Last Saturday, 70 operators hailing from Delta Force’s A Squadron and the 75th Ranger Regiment stormed a compound in the Idlib Province of Northeast Syria, successfully neutralizing one of history’s most despotic leaders, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The story made headlines around the world, but among those who aren’t as well versed in the makeup of America’s special operations units, one question kept popping up… What exactly is Delta Force?

While it could be said that every unit which falls under the “special ops” umbrella is comprised of operators who can move, shoot, and communicate with lethal efficiency, different units were created to address specialized challenges. As the years wore on, and particularly since the onset of the Global War on Terrorism, lines may have blurred a bit between specialties in many cases, allowing various units to conduct similar operations. But, the specific nature of each continues to inform the internal culture of divisions that fall under the command of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), honoring their heritage as well as the prowess their service experience allots.

Aside from a 1986 Chuck Norris movie, most folks that aren’t affiliated with the military likely have little idea of what Delta Force actually is. The Unit (as it’s sometimes called) is often mentioned alongside the far more publicly understood SEAL Team 6, and for good reason. In a very real sense, Delta and ST6 represent the most elite and highly trained special operations warfighters on the planet, and both of these elite units fall under the same SOCOM subordinate command, JSOC, or the Joint Special Operations Command. Unlike ST6, however, which recruits only from within the SEAL community, Delta recruits across all branches. As a result, some former SEALs have even gone on to become Delta operators.

Other than crazy. (Image provided by George Hand)

Delta’s elusive reputation can be credited to their secrecy. In fact, the name Delta is a misnomer, as the unit has actually changed titles repeatedly in his forty-plus year history. Originally called 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (SFOD-D), later called Combat Applications Group (CAG), and then changed again in the late 2000s to Army Compartmented Elements (ACE), the name isn’t really all that important. Delta isn’t in the business of leaving calling cards. As demonstrated last Saturday, Delta is in the killing-bad-guys business (often referred to formally as Counterterrorism), and they’re damn good at what they do.