US Army Special Forces are an elite military unit, the only unit specifically organized to counter the insurgencies and unconventional threats that America faces today, and is likely to face well into the future.

Structured for unconventional warfare, Special Forces teams are task organized into 12-man teams or Operational Detachment-A teams, commonly called ODA’s, or simply A-Teams. Capable of working independently in a decentralized manner, these teams consist of:

  • 18A-Team Leader (Captain)
  • 180A-Assistant Team Leader (Warrant Officer)
  • 18Z-Team Sergeant (Master Sergeant)
  • 18F-Intelligence Sergeant (Staff Sergeant or Sergeant First Class)
  • 18D-Senior Medical Sergeant  (Sergeant First Class)
  • 18D-Junior Medical Sergeant (Sergeant or Staff Sergeant)
  • 18B-Senior Weapons Sergeant (Sergeant First Class)
  • 18B-Junior Weapons Sergeant (Sergeant or Staff Sergeant)
  • 18E-Senior Communications Sergeant (Sergeant First Class)
  • 18E-Junior Communication Sergeant (Sergeant or Staff Sergeant)
  • 18C-Senior Engineer Sergeant (Sergeant First Class)
  • 18C-Junior Engineer Sergeant (Sergeant or Staff Sergeant)

Each of these job titles carries with it a unique set of responsibilities, both operationally and administratively.  For instance, a Weapons Sergeant trains his team in weapons and tactics, but also writes the team’s Standard Operating Procedures and builds range packets and lesson plans.  A Medical Sergeant treats the wounded in combat, but also gives his team vaccinations and makes sure their medical records are up to date.  The redundancy of having two soldiers on every ODA in each specialty gives the team the added flexibility of also conducting split team operations.

Additionally, within a Special Forces Company consisting of six ODA’s, there are teams that further specialize in Military Free Fall (HALO), Combat Divers, and Mountain Warfare.

ODAs have seven doctrinal mission profiles:

Foreign Internal Defense: FID is the bread and butter of Special Forces soldiers.  Acting as trainers and instructors, ODAs work with and through indigenous troops to conduct combat operations in war and train allied and friendly nations across the globe in military tactics and techniques during times of peace.

Direct Action: DA missions are strike operations against enemy targets.  This could encompass the destruction of enemy resupply lines, such as blowing up rail lines, destroying enemy missile sites, raiding enemy base camps, or more frequently today, hunting down terrorist leaders in the cities and urban sprawl.  Direct Action missions are of short duration and can be conducted unilaterally by ODAs, but are almost always carried out with the indigenous soldiers that they train and work with.

Special Reconnaissance: SR is conducted to gather strategic intelligence that is reported back to higher headquarters elements.  These types of missions can be carried out deep behind enemy lines, laying up in a hide site for weeks on end studying key infrastructure and gathering information on enemy troop movements.