Tier 2: Second echelon of elite special forces

Author: Eric Sof


All of you have heard about Tiers in US Special Operations Forces. We have already focused on Tier 1, meaning the teams included, but what about Tier 2?

Tier 2 Units

Tier 2 Special Missions Units* are open to any male in the U.S. Military of adequate physical health. Most wash out (like 80-90%). These teams are, but are possibly not limited to:

Tier 2 units are still highly elite. However, there is no question whether joining Tier 2 units is more straightforward or not. For example, the regular Navy SEALs (Tier 2) have a dropout/washout rate of 80–85% during training, whereas the British Special Air Service (SAS) has a dropout rate of 90–95%. More importantly, only people with three years of military service are allowed to apply. Thus the caliber of applicants is already more elite.

U.S. Army Rangers, assigned to 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment, prepare for extraction
U.S. Army Rangers, assigned to 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment, prepare for extraction from their objective during Task Force Training on Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., Jan. 30, 2014. Rangers constantly train to maintain their tactical proficiency. (Photo: US ARMY/Spc. Steven Hitchcock)

In terms of a US example, Delta Force (who was trained by the SAS initially) has a dropout rate similar to the SAS, and as I said, all Delta members are already Tier 2 spec ops members.

So, Tier 2 units require you to be the epitome of fitness and strength, etc. At the same time, Tier 1 units require the things mentioned above to a greater extent and prior military service, which means an already developed military skill set. The skills set that Tier 1 applicants would have due to initial service in Tier 2 units would be impeccable marksmanship skills, explosives skills and knowledge of military strategy tactics, etc.

Once fully trained as a Tier 1 spec ops member, the soldier would have been trained in psychological training to resist torture/interrogation and in evasion tactics such as Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training.

US Navy SEALs in hard firefight with ISIS militants. Regular SEAL Teams are considered as Tier 2 units
A Navy SEALs in a gun battle in Iraq, 2016. Regular SEAL Teams are considered Tier 2 units (Photo: YouTube/Still)

What does Tier 2 represent?

Some people claim Tier status depends on funding, but this isn’t true. Tier ranking is to do with eliteness; this is why the CIA’s Special Activities Center (SAC) and the paramilitary Special Operations Group (SOG) recruit from Tier 1 units. The SAD/SOG/SAC recruit from DEVGRU and Delta, not from Army Rangers. Even when the CIA uses special forces units for operations and not SAD/SOG, they still choose Tier 1 units, not Tier 2 ones. When the CIA launched the operation to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, they didn’t use a regular SEAL Team; they used the Development Group (DEVGRU).

Some would even argue that Rangers (75th Ranger Regiment) is currently Tier 1 due to the extremely high demand for its direct-action skillset.

* The term Special Mission Unit or Special Missions Unit (SMU) itself is an official term sometimes used, particularly in the United States, to describe some military Special Operations Forces. Special mission units have been involved in high-profile military operations, such as the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

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4 thoughts on “Tier 2: Second echelon of elite special forces”

  1. “and like I said all Delta members are already Tier 2 spec ops members.” Not true!

    While it’s true that Delta recruits HEAVILY from Tier 2 units (as I understand it, the 75th Ranger Regiment), they’ll also attempt recruitment from anybody who fits the minimum criteria (age, TIS, rank, etc.) and is willing to show up at a particular location on Fort Bragg for a slightly modified APFR test… I used to get recruitment emails from them.

  2. https://sofrep.com/news/sof-operate-north-korea/
    according to this article it seems as if marsoc is allowed to do tier 1 and 2 missions depending on if they’re needed for the particular mission. they seem to qualify for both since theyre more used to amphibious missions, they pull heavily from force recon but are more selective, and force recon is already a tier 2.

  3. ” … and as I said, all Delta members are already Tier 2 spec ops members.” Nice articles, but I must correct this comment. SOCOM teams come from and serve all around the world, doing the stuff most can’t (aren’t trained to do) and/or the shite that “never happened”. Like ALL who Serve> They are Heroes.

    As DELTA comprise members of and default to, the US Army 1st Special Forces Group, i.e. THE Green Berets, they are Special Forces, not Spec Ops. Spec Ops Groups include a broad mix of US, US & NATO, US & Allies, NATO Allies, etc.; US Military Groups/Units comprising inter/intra-US DoD, US Military Branches (US Army, US Army ARNG, Navy, USMC, and USAF); plus those from the CIA (possibly, including the other 17 IC Agencies)

    They come from, are selected and paired with various Units and different Military Branches, depending on the Mission Profile, objectives, Specialised Skills, etc., and/or they serve under their Branch or as mixed. e.g. Accepted, pass, and finish all Initial & AIT Training, complete Basic Airborne School – everyone gets two chances to pass, to TRY to “hurry up and wait” before earning their Blood Wings. In a way, kinda like US Army Rangers, US Army Special Forces have to earn their Black Berets before they have a chance to earn the Second Beret (Maroon) Airborne (ATW!) and Tabs. Then, they must endure the additional challenges to earn their Third Coloured Berets and Shoulder Tabs, Tan for US Army Rangers (Respect.) and Green for Long-Tabbers, Snake-Eaters, Warrior/Diplomats, Green Berets, or US Army Special Forces.

    As The Colonel taught us, “To be Spec Ops or Spec Forces, you gotta be AIRBORNE! (i.e. Complete “Jump School”, earn your B. Wings)” and “MARSOC Raiders, SEALS, SERE, Green Berets etc. are Special Operations, but only Green Berets are Special Forces.”

    He was 82nd before 3rd SFG(A), so I admit my bias. Like ALL who Volunteer and Serve, all Branches, all = Heroes! He currently Rests amongst the Finest Americans, in ANC. Love and Miss you, Sir.

    Thank you to all Heros! #PTSD #22TooMany