Understanding the Differences Between Delta Force and Green Berets

Author: Eric Sof

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The Delta Force, also known as the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D) or Combat Applications Group (CAG), is a highly classified unit of the United States Army that is widely considered to be part of the Tier 1 special operations forces. This unit is known for its specialized activities and expertise in direct action and counter-terrorism.

In contrast, the United States Army Special Forces, commonly known as the Green Berets, are a Tier 1 special operations unit publicly recognized and acknowledged by the government. While both units are highly trained and skilled in special operations, they have different focus areas and operate using other tactics.

The Green Berets specialize in unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense and are known for wearing their signature green berets. The main difference between the Delta Force and the Green Berets is the level of secrecy surrounding their missions and the tactics they use to carry out those missions. Despite this difference, both units are essential to the success of the United States military and play vital roles in the country’s special operations capabilities.

Different Geographical Locations

The primary difference between Delta Force and Green Berets lies in their areas of operation. Green Berets are typically deployed in smaller units worldwide, while Delta Force operators can conduct operations anywhere in the globe. Both units are part of the Special Forces, with different groups serving in specific geographical regions.

Green Berets in Africa (Niger)
Nigerien Armed Forces conduct a convoy movement, Flintlock 18 exercise in Niger alongside Green Berets on April 15, 2018 (Photo: U.S. Army)

For example, the 5th Special Forces Group is primarily responsible for Central Command, which covers the Middle East, Western Asia, and North Africa. Other Special Forces Groups may be assigned to regions such as Central and South America or Africa and typically operate in teams of 12, known as Operational Detachment Alphas.

The Delta Force is the army’s primary quick strike organization operating in the same vein as the SEALs do for the Navy. Special Forces troops often called Green Berets are primarily teachers, assisting allied forces in training friendly, indigenous forces to become effective tactical forces within their home country. Both groups train daily to maintain a high degree of weapons and tactical proficiency.

Tactics and overall look

Delta Force, also known as “The Unit” within the Special Forces, is a highly secretive and elite unit capable of conducting operations anywhere in the world. While they belong to a specific unit, details of this unit are not disclosed in public forums. In contrast, the Green Berets are a more publicly visible part of the U.S. Army. Delta Force operates in small teams known as Operational Detachment DELTA (ODD). Once a Special Forces soldier is recruited or invited to join Delta, they can no longer wear any identifying uniform.

Green Berets: De Oppresso Liber — To Liberate the Oppressed 4
Although they look the same when geared up, there is a slight difference between Delta Force and Green Berets operators (Photo: Pinterest)

Delta Force members are trained to blend in with the local population in the areas where they are deployed by growing their hair and beards out. This allows them to go unrecognized and operate covertly. Delta Force comprises members from various specialized units within the U.S. Army, including Rangers, Green Berets, and other branches such as Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC).

In addition to working independently, Delta Force may also collaborate with SEALs, Army Special Forces, MARSOC, Air Force ParaRescue, and foreign Special Forces units during missions. These foreign units are frequently highly skilled and friendly, representing the elite Special Forces units in their respective countries.

Top Secret missions

Delta Force is a highly secretive and elite unit comprised of some of the world’s most skilled and deadly individuals. They are not publicly recognized for their successes, and should any members be captured as prisoners of war, the U.S. government may deny their involvement in the military.

This is a risk that Delta Force operators are aware of and accept to protect their comrades and maintain secrecy. The media and government will never publicly acknowledge the existence or actions of Delta Force, earning them the reputation of being “Quiet Professionals.”

Operation that took out al-Baghdadi, raid carried out by Delta Force and Army Rangers
This image from a video released by the Department of Defense on Wednesday, October 30, 2019, and displayed at a Pentagon briefing, shows members of the CAG (Delta Force) and U.S. Army Rangers, figures at lower right, moving toward the compound of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Saturday, October 26, 2019. (Department of Defense via A.P.)

Funding Priority

Another critical difference between Delta Force and Green Berets lies in the scope and funding of their missions. Green Berets are trained to establish relationships with local populations and engage in warfare from behind enemy lines, serving as “soldier diplomats.” In contrast, Delta Force, also known as Combat Applications Group (CAG), is a highly funded unit responsible for conducting direct action missions, including both strategic and tactical operations that may be covert or clandestine.

CAG is one of three primary direct action teams in the U.S., along with DEVGRU and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Hostage Rescue Team (FBI HRT) for domestic operations. While Special Forces units, including Delta Force and DEVGRU, operate with a certain level of secrecy, their missions are generally not as covert as those of Delta Force.

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