1st SFOD-D Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta

1st SFOD-D Special Forces Operational Detachment - Delta 5

Among all the assets delegated to special operations of the U.S. military, the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), more commonly known as Delta Force, is undoubtedly covered by the strictest confidence. The 1st SFOD-D is a unit of “black” and the Department of Defense (along with SEAL Team Six, the 24th Special Tactics Squadron and Intelligence Support Activity CIA) is placed directly under the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC ).


The Delta Force owes its existence to the perseverance of Colonel Charles Beckwith, a veteran of the Vietnam War, where he led a program called Project Delta, whose objective was to carry out operations “covert” against the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese regular army . Once back at home, in front of the mount of terrorist incidents against U.S. citizens and interests in the world, Beckwith began work on the creation of a structure that can strike without warning and with maximum efficiency, anyone who posed a threat to the safety U.S.. Beckwith has in mind the establishment of a unit of special forces, modeled on the British Special Air Service, with whom he had worked years before in Malaysia. The Colonel then contacts the General Bob Kingston to Fort Bragg, recognizing the potential of the project, submit it to the General Edwin Meyer, Deputy Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army.

The three official identify what would be the mission of the unit and accordingly, the amount of force required. They draw up the Table of Organization and Equipment (TO & E) department, establishing configuration, ranks, weapons, equipment and start-up costs. General Meyer, from its position inside the Pentagon, he began to seek funds for the project and men, clashing with the ostracism of the higher degrees, convinced that the role of department controterrismo it was up to the unit “Blue Light” of the 5th Special Forces Group. On1977 summer, the project was officially presented to the Fort Benning Infantry Conference, earning the approval of those present and being recommended to the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, which is the same Meyer. On 21 November 1977, by order of the Department of the Army, the 1st Special Forces Operational born Detachment-Delta, headed by Colonel Charles Beckwith.

He, after selecting a few trusted collaborators, chooses as a base of operations in the former prison of Fort Bragg (North Carolina), starting immediately to select candidates for the program. The requirements to participate in the presets were a minimum age of twenty-two years, four years and two months of active service, minimum grade of Staff Sergeant, having scored a minimum of 100 points in the aptitude test of the U.S. Army, no problem disciplinary applicant and no condemnation to court martial. The men who came out of that first course, were the same people who took part in the rescue attempt of the hostages, prisoners in the embassy in Tehran in 1980, but that first tragic operation was fortunately enough to undermine the confidence of the military in Delta Force . The history of the unit is making excellent parallel to the conflicts that have seen involved the U.S. military over the past three decades.

It was the star of countless operations to the four corners of the globe, the details of most of them, are intended to remain secret for long. Operators like Randall Shugart and Gary Gordon, write heroic pages in the history of the unit, helping to create an aura of legend around the Delta Force, a department whose existence is still today officially denied. It ‘just because of the secrecy that the information on the 1st SFOD-D are scarce and difficult to verify. The purpose of this article, written with the analysis of open sources, therefore, is to provide the reader with an overview of the most comprehensive and reliable information about the selection, structure, operations and the paraphernalia of the men of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta.

Selection and training

Unlike what happens with all other forces special information relevant to the selection process and training for the future operators of the Delta Force, are not openly available. The information reaching us about, in fact, derived from literary works published by former players, most notably Eric Haynes, author of the book “Inside Delta Force” and producer of the hit television series “The Unit”, which is loosely based on the life and undertakings in the secondment of Delta Force. According to published twice a year, representatives of the department, visit the old staff of St Louis (Missouri) to examine the cards sergeants and captains of the Green Berets and Rangers who have distinguished themselves during their service . Candidates thus selected are sent letters, with which the communicant’s interest from the 1st SFOD-D, and we invite them to call a phone number. If the candidate is willing to join this unit, it is asked to destroy the message.

For all those who have responded favorably, promises an interview preliminary and a physical test extremely hard, after which the staff not qualified to cast is sent to obtain the patent paratrooper. Following an intense week of physical training which includes running, swimming and speed ballasted. The idea is to bring all candidates at the same level of fitness and to highlight medical problems before the arrival of the men at Camp Dawson (West Virginia), the Appalachian Mountains. And ‘here that begins the pre-selection, which lasts a month and was modeled after the one used by the SAS. To overcome it will be only a small number of men who will enter the very first stage of selection. It includes a series of gears to be completed within a specified time limit, which is not, however, communicated to the candidates.

The perhaps most difficult with which to confront, is isolation. The soldiers are forced to work alone and this can be an obstacle for those who are accustomed to act instead of in a group. But that’s exactly what the Delta Force requires its men bonded and working within a team one day and the next lone wolves, perhaps for the execution of an undercover operation. A further element of psychological pressure consists of interviews to which they are subjected candidates. Drug use, attitude towards foreigners, family status, sexual discrimination, are just some of the topics on which applicants are interviewed by a team of psychologists. The barrage of questions seems to have no end and the goal is to delete from the group the violent and unstable. The ideal candidate for the Delta Force, is in fact a man psychologically stable, principled, with a family and possibly religious, because these are the factors that define an individual’s reliable, according to the canons of selection into force. Another critical area for the assessment of candidates is the ability to make decisions in situations of shiny physical and psychological stress extreme.

As a final part dell’esaminazione psychological, candidates are asked to write a sort of small autobiography. In the second week of the pre-selection speed ballasted one another seemingly endless, culminating in a final test of orientation Night 18 km, within a dense wooded area. Overcome this phase, each candidate is assigned a number and a color. The number indicates the individual soldier, the color of his team affiliation. The perfect day starts at around six in the morning, and orders are written on a blackboard in each dormitory. And ‘required to appear in a specific area addestrativa in possession of their individual equipment and a ballast of a given weight. The weights can vary several times a day and those who are wrong to properly load their backpacks, they are severely punished.

During the selection period are served two hot meals a day, but instructors have the right to terminate the service rations, just to observe the reaction of the candidates. In a real mission, it is not infrequently the case in which it is forced to operate totally fasting for several hours. is therefore essential to determining who is able to remain functional, even on an empty stomach. The routine addestrativa can range from eight hours of running, equipped with three rations MRE (Meal Ready to Eat), up to thirty-six hours with only one MRE. The number and color of the candidate are also changed frequently and without notice, in order to force him to stay focused and adapt to situations that can change suddenly, as in the reality of the battlefield. In a totally unexpected, a soldier can be seen with a gun in his hand and an instructor to ask him to be disassembled and reassembled, while the seats are mathematical questions, all in order to measure logic skills under stress. for each candidate is granted a certain number of errors before being sent back to their units belonging (RTU, Returned To Unit). None of them, however, is aware of the margin of tolerance permitted.

Those who fail the selections leaves with a pep talk from the instructors, this in order not to undermine the confidence of the soldiers who will form the excellent elements for the armed forces. The commander of the military unit of origin, will also receive a letter of thanks for providing an excellent candidate for selection. At the end of the first phase, will arrive only 20% of those who have started the selections. The final phase includes a march of forty kilometers in the Appalachians, to be completed in two days. On returning from the test, after a shower and a hot meal, the military are grouped together in the classroom to read some books. They then eighteen hours to write a detailed summary of each book. The aim of the exercise is to assess the ability to reason in terms of sleep deprivation (at this point in the selection, applicants are in fact already awake for forty-eight hours). After handing the test, followed by a series of questions of a personal nature with an interviewer, which is followed by the final test: an interview with the commander of the unit. This, surrounded by his squadron commanders, asking the questions varied: you sacrifice the life of your child for your country? You are in a secret mission in the mountains of Afghanistan and a shepherd discovered you and your unit: would you be able to kill him? The President has ordered you to eliminate a political rival: you obey the order? The idea is to assess how the candidate reacts to pressure from a higher authority. The military is also asked if he ever cheated during shifting, taking, for example, shortcuts. To those who accept the unfairness could be allowed to stay, but to those who lie are shown.

Photos taken in secret and which shows the opposite. At the end of the interview, the decision whether to accept the candidate is put to a vote and in case of a positive vote, the dossier of the candidate is sealed and stored. Once in the unit, the military must complete six months of Operator’s Training Course (OTC), which include covert operations, assaults, close combat, marksmanship and training in conducting different types of media. There are over a thousand hours spent at the shooting range during this phase. Is not neglected either the theoretical part with lectures on the history of terrorist ideology, psychology and theory of combat. Students are also taught how to pick locks and acting undercover.

These aspects are then tested during exercise, during which the military will be “driven” by various government agencies, in a U.S. city. Followed by six weeks of instruction in communications, battlefield medicine techniques and advanced infantry, before the last nine weeks, during which men learn to carry out attacks in enclosed spaces, in pairs and in teams of four. The courses close protection and surveillance are carried out at the Central Intelligence Agency. At the end of this training procedure, the military become operators in all respects. Their preparation has not yet finished, since attending courses throwing techniques HALO / HAHO, detecting and defusing IEDs and sniping Sotic.


The structure is similar to that of Delta Force, SAS, being organized on three operational squadrons (A, B and C), divided into sub-specialized units, respectively, in diving operations, mountain aviolanci and mobility. The minimum operating unit is constituted by four men. It seems that the force be composed of about 2,500 men, selected mainly by Green Berets and Rangers, and that there is a number of female staff, mainly used for undercover operations and surveillance.


In the armory of the Delta Force are present in virtually all weapons systems products in the world, this is to allow each operator to be comfortable, even if you have to find to use weapons seized from the enemy. Among the assault rifles are M4 A1 SOPMOD (Special Operations Peculiar Modification), FN SCAR, M16 A2, Mini-14, Steyr AUG and Stoner SR 25. As regards the machine pistols, in addition to the series MP5 Heckler & Koch in all its variants, we have the presence of MAC 10 and Uzi. The machine guns are M249 SAW, HK-13, M60, M240B, and M2 Browning. Are used for close combat rifles pump Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 Cruiser. The sniper rifles are HK-PSG, M40A1, M24 and Barret M82 A1. The support weapons include grenade launcher M203, M79, 81mm mortars, rocket launcher Carl Gustav, LAW, MK19, M136 and Stinger MANPAD against tank. With regard to the optics, are employed Aimpoint Comp M, M68, M28, AN/PQ2 Target Pointer / Illuminator / Aiming Light (TPIAL). Operators make use of night vision equipment for the AN/PVS-7, viewers tactical ballistic Bolle T800 and gas masks Avon S10. The fleet includes, Land Rover Defender 110 SOV, Hummer, Quad ATV, Harley Davidson Bike Track and light vehicles of attack. Some of these vehicles are armed with MK19 grenade launchers, machine guns and M60 M240B, General Electric mini-gun, 7.62 mm, 20mm cannons and heavy machine guns Browning M2. Regarding mobility, the Delta is of course also use the equipment in use at the rotorcraft 160th SOAR.

Operation notes

1979, Pan American Games, Puerto Rico: the 1st S.FOD-D is deployed in Puerto Rico in the Olympic Games Pan American, as the anti-terrorist cell which also includes elements dell’Hostage Rescue Team of the FBI.

April 24, 1980, Iran, “Operation EAGLE CLAW” shall mean, when the release of American hostages prisoners of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, ends in tragedy when a helicopter RH-53 on takeoff, collided with an airplane C-130 Hercules transport. The flames envelop the two aircraft, killing eight soldiers. 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment Al-Delta had been assigned the role of device main assault. The incident is a direct result of the use of a rescue force composed of elements from different weapons and not used to operate according to a standardized procedure.

October 1983, Grenada, “Operation URGENT FURY” Delta Force assaults the prison in Richmond Hill, where they are being held several members of the legitimate government, overthrown by a military coup.

1984: deployment in the Middle East, following the assassination of two U.S. citizens during a hijacking of Kuwaiti Airlines.

November 24, 1985, International Airport Luqa, Malta: Three officers of the unit (including Eric Haynes) are posted with the counterterrorism unit Egyptian Sa ‘AQA as counselors. The Maltese Government ultra socialist Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici prohibits three soldiers to assist the Egyptian commandos, isolating them from the U.S. Embassy and Helicopter Flight Luqa. Fifty hostages will die dell’imperizia Egyptian in conducting the operation.

1985, Cyprus: Cypriot deployment in the territory following the hijacking of an aircraft U.S. airline TWA.

1987, Greece: activation after informing him of disclosure in which an assassination attempt against Colonel James Rowe of the U.S. Army, by agents of the security services in Vietnam.

December 1989, Panama, “Operation JUST CAUSE”: deployment to Panama following the U.S. invasion on 20 December 1989. Of the activities carried out by men of the 1st SFOD-D, include the liberation of businessman Kurt Muse during the operation called “ACID GAMBIT.”

1991, Iraq, Operation “DESERT STORM”: the 1st SFOD-D. is activated to ensure the safety of General Norman Schwartzkopf and other prominent individuals in Saudi Arabia. Operations are also conducted, aiming at the identification and destruction of mobile batteries of missiles / air SCUD in the Iraqi desert next to the men of the British SAS.

1993, Mogadishu, Somalia, “Operation GOTHIC SERPENT” deployed as part of Task Force Ranger, in order to capture Mohammed Farrah Aidid or eliminate, the main cause of the humanitarian catastrophe that struck the south of the country. The Delta is entrusted with the task of gathering information and executing raids, supported by Rangers and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) of the U.S. Army. During one of these operations (carried out on 3 and 4 October 1993), the sergeants Randall Shugart and Gary Gordon patrolling alone place of killing of a Black Hawk helicopter, defending the pilot. Shugart and Gordon, surrounded by hundreds of Somali armed and under the influence of khat, are brutally massacred and their bodies dragged through Mogadishu. Because of their sacrifice (that saves the lives of Michael Durant, the helicopter pilot shot down), the two players will be awarded the Medal of Honor.

1995, Bosnia: the Delta is activated to perform the capture of Serbian war criminals.

18 December 1996 – 23 April 1997, Lima, Peru: The unit is in Lima to follow closely a hostage inside the residence of the Japanese, by a group of rebel Tupac Amaru. The place turned out to be also present six operators of the Counter-Revolutionary Warfare Wing of the British SAS and the Canadian Joint Task Force 2.

1999, Kosovo, “Operation ALLIED FORCE”: new deployment in the Balkans, where the Delta Force operates in synergy with various groups of European special forces (including Italian), holding also the tasks of Forward Air Controlling for shooting plane.

September 2001 – (in progress), OPERATION “ENDURING FREEDOM”: 13 September 2001, the Delta Force is active in Afghanistan together in operations aimed at identifying the Saudi terrorist Osama Bin Laden, and the destruction of cells Qaedist and training Taliban fighters.

2002, Kuwait: The Delta Force is sent in the Persian Gulf (in preparation operation “IRAQI FREEDOM”), but was almost immediately ridispiegata in Pakistan for counterterrorism operations against members of Al Qaeda.

2002 – 2008, Iraq, “Operation IRAQI FREEDOM”: the 1st SFOD-D. comes into play in the deserts of western Iraq, during the initial phases of the operation “IRAQI FREEDOM”. After the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein, the operators gave rise to a series of counterinsurgency operations as part of Task Force Black

2004, Afghanistan: new deployment to Afghanistan in support of search and destroy operations against members of Al Qaeda on the border with Pakistan.

6 to 8 July 2005, Gleneagles, Scotland, G8 Summit: security service for the benefit of the President of the United States of ‘America George W. Bush.