This article is a follow-up to a recent article on the U.S. special operations groups and programs that most people have not heard of, or know little about. This article features several new groups, and also provides a little more info on some of the groups covered in part one.

CIA Special Activities Division (SAD) / Special Operations Group

The U.S. special operations groups and programs you may not know about (Pt. 2)
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The Special Activities Division (SAD), sometimes known as the Special Operations Group, is the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) covert paramilitary operations unit. They are one of America’s most secretive and lowest-profile special ops organizations.

The Special Activities Division, sometimes referred to as the ‘Special Operations Group’, is made up of paramilitary operations officers (former Green Berets, Marine Recon, etc.)

The Special Activities Division has carried out deniable covert operations on foreign soil throughout their history. CIA Special Operations Group paramilitaries are trained in:

  • Counterterrorism
  • Hostage rescue
  • Bomb damage assessment
  • Kidnapping
  • Personnel and material recovery
  • Sabotage

CIA Ground Branch/Global Response Staff

The U.S. special operations groups and programs you may not know about (Pt. 2)
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Known simply as GB, Ground Branch is a CIA paramilitary unit that consists of both CIA employees and private military contractors who are hired through a third party. Something of a good old boy’s club, GB used to be packed full of former Marines, then retired Delta sergeant majors. Today, the CIA likes to hire younger E-6s or E-7s out of the special operations community and raise them up through the ranks of the agency themselves.

When outsiders hear about GB, they automatically have visions of black helicopters and wrist-mounted crossbows, but the reality is that GB officers largely conduct the same mission as U.S. Special Forces (Green Berets)—unconventional warfare. In other words, working by, with, and through indigenous forces to complete their mission. However, those overseeing GB paramilitary programs are often CIA case officers who have little knowledge or experience in military or paramilitary operations. During the Global War on Terror, GB has seen extensive action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

CIA Air Branch – CIA Special Activities Division (SAD)

The U.S. special operations groups and programs you may not know about (Pt. 2)

Air Branch is the aviation wing of the CIA’s Special Activities Division (SAD). Their role is to fly covert missions in support of CIA operations.