U.S. Special Forces

Trained in counterterrorism, covert reconnaissance and guerilla warfare, U.S. Special Operations Forces are the front-line troops in America's war against terrorism. Washington state is home to several units. Below is a look at America's best-trained and best-equipped fighting forces.

Air Force Special Operations
Air Force Special Operations Forces are trained for a variety of operations, including: unconventional warfare, counterproliferation, direct action, special reconnaissance, civil affairs, combating terrorism, foreign internal defense and psychological operations. They fly high-tech helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft including the AC-130 gunship. There are currently 8,800 Special Operations troops. The 22nd Special Tactics Squadron is based at McChord Air Force Base in Lakewood.

Marine Recon
Before 1944 the MR, as they are called, were primarily implemented as scout and sniper units. They began as UDTs (Underwater Demolition Teams), to conduct beach reconnaissance. They were deployed in the Gulf, where they helped plan a possible route for a marine invasion. Even before the ground war began in Iraq, the MR took 238 prisoners.

Their name stands for Sea, Air and Land teams. These Navy commandos endure a famously rigorous 26-week training course that most candidates fail. SEAL units are based at Navy facilities in Coronado, Calif., and Little Creek, Va. There currently are approximately 2,200 SEALs. The SEALs were born out of a Navy need for a specialized unit to conduct deep-penetration reconnaissance, sabotage and counterterrorist missions.

Army Special Forces
Also known as the Green Berets, Army Special Forces conduct counterterrorism and unconventional warfare, train foreign forces, carry out covert reconnaissance, and capture wanted persons in a variety of climates, including arctic, desert, jungle and mountain. Made famous by the 1968 John Wayne film and a song about them, Green Berets are trained to live for extended periods in remote and hostile territory. Green Berets may perform reconnaissance and surveillance in teams of three or four. They could be tasked to infiltrate Afghanistan to hunt for Osama bin Laden and his associates so they can be targeted or captured. 1st Special Forces Group is based at Fort Lewis, a battalion of which has been deployed in the fight against terrorism.

Army Rangers
These special army units generally conduct light infantry missions -- for instance, attacks to temporarily seize and secure key objectives. Currently, the top group among them is the 75th Ranger Regiment. The 75th Ranger Regiment is composed of three battalions; each can deploy anywhere in the world on 18 hours notice. The 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment is stationed at Fort Lewis.

Night Stalkers
The famed 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), known as the Night Stalkers, employs extremely accurate helicopter lift and attack capabilities supporting special-operations missions, including force insertion and extraction, aerial security, armed attack, electronic warfare, and command and control support. Aircraft include MH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters and MH-6 "Little Bird" special-operations helicopters.

Delta Force
The Delta Force, a clandestine operational unit of Army Special Forces, specializes in high-risk missions, including hostage rescues, seizure of indicted war criminals and assassination. Delta is organized for missions requiring rapid response and surgical applications using a variety of unique skills, while maintaining the lowest possible profile of U.S. involvement. The unit is so secret the government does not discuss details of its activities. They are said to be among the world's best specialists in close-quarters battle. Delta Force is believed to have fewer than 2,000 members.

Sources: ABCNews.com and The Seattle Times

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