Individuals in the U.S. special operations community often speak of Tiers. Thus far, we have examined the characteristics of Tier 1 teams, but what can be said about the Tier 2 units?
Tier 2 Units
Tier 2 Special Mission Units are open to any non-disabled male in the U.S. Military. However, the selection process is rigorous, with many candidates not cutting. These units may include, but are not limited to:
- Navy SEALs – U.S. Navy
- Marine Raiders – US Marine Corps
- Marine Force Recon – US Marine Corps
- Combat Controllers – U.S. Air Force
- Rangers – U.S. Army
- Special Forces – U.S. Army
- Asymmetric Warfare Group – U.S. Army
Tier 2 units are still highly elite and have a rigorous selection process. However, joining them is considered more accessible compared to Tier 1 units. For instance, the regular Navy SEALs, a Tier 2 unit, have a dropout rate of 80-85% during training. This is a high attrition rate; however, it’s worth noting that the British Special Air Service (SAS), another Tier 1 unit, has an even higher dropout rate of 90-95%. Additionally, only soldiers with a minimum of 3 years of military service are permitted to apply, which limits the pool of applicants to more elite soldiers.
To be selected for Tier 2 units, candidates must possess superior physical fitness and strength, among others. On the other hand, to be selected for Tier 1 units, in addition to the physical expectations, candidates must have prior military service and have already developed military skills such as marksmanship, explosives handling, and tactics knowledge. Once fully trained as a Tier 1 special ops member, soldiers undergo additional training in psychological resistance, evasion tactics, and Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training.
What does Tier 2 represent?
It is often believed that Tier status is determined by funding; however, this notion is incorrect. Tier ranking pertains to superiority, so the CIA’s Special Activities Center (SAC) and the paramilitary Special Operations Group (SOG) select from Tier 1 units. These elite agencies, such as SAD/SOG/SAC, recruit from DEVGRU and Delta, not from the Army Rangers. Even when the CIA employs special forces units for operations, they still opt for Tier 1 rather than Tier 2. For example, when the CIA orchestrated the operation to eliminate or capture Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, they utilized the Development Group (DEVGRU) rather than a standard SEAL Team.
It could be argued that the Rangers (75th Ranger Regiment) have reached Tier 1 status due to the overwhelming demand for their direct-action expertise.
* The expression “Special Mission Unit” or “Special Missions Unit” (SMU) is a formal terminology that is occasionally employed, particularly in the United States, to designate specific military Special Operations Forces. These specialized units have played a role in high-profile military operations, such as the demise of Osama Bin Laden.