It is well-established knowledge regarding Tier 1 and Tier 2 special forces, but what constitutes Tier 3? The United States has exhibited a strong interest in U.S. Navy SEALs and Military Special Operations Forces since Operation Neptune Spear (the raid on Osama Bin Laden). Informally, three tiers classify units within the hierarchy of United States military special operations forces.
It is important to note that the United States Military uses no official system to rank their Special Operations units based on effectiveness, missions, capabilities, training, or security level. Furthermore, the use of “Tier” in such a non-existent ranking system is not endorsed by the Department of Defense manual on terms.
The Tier system, devised by JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), categorizes military units within the United States. Tier 1 is designated for the elite units. Tier 2 is for regular special operations forces units such as Navy SEALs, and Tier 3 is earmarked for large, conventional warfare units.
While the origin of the Tier system is tied to funding, with Tier 1 units receiving the most funding and Tier 3 units receiving the least, it has evolved to be associated with unit prestige and skill. It should be noted that this is not an official classification and does not determine the prestige of a unit.
Tier 3 forces are seen as significant and conventional warfare units, with the largest number of personnel and the lowest level of funding compared to the lower Tiers. Their training is typically considered more “basic” than Tier 2 and Tier 1 units.
Tier 3 units
Tier 3, called “White,” comprises prominent infantry support elements. These units are not special forces, but they provide extensive support in terms of manpower for large-scale engagements. Some examples are:
- US Army’s 10th Mountain Division
- 82nd Airborne Division
- 101st Airborne Division
- Marine Corps Recon Battalions
- Force Recon Companies
- Navy Riverine
- Air Force 142nd Fighter Wing
- 147th Reconnaissance Wing
The “hammer” in the analogy of “Hammer and Scalpel” is often associated with Tier 3 units, as they bring significant firepower to the fight.