Whenever one utters the word “diversity,” especially within the Special Operations Community, it elicits groans from some and often justifiably so. Why? Because serving in a Special Operations unit has always been a voluntary decision. 

There isn’t a way to just assign people to Special Forces A-Teams, Navy SEAL teams, Army Ranger battalions, MARSOC Raiders, or Air Force CCT teams. Men and women must volunteer to serve there and most importantly be able to pass the strict Selection and Assessment requirements and the various qualification courses required. Further, the SOF community, especially the Special Forces branch has traditionally made diversity its goal. The operational units didn’t and don’t care if an operator is black, brown, yellow, red, or white.

Thus, attempting to criticize the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) for not having a “diverse enough” environment, as some members of Congress do, is ludicrous. The critics will point to lower diversity numbers in SOF and try to attribute that to SOF cadres putting minority candidates at an unfair disadvantage. 


This brings up the dreaded dirty word, “standards,” which we could and have talked about ad nauseam. The bottom line is that the standards have to remain intact in order for SOF candidates to be able to accomplish their own particular missions.

What sets Special Forces apart from their other SOF brethren has been their language capability and hard-earned reputation for creating and maintaining rapport with our allies and partners. The biggest part of that is being able to communicate with our partners in their own language and understanding and respecting their culture. 

SF troops at a ceremony. Language and cultural diversity have always been hallmarks of SF.

Since its inception in 1952, Special Forces made language capability a huge part of its mission since being able to recruit, train, and lead guerrilla forces against a Soviet invasion of Western Europe was critical.

Many of SF’s first operators came from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) or were recruited under the Lodge-Philbin Act. These were men who came from Europe, spoke the language, and knew the areas of operation where teams would be assigned. 

One of the reasons that the 7th Special Forces Group was so successful in its own area of operations was the plethora of candidates coming through the SF training pipeline who had a Latin American background. Those NCOs and officers were the moneymakers for the group on every deployment.