the 1 Reserve company. A 12P is assigned to one of 3 company’s. Their are only 3 active company’s they can go to but every natural disaster within the US is manned by this Battalion so every mission is life threatening. They don’t go with guns, they go to restore the vital element, Water, the electricity part is evaluated for sewage pumping, hospital recovery and command and control for all others. But with only a single battalion (of less than 400), most are support personnel it makes them the most elite active unit in DOD none have a greater (ongoing) mission and can accomplish more than any 12P, were not talking taking life but saving lives. Most missions are handled by 3 or 4 people. No brag…Just Fact.

  18. Samuel S. says:

    my opinion
    1. Army CAG
    2. DEVGRU
    3. Force Recon&MARSOC
    4. Green Beret ODA
    5. AFSOC
    6. Seals
    7. Battalion Reconnaissance
    8. 75th Ranger Battalion
    9. ANGLICO
    !0. FAST

    the reason why i put Force Recon&MARSOC top 3 lets go back in 2003 MCSOCOM DET-1 it was force recon marines and seals(include DEVGRU) So when Det-1 was stood up, it basically absorbed a bunch of seasoned Force Recon NCO’s who already brought a more than solid skill set to the table for a special operations unit. During that time period in 2003-2004, the Navy made sure they were elbow-deep in being involved with the formation and training of Det-1, much to the chagrin of these Force Recon Marines who were now within SOCOM. They complained of being subjected to initial entry training modeled after BUDS, when they already had done that in INDOC(1st Force Indoc) and maintained proficiency in dive, swim, and ruck marching on their own, but with Navy trainers from the Teams now “overseeing” their entry into SOCOM. Since Force Recon always considered themselves more proficient at these common SEAL/UDT/Force tasks, the transition training was an insult to them. They specifically said, “What are we going to learn from the Squeals? We already can out-run, out-ruck, out-swim, and out-shoot them, and they’re supposed to be training us? We don’t want them anywhere near our training program, we want to learn from guys who shoot equal to us and do a whole set of other skill sets that we don’t really have training in. We want to learn from SFOD-D”

  19. J says:

    Obviously someone has a chip on their soldier for not liking Green Berets. Even though we beat the seals the past 3 years in our war-game exercises in 7th group. And MARSOP is a joke, they weren’t allowed to operate for the longest time because their missions success was so low in Afghan. Whoever rated this isn’t that bright, how would a brand new SOF unit such as MARSOP be top ten with only being around for such a short time.

  20. Scott says:

    Good to see USMC FORECON on this list.People keep saying they aren’t a part of SOCOM hence not Spec-Ops, but they are easily in the top 5 of US Spec ops units based on their overall record.
    Surprise decision to not pick Army SF in the top 10.They deserve a place on this list.

  21. Burg says:

    Delta Force should be #1!

  22. Burg says:

    I heard a former navy seal even and marine recon say the delta force are in a league of their own.

  23. 8654ReconMan says:

    I do believe SFOD-D needs to lead the list. I had the pleasure of some operational interaction with these gentleman(don’t tell them I called them that). Their skill sets were on another level. DEVGRU gets all the air time but those boys off Butner Rd….. SFOD-A’s need to be on the list also.. yeah they do a lot of country building. But they have a long history direct action. And we dont want to upset the spirit of John Wayne Do We??? HAHAHAHA!!! He might send a Mike Force after us…

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