Top United States Army Special Operations Conflicts

The United States Army special operations community is comprised of four main combat elements: Delta Force, Green Berets (Special Forces), Rangers and Nightstalkers (Special Operations Aviation Regiment or SOAR). In the past thirty years, these units have participated in conflicts around the globe.

Operation Eagle Claw (Desert One): Iran

On April 24, 1980, elements of Delta Force and 1st Ranger Battalion set out to rescue 53 Americans who had been taken hostage at the American embassy in Iran.

With mechanical issues with three helicopters, the mission was aborted.

Shortly after the order was issued to abort, another helicopter crashed into a C-130 causing eight casualties.

The mission was a failure and the hostages remained in Iran until the following January.

Operation Urgent Fury: Grenada

On October 25, 1983, Delta Force, 1st Ranger Battalion and 2nd Ranger Battalion invaded Grenada to protect American citizens and assist in restoring order to the island nation.

A great portion of the forces had to unexpectedly jump into the combat zone while the rest were inserted by fast roping out of Blackhawk helicopters.

The mission was a success though highly criticized by other nations including Canada, Russia and Britain.

Operation Just Cause: Panama

On December 20, 1989, Delta Force, Special Forces and all three Ranger Battalions were tasked with taking down the PDF and capturing General Noriega in Panama so he could be charged with drug smuggling.

They seized the airfield and the surrounding areas under heavy gun fire from the PDF. Even with 23 American casualties, the mission was a success and ended on December 27th.

Noriega surrendered on his own to face the charges against him.

Task Force Ranger: Somalia

In 1993, the UN Ambassador to Somalia requested assistance in removing Mohamed Farrah Aidid from power in the country.

The United States deployed elements of Delta Force, 3rd Ranger Battalion and Nightstalkers to accomplish the task.

The elements entered the country in August but the real mission took place on October 3rd when intelligence indicated Aidid would be meeting with two of his top lieutenants.

The mission was going as planned until the opposition took down a Blackhawk helicopter that was circling the area. Some of the teams were redirected to the downed helicopter. Shortly after, a second helicopter was hit. Known for never leaving a fallen comrade, the special operations teams worked their way to secure the bodies in the two helicopters.

The pilot of the second helicopter had his body dragged through the streets and was held hostage for eleven days before eventually being released. When October 4th arrived, the Americans had suffered nineteen casualties and endured the worst fighting in recent history ultimately resulting in a failed mission.

Battle of Takur Ghar: Afghanistan

On March 4, 2002, a Navy SEAL fell from a helicopter that was fired on by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Rangers from 1st Battalion were flown by Nightstalkers to rescue the fallen SEAL.

With communication issues, the Rangers were unaware they were landing in a hot zone and immediately came under heavy fire. The troops were able to secure the mountain top. Whether the mission was a success depends on who is asked.

Arguing between high-ranking officers led to the communication issues and played a part in the American deaths that occurred. It is also widely believed that high ranking Al Qaeda officers, including possibly Bin Laden, were able to escape during the battle.

All photos courtesy of USASOC.

Written by
Join the discussion

  • You forgot the Marine Corps. No special part of the Marine Corps, all of it.
    The Marines are all trained as infantry and any Marine Corps cook is better qualified as an infantryman than the best army troops.
    My unit was called the Surveillance, Reconnaissance, And Intelligence Group (SRIG)and we were in Panama, Iraq, on the Panama/Honduran boarder – anywhere you found a conflict, we were there.

    • While the Marine Corps is definitely an important part of the U.S. Military, this particular article was only about special operations within the U.S. Army.

      • Ok I have known many Marines from many walks of life. I know “Force Recon” Marines,and other MARSOC types (i am in the tier one reconnaissance community myself) Intel, Flight Ops, Infantry, AND cooks (several) and they all do their jobs VERY well. I am gonna call “not true” considering a Marine Cook on par with an Army Infantryman. I even polled 2 current Marine cooks and they both pretty much snickered at the comment.

        • Why do we still have this posturing today? We are all a team, we all have our jobs. If someone does not feel “special” enough, there are certainly ways to get “more special”

  • Its about ARMY Special Ops. Not the US Military. Dont worry your were not let out on purpose as this was about ARMY. You need to really get over yourself. The Marines are good just as the Army, Navy and Air Force. So relax and take your medication. I have trained some Marines and the are good men. Just glad they are not like McLaughlin.

  • ok… understandable they had some screw ups… but my first tour in Iraq we worked a lot with Spec Ops and we didnt have one botched mission… my second tour in iraq spec ops have been successful in every snatch and grab theyve had around our area… sometime plans dont go the way they were planned

  • McLaughlin, I have three siblings that are marine and I agree with you but please don’t say you were in the Panama/Honduran border because Panama has no border with Honduras but with Colombia and Costa Rica.

  • Yes, the Marines are the best blah blah blah. Stacey is exactly right about this. Its about US Army SPECOPS conflicts. You all, until recently, did not have an “official” SPECOPS tho we all know Force Recon is definitely that. Now you have MARSOC which undoubtedly will create its own great history to rival the other service’s branches. Don’t be an ass about it and try to defame the brave infantryman of the Army with some cook. We all serve a purpose and the grunts in the army are as good if not better than marines. Proved it in Iraq and Afghanistan and proved it with our SPECOPS folks. That’s why they are in the Army and not the Marines. Semper Fi ya jerk.

  • God Bless Every Single American Service Member.

    25 years ago I got to patrol DMZ’z on two continents. 1st ID Infantry Medic speaking here. I was just your average certified, infantryman Rifleman, Medic, Generator, Light and Heavy Wheeled Mechanic, NBC Tech, Como, sharpshooter.

    Marine McLaughlin, you take it, we’ll hold it.

    • Hear here, Andrew. Competition between the branches is really a juvenile, unnecessary thing since we all have a common goal and interest. I was with the Rangers for a few years and I do not exalt myself to be better than anyone else. I also have had the chance to work jointly with SPECOPS in other branches, and were, for the most part, very professional with eachother.
      Well, now we know why some Marines such as McLaughlin are known as Jarheads. I also admire you for doing all of the things you did when you served. God bless.

  • That’s a pretty bold statement mclaughing. I am a cavalry scout in the Army and I didn’t get my feelings hurt by that article.

  • I am very proud of the marines that my dad and five uncles served wich one died. also proud of us army wich my brother retired from but still works for and for my only son Cody Bullard whom graduated early from high school to join to fight 911 iraq and to become air born and train to be Ranger pluss he signed early for another four years and today is his birthday may 14th .im proud of my son!he has worked for everything he has including mototcycles go carts .he pays for fourwheel drive truck his own ins ext. he fought in iraq and is ready to go were he is needed to help us have peace in the united states. I am a single father who loves my son.happy b day cody.

  • Mclaughlin, your cook can make my eggs when i am patrol. the Marine everyone a rileman is a joke. Even my former 0300 friends say so. A pog in the Army is a pog in the Marines

  • As to the first part, that is untrue. The Marine Corps is functional at best for a heavy infantry role, but it’s elite portion, the Marine Special Operations Regiment “Raiders” are the Marine Corps’ answer to the Navy SEALs.

  • I agree with McLaughlin as far as our Marine corp track record,I’m a veteran infantryman myself,but i salute with great pride to the special forces who’ve fought in the unknown wars that have kept americans sleeping peacefully at night,not knowing exactly how close they were to imminent danger. Some brothers are more trained than others,but all brothers fight for the same reason.

  • In my day, MAC-V SOG, CCN, CCC, CCS ran missions in North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, with South Vietnam thrown in. 5th and 7th SPECIAL FORCES GROUPS, 1st SFG (Airborne) stood watch at dinky little A-Camps and mountain top radio relay stations in South Vietnam and Laos with a healthy assistance ready in Thailand. The 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger/Airborne)with Companies attached to each Corps and Division ran long range reconnaissance missions in South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. In SOG you might have 2-4 Americans running the ops in the field along with some yards, Nungs, etc. Usually no more than 5 to 6 individuals at the most with odds against them usually at a 1,000 (+) to 1. The A Camp teams usually consisted of 12 Americans…(sometimes less)…… mounted and ran patrols with their Vietnamese counter-parts or with a Striker Force composed of montagnards. On those patrols it was the norm to only have 2 or 3 Americans and acting in a advisory capacity. Sometimes not! In the 75th…the company (which in all reality was no more than an over-strength platoon) ran their recon missions with 4-6 Americans and maybe a Kit Carson scout or a dog handler.In most cases all were usually outnumbered by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) from anywhere to 10 to 20 to 1 or in the hundreds to1. Either way, whichever unit, was composed of all volunteers who knew what faced them and what the odds of survival was. We were kmown as the “Men With The Painted Faces” by our enemy and were hunted ruthlessly by the NVA. After that war..missions were run, by SFG’s, in Africa, South America, North Korea, Central America, the Mid east, and Southeast Asia. A lot died when nobody in this country were even aware of what was taking place to keep this nation free and it’s people safe. I know…..I was there.

  • Our “Brothers in Arms”, Navy Seal Teams, Marine Recon, Air Force Commandos and Rescue were pretty much all doing, and most importantly, accomplishing all of the assigned tasks and missions they were given against insurmountable odds. Running the bush takes outstanding training, experience, team work, caution, courage, excellent judgement, good tactical knowledge, and most importantly knowing your enemy, his habits, his dress, what he smells like, what he eats, what his spore smells like and being able to “read” the surrounding it jungle, desert. mountains, swamps, beaches, cities, villages, etc. Not everyone makes the score or passes training and some that do cannot handle it (and nothing is thought the less of them). I salute them all…past, present, and future warriors of America who are dedicated and willing to give their life for mostly a nation of people who don’t know they don’t know or could care less. That’s why they all, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, are…………special!

  • It’s when the plan and intell go south that the training takes over. Thats what seperates the grunts from the co-ops . that applies to all branch’s. Semper-fi Hoo-rah

  • I was in the AirForce for 8 years, ALL OF US VETERANS, now and retired was and now are the best in the world. and all that gave there lives to keep us free are the greatest, Don’t let Obama and his gang take this country away from us, pls vote in NOV and take our country back to us AMERICAN CITIZENS to whom it belongs…GOD BLESS THE USA..

  • McLaughlin, you’re partially correct but you really should know what you’re talking about entirely before ragging on Army Infantrymen. We are just as good as the Marine’s if not better than them. I spent 2 tours in Iraq, in the 3rd HBCT, 3rd I.D., and the 3rd Infantry Division was the lead division that took Baghdad, not the Marine’s. So while I’ve got nothing but respect for Marine’s I don’t believe the Marine’s are able to get their hands on everything & the Army is the branch that holds everything down & contains the immediate area. Hooah.

  • I served in the AF in the 60’s. I was in crypto. I believe all the service men and women play a vital part, whether at the tip of the sword or in support. In WWII, intelligence was critical to the Allies victory.

    Also in WWII, my father was the top enlisted Engineer in Patton’s army. He lead a small group of engineers behind enemy lines each time Patton was planning a major campaign or move. They figured out the best path, exactly where to put the portable bridges, etc.

    Maybe the author of this article will discuss other components such as logistics, communications, engineering, etc.

  • I got tired of listening to rah rah Marines when I was a pup but they still thrive on making inane statements and often times showing their ignorance of geography and other such frivilous educational matters. You cant change them. 23 Years in the Army and I saw thousands of great young people serving their country from Marine Corps cooks to Coast Guard mechanics they are all top notch people that our country is blessed to have. But the article is about the Army Special Ops so next time Marine use the brain before engaging the mouth. You made yourself look dumb.

  • @ 1SG Bowers. You said it top, this is an article on Army, not other branches. We’re all soldiers who serve a role in this large and very diverse war machine. Marines are taught that they are better than any Army grunt, because it’s just part of the mindset you need to have to be a Marine. In this case, “I think, therefore I am” isn’t necessarily accurate though. I’ve met some great Soldiers and some great Marines. All the same, we’re just gears in a big ass cogwheel.

  • Iwas a ranger from 87 to93 when i then went through the bear program. I was stationed with the 7thSF and the 3RD. i worked with the britts speacial forces yhe korianrocks and almost every group in ths USA,but i would still rather have good old ranger on my side when shit hits the fan.

  • Doesn’t matter who you are or what you do in the military, everyone is vital and no one is better than the other. It really depends on how well that individual allows themselves to be trained, and ultimately how they train themselves. Marines are still people, and people are not perfect. Anybody can do what the Marines think only they can do, doesn’t matter what branch you serve. It really doesn’t matter.

  • get off it you guys and stop whining like a bunch of babies…everyone thought their units were the best… and its good… its called pride,