Why is it called 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta if it’s not part of the Army Special Forces?

Author: Eric Sof

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There are many questions regarding the super-secret U.S. Army unit like the one; why is it called 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta if it’s not part of the Army Special Forces?

Since it was created, its existence never has been confirmed officially. It was referred to simply as the Unit, The Dreaded D, and most publicly known as Delta Force. But, today, it’s not so secretly anymore despite the fact that it is never officially confirmed; there are some books written by former officers and operators who revealed many things.

Official name

Since its creation, it had one official name, referred to through the documents. 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D) is primarily used in official interactions. But why Delta and not Alpha or Bravo? Why is it called 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta if it’s not part of the Army Special Forces? The answer to this question is quite simple.

1st SFOD-D Delta Force VIP protection
A Delta Force operator is wielding a CAR-15 while serving on Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf’s protective detail during the Persian Gulf War. (Photo: DoD)

At the time, the U.S. Army Special Forces had Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie detachments. For operational security, Colonel Charles Beckwith, the first Delta commanding officer, decided to name the new unit the “1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta.”

Since then, it has had several names, including Combat Applications Group or CAG,  Delta Force, “The Unit,” or, as of late, “Army Compartmented Elements” or just “ACE,” and I’m sure many others. It is not part of the 1st Special Forces Command, the higher headquarters for Army Special Forces Groups, Civil Affairs, etc.

In addition, 1st SFOD-D is considered a Tier 1 unit, while it isn’t the case with Army Special Forces.

Why is it called 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta if it's not part of the Army Special Forces?
Delta Force operators in Afghanistan, their faces censored to protect their privacy. (Photo: Dalton Fury)

Delta Force book

The first commanding officer of the 1st SFOD-D, Charles Beckwith, has written the book Delta Force: A Memoir by the Founder of the U.S. Military’s Most Secretive Special-Operations Unit. In the book, he exposed the whole process and early history of the Delta Force.

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1 thought on “Why is it called 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta if it’s not part of the Army Special Forces?”

  1. A few months ago, the same old terms were used in the presence of longtime friends…”Green” (Unit guys) , “Blue” (Development Group), “Orange” (TFO/ISA/MSA etc) and that’s how (in friendly company) you may hear old time ODA guys and actual Unit members refer to it. They don’t use the TF “Red” for Rangers (as they were once called….instead maybe on occasion RRC is called just “Recce”, while the Recce Troop of the Squadrons like Aztec are more often called “Recce SR” or “SR teams”, or “AFO” (even tho the term is long retired since 2005 or whatnot, I’m just assisting you with accuracy….not an OPSEC break as I know they need more folks to at least try out.