The Delta Force is one of the special mission units that the government utilizes for counterterrorism. Its name has changed a number of times, from 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta (1st SFOD-D) to Combat Applications Group to Army Compartmented Element (ACE) to maintain the high degree of secrecy of the unit (“Army Compartmented Element”). The ACE is under the operational control of the US Joint Special Operations Command but administratively under the US Army Special Operations Command (“Delta Force: Missions and History”).
The Delta Force was created in 1977 by Colonel Charles Beckwith, its first commander, as a precision strike force to address growing threat of terrorism worldwide. Although designed to kill or capture high-value targets and dismantle terrorist cells, the Delta Force can also engage in direct action, hostage rescue, and covert missions with the Central Intelligence Agency. The unit has also been utilized as protective service of US senior leaders when they visit war-torn countries (“Delta Force: Missions and History”). It was created for rapid response missions overseas but US involvement is kept low, and employs surgical applications of a variety of unique skills (“Army Compartmented Element”).
Influenced by the British Special Air Service, the Delta Force was composed of three operating squadrons and support units. Members of the Delta Force were recruited from the 82nd Airborne, the Army Special Forces and Rangers. Assignment to the Delta Force entails undergoing a four-week mentally and physically demanding Assessment and Selection Course and a six-month Operator Training Course (“Army Compartmented Element”). Members of the Delta Force are extensively trained at Fort Bragg, in Close Quarters Battle, or and selective firing (“Delta Force”). Delta troopers specialize in HALO or high attitude low opening operations, SCUBA and other operational skills (“Army Compartmented Element”).
The involvement of the Delta Force has been generally classified, although some campaigns have been widely publicized, such as in Operation Gothic Serpent or the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. During the said operation, the Delta Force was part of the Task Force Ranger that was directed to apprehend warlord Mohamad Farah Aidid in Somalia, which was depicted in the book and movie, “Black Hawk Down.” In this mission, support helicopters were shot down while two Delta Force members were killed by the armed militants (“Delta Force”).
The unit was selected in operations, similar to that in the Battle of Mogadishu” as it is highly trained in CQB and the operation needed a high precision task force that was directed to capture a high value target. Traditional military intervention would not work in Mogadishu because it might result in the unnecessary killings of the civilians, and since it was believed that by focusing only on the neutralization of the target, Aidid, the insurgency situation should have been arrested as well.
The same holds true in addressing other insurgents and terrorists. Counterterrorism has been employing small highly specialized units to capture or kill the leader of the terrorist organization in order to weaken the organization and the terrorist’s will to fight, as well. By employing small units, as well, there have been higher chances that the covertness of the operation will be maintained, hence keeping the mission uncompromised until its culmination. Counterterrorism also necessitates that the populace be protected, and as such collateral damages are minimized, or else the affected population may also rise up against the government forces and support the insurgents or terrorists. On the other hand, if the force ensures that the innocent civilians are spared from the war, the locals may even cooperate with the troops in their mission. Given the foregoing, it is imperative that counterterrorism missions be conducted rapidly and discriminately by highly skilled and high precision strike force such as the Delta Force.