Tier 3 units: The hammer of conventional military forces

Author: Eric Sof


We know almost everything about Tier 1 and Tier 2 special forces, but what is Tier 3? Since Operation Neptune Spear (Osama bin Laden raid), the United States has gone bonkers for US Navy SEALs and Military Special Operations Forces. Three different tiers classify units unofficially in the United States military special operations forces hierarchy.

Because there is no official US Military system that ranks the US Special Operations units in the United States by their effectiveness, missions, capabilities, training, or security level. This would include using “Tier” in such a non-existence ranking system. DoD manual on Terms does not have a Tier system for the ranking list.

A soldier from 82nd Airborne Division takes cover during a controlled detonation. The 82nd Airborne Division is considered as Tier 3 military unit
A soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division takes cover during a controlled detonation. The 82nd Airborne Division is considered a Tier 3 military unit (Photo: Reuters)

Tier 1 is reserved for the best, while Tier 2 is the pot for regular SOF units (Navy SEALs), and Tier 3 is reserved for large and conventional warfare units.

The Tier system was designed by JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command). Some information suggests that Tiers are also classified by the funding they get. Tier 1 receives the most, then Tier 2, etc. However, today people associate Tier level with unit prestige and skill. Tier 1 units are more prestigious than Tier 2 or 3 units, but that’s not technically how it works.

Tier 3 forces are considered significant and conventional warfare units. This level has the most people and the lowest amount of funding compared to the levels below it (visually speaking). Their training also tends to be more “basic” when compared to Tier 2 and Tier 1 units.

Tier 3 units

Tier 3 can also be called “White” and comprise more prominent infantry support elements. These are not special forces units but provide broad manpower support for large-scale engagements. Some examples are:

Tier 3 is the “hammer” in the “Hammer and Scalpel” analogy.

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6 thoughts on “Tier 3 units: The hammer of conventional military forces”

  1. Hello,
    Quick question, Where does the 173D ABN/BDE “SKY SPLDIERS” fall into the tier system?
    I am not sure where a BDE with its own shoulder sleeve insignia falls in? Hopefully this is not a FNG Question?
    Steve P.C.

  2. Sorry but Force Recon is closer in training an missions to other ” official” tier 2 units with 75th Rangers regiment amd Navy SWCC rounding out the Tier 2 list ( and I would argue that Division Recon is at the top of ” tier 3″ along 82nd and 101st Airborne due to training and skill sets/ missions)

  3. Ben Spolarich, I would agree brother. I worked a lot with different branches and units and those of us that served know some of the units that are the unsung badasses and those that get movies made of them. lol

  4. Force Reconnaissance Marines are by no means considered “Tier 3 SOF,” and should never be categorized with conventional Infantry units such as the 10th Mountain Division. The credibility of this website has been significantly diminished by you all publishing this. I would like to know where you all got this information from and more about your experience with Force Reconnaissance Marines / what makes you think you are qualified to speak about their role in the US military in a public forum.

    Force Reconnaissance Marines, in most cases have more training and combat experience than Seals and most other Tier 2 units mentioned here. In reality, when Force Recon is employed overseas they operate more along the lines of units such as CAG. They easily operate in a capacity that is the equivalent to the Ranger Regiment’s Regimental Reconnaissance units, and while deployed their funding is very much the same, meaning Force Reconnaissance is a Tier 1 unit while being utilized in an operational capacity.

  5. Unless you are in one of the “so called tiers” it is just psychological ops. It is what they want you to believe. I do not put down my breathers in the Seals, Delta, Special Forces, etc…. Often it depends on who is closest that is engaged. Within each of these great organizations there are levels and skills (specialist). Remember if you are not one everything else is just speculation…..

  6. If you want to take over city called the 82nd airborne. Force recon is probably tier 2 but nowhere near ranger reconnaissance attachment RRD. One of the most picked over units for 1st ABN