Why Delta Force is a Separate Entity from the Army Special Forces

Author: Eric Sof

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One of the most perplexing questions surrounding the highly secretive U.S. Army unit known as 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, or Delta Force, is why it bears the name “Special Forces” despite not being part of the Army Special Forces. Despite its shrouded origins and elusive nature, Delta Force has gained a level of public recognition, often referred to as simply “The Unit,” “The Dreaded D,” or simply “Delta Force.” While its existence has never been officially confirmed, several books written by former officers and operators offer insight into this elite unit’s inner workings. Although it has gained a measure of notoriety, Delta Force remains mysterious and continues to operate in the shadows.

Official name

Since its inception, the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D) has had one official name that is referred to in official documents. The unit is primarily used in official interactions. However, there is often confusion about why the unit is called Delta rather than Alpha or Bravo and why it is referred to as 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta if it is not part of the Army Special Forces.

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

The reason for this is simple. At the time of its creation, the U.S. Army Special Forces had Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie detachments. To maintain 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, the unit has had several other names, including Combat Applications Group (CAG), Delta Force, “The Unit,” and most recently, “Army Compartmented Elements” (ACE). It should be noted that the unit is not part of the 1st Special Forces Command, the higher headquarters responsible for Army Special Forces Groups, Civil Affairs, etc.

In addition, it is important to note that 1st SFOD-D is considered a Tier 1 unit, a distinction that Army Special Forces do not share.

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

Charles Beckwith, the first commanding officer of the 1st SFOD-D, has written a book called “Delta Force: A Memoir by the Founder of the U.S. Military’s Most Secretive Special-Operations Unit.” In this book, Beckwith reveals the entire process and early history of the Delta Force.

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1 thought on “Why Delta Force is a Separate Entity from 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.

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