Teams from Delta Force, under the moniker of “Headquarters, USASOC,” have been a staple at the annual Best Ranger Competition in Fort Benning, Georgia for as long as I can remember. Not only do they compete, but they’ve won in 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, including multiple top-three finishes. Not bad for a unit consistently deployed both in combat and training environments, leaving little room for the level of “train-up time” other teams receive from their parent units.
Looking at the personnel roster of the 2016 competitors, the first thing that stood out was the lack of “USASOC” teams. Now, don’t let that confuse you with actual teams from USASOC units such as the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Special Forces Groups—both of which have a healthy representation in this year’s competition. This isn’t the first time teams from Delta have not competed, as there was no representation in either 2006 or 2008. In the case of 2006, JSOC’s war against Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda in Iraq, led by Delta, was at its height. The first part of 2008 saw a continuation of the Iraqi Civil War’s country-wide devastation, including a period of time when U.S. forces were reeling from 2007’s record of the most U.S. combat deaths since the Global War on Terror began. Basically, these guys were too busy deploying.
So why no representation in 2016? Is it a change within the unit’s policy to avoid exposing its operators to the public eye? Or maybe it’s a sign of things to come in the form of an increased operational tempo and deployments in the fight against ISIS in places like Syria, Iraq, and soon-to-be Libya, where ISIS controls the large swathe of territory that separates Tripoli from Benghazi.
Or am I simply looking too deeply into it? Perhaps the core principle of Occam’s razor is the best answer: “The guys probably didn’t feel like competing this year.”