50 Insane Special Forces Facts You Won’t Believe

Special Forces – or Special Operations Forces as they’re called in some countries – are units within the military who are trained and formulated for the purpose of carrying out specialized operations. This can include any military missions that require “unconventional tactics, techniques, and modes of employment”, according to NATO. Special Forces have existed in multiple forms, in almost every army in the entire world. Today, we’re going over fifty insane facts you probably didn’t know about the world’s most elite warriors.

50. The earliest Special Forces can be traced back to ancient militaries throughout history. Jiang Ziya, a Chinese strategist, wrote about men who were recruited into units that specialized in scaling buildings, fortress walls, and other high structures.

49. In the late Roman era, selected troops in fast-moving, camouflaged boats were sent out to conduct scouting missions in enemy waters.

48. In the early Byzantine period, Muslim forces also conducted similar operations with their naval units; at least one consisted of similar camouflaged ships to those used by the Romans, allowing their troops to gather intelligence and launch raids on their enemies with the element of surprise. They also had another unit composed of any soldiers capable of passing as Crusaders, who would infiltrate enemy ships, and either capture or eliminate them.

    47. In Ancient Japan, ninjas were used to performing a number of secretive tasks commonly associated with the role of modern-day Special Forces, such as assassination, espionage, or reconnaissance operations.

    46. The British Army first became aware of its need for specialized units of troops during the Second Boer War. One such unit were the Lovat Scouts, a Scottish Highland regiment made up of talented troops well-versed in fieldcraft and marksmanship. First formed by Lord Lovat in 1900, the Lovat Scouts became the first-ever sniper unit to exist in the British Army.

    45. Shock troops, elite units tasked with carrying out high-risk raids on enemy defensive positions,were first seen during World War I. Both the Arditi and Stormtroopers – of the Italian and German armies respectively – received more intense training than average soldiers in order to carry out these daring assaults.

    44. The birth of most modern Special Forces can be traced back to the Second World War. During this time, almost every army that was involved in the conflict created specialized divisions within its ranks, designed to operate behind the enemy lines.

    43. Following a call for “specially trained troops of the hunter class, who can develop a reign of terror down the enemy coast” by UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the British Commandos were established in 1940, and their first raid took place on the 23rd June that very same year.

    42. One of the most secretive factions of the US special forces are the Delta Force, believed to have had a hand in removing Saddam Hussein from power. Breaking NDAs around Delta Force can lead to hefty prison sentences.

    41.A number of Special Forces units that we know today can trace their origins back to the British Commandos. Some British Special Forces units were even founded by soldiers who had served with the commandos like the Parachute Regiment and the Special Air Service, more popularly known as the SAS.

    40. US Special Forces personnel are encouraged to take up sports to maintain physical fitness and team-building skills. They’re trained in everything from basketball to water polo, often by Olympic level athletes.

    39. Much like NASA, the US Special Forces often pioneers technologies that end up being adopted by the general public – including SharkBite kits and medical freeze-dried plasma for emergency surgeries.

    38.The UK’s SAS was first formed in 1941 under Lieutenant David Stirling. It was Stirling’s belief that a small, coordinated group of soldiers could inflict a greater blow to an enemy and impede their ability to fight more than a larger unit could.

    37. Surprisingly, the SAS were never intended to be a permanent unit. They were established during WWII – at the time known only as of the mysterious ‘L Detachment’– and were disbanded after fighting against the Nazis, only to then be reintroduced shortly after.

    36. If you want to become a member of the US Special Forces, you better be a proficient linguist. Learning a second language is often a prerequisite to enrolment in the program.

    35. US Special ops have a good reason for knowing multiple languages, too, as they operate in 147 different countries, equating to over 75% of the globe.

    34. Alongside the SAS, the British Army also has a number of other Special Forces groups at its disposal, including the SAS Reserves and the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing that exists in conjunction with the Royal Air Force (RAF).

    33. The UK also has their Special Boat Services, which was supposedly founded after one of the WWII British Commandos – who was unhappy that his commanders weren’t making use of his stealthy abilities in the water – snuck aboard a naval vessel and carved his initials on the captain’s cabin door. Apparently, the British Navy was so impressed by this that they gave the commando his very own unit that would go on to become the Special Boat Service.

    32. While you might imagine special forces soldiers are unfeeling killing machines with no connections, the average US special forces soldier is around 34, married, and has two kids.

    31. Between 2001 and 2002, a coalition of Special Forces from around the world assisted in the US Invasion of Afghanistan, and supported the US in removing the Taliban from power.

    30. One of the most famous Special Forces units in the world, the United States Navy SEAL Team Six, was instrumental in a May 2nd, 2011 mission codenamed Operation Neptune Spear; the raid on the Abbottabad compound of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

    29. SEAL stands for Sea, Air, and Land. They have no relation to those semi-aquatic mammals you’ll find balancing beach balls on their noses for fish at the local aquarium. It’s just a funny coincidence, and you might find yourself sent to a CIA black site if you point it out.

    28. The primary role of the Navy SEALs is to undertake special operations missions in small teams, in a range of different environments, including urban areas, jungles, deserts and mountainous terrain.

    27. If you were hoping to join up with the Navy SEALs, then you might want to think again unless you’re prepared for one hell of a training regime.‘Hell Week’ is a seven-day competition designed to select trainees fit for the SEALs.Hopefuls have to endure icy-cold waters, carry heavy packs through mud, sleep deprivation, risk of hypothermia and hallucination, and all while being shouted at by instructors.

    26) The US Navy SEALs are often sent on missions that require them to capture – or in some cases, much like with Bin Laden – kill targets of high strategic value to the US’ enemies. In addition, Navy SEALs are also occasionally tasked with venturing behind enemy lines in order to gather intelligence.

    25. The SEALs also have their own motto: “The only easy day was yesterday.”

    24. Another of America’s more well-known Special Forces units is that of the United States Army Rangers. While the modern members are all graduates from a school specializing in the Rangers’ tactics, the word ‘ranger’ has been in used in warfare since the early 17th century, by a group of New England soldiers that served during King Philip’s War in 1676.

    23. The Rangers have had an active involvement in a staggering number of wide-scale modern conflicts since their emergence in the colonial period of US history. Since then, they’ve taken part in some of the most prolific wars in American histories, such as World War II, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan.

    22. The US Army Rangers’ motto is simply “Rangers lead the way.”The origins of this can be traced back to the Rangers’ involvement in World War II. During the landings on Omaha Beach, Normandy, a Brigadier General named Norman Cota asked Max Schneider, a Major in the 5th Ranger Battalion – “What outfit is this?”, in reference to his unit. In response, Schneider said “5th Rangers, sir!” to which Cota replied, “Well if you’re Rangers, lead the way!”

      21. Some special forces groups have such intense training regimens that recruit sometimes die in the process. In 2013, 3 British soldiers died during a 16-mile march that was a compulsory part of the SAS training scheme.

      20. In 2014, the Norwegian Special Operation Forces introduced its first all-female unit, known as the ‘Jegertroppen’, which translates to ‘Hunter Squad’.

      19. Similarly, the “first females to successfully complete the notoriously grueling program” graduated from Ranger School the following year in August 2015.

      18. While this is commonly mistaken to be the name of Russia’s Special Forces, the term‘Spetznaz’ is an umbrella term used in reference to Special Forces units in a number of Russian-speaking countries. Historically, the word was used to refer to units controlled by the Soviet Union’s military-intelligence agency, the GRU.

      17. With approximately a combined 15,000 operatives, the ‘Spetsnaz’ – consisting of units such as Russia’s Special Operations Forces and the Main Intelligence Directorate (or GRU) – has a reputation as being one of the toughest Special Forces in the world, and for a good reason.

      16. Spetsnaz training can only be completed after a recruit has undergone basic military training, and involves inflicting a high amount of pain on those hoping to join. Training includes completing an assault course while being shot at – with live ammo – as well as martial arts lessons utilizing actual knives. This has, as you’d expect, resulting in a number of stab wounds for the recruits.

      15. During the late seventies and early eighties, members of Syria’s special forces were made to eat an array of animals as a part of their training. These included live and highly-poisonous snakes and scorpions.

      14. As part of their uniform, members of the Sri Lankan Army Special Forces Regiment wear apatch depicting the Jolly Roger.That’s right, the skull and crossed-bones commonly used by pirates on the high seas during the 18th century.

      13. The Korean People’s Army Special Operation Force, the Special Forces of North Korea,is rumored to have approximately two-hundred thousand soldiers at its disposal, armed with Korean-made copies of weapons like AK-47s and M16A1s.

      12. The Special Forces of China’s military – The People’s Liberation Army – consists of two key groups: The PLA Ground Force and The PLA Marine Corps.

      11. If you ask someone to tell you what a soldier’s hairstyle looks like, they’ll probably describe them as buzz-cut and clean-shaven. The regulations are a little bit more relaxed for those in Special Forces, meaning they’re sometimes lucky enough to sport…full beards! This is due to Special Forces sometimes needing to adjust their appearance to a new environment in order to blend in.

      10. Work doesn’t stop after retirement for many Special Forces operatives. Some find work as bodyguards to high-profile businessmen, private military contractors, and some ex-SAS soldiers were even hired to help rebuild Iraq after the Iraq War and paid up to $1,500…per day!

      9. Special Forces aren’t always involved in high-action combat missions. Many are deployed to provide aid during humanitarian crises in the aftermath of natural disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes.

      8. In Greece, there’s an entire Special Force division dedicated to ‘Underwater Demolition’– that’s right, their job is to blow things up underwater.

      7. Secrecy and a low profile are essential to all Special Forces.During the War in Afghanistan, Joint Task Force 2 – a Canadian Special Forces unit– were deployed without their own Prime Minister knowing about it!

      6. In France, the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN) regards the secrecy of its operations so highly that, by law, no-one is allowed to print photographs that feature the faces of any member of the GIGN.

      5. Unit 217 of the Israeli Army’s Special Forces are known as the ‘Duvdevan’.In English, this translates to ‘cherry’; why are they called cherry? That’s because they’re the fruit at the top of the tree.

      4.The Peruvian Army’s Special Forces like to intimidate their enemies by painting their faces to look like skulls.

      3. Indian’s Special Forces unit is known as the Ghatak Force, derived from a Hindi wordmeaning ‘killer’ or ‘lethal’.

      2. Being dedicated to the cause is essential when you’re in the Special Forces. That means adapting to unique problems to achieve your objectives. In 1979, the French GIGN was supporting the Saudi Army’s recapture of the Grand Mosque in the city of Mecca. However, Mecca is a holy city, and non-Muslims are denied entry. To get around this problem, the entire team converted to Islam.

      1.‘Frogman’ is a Special Forces slang term used in reference to divers trained in underwater tactics and combat. Originally, it was the nickname of US Navy diver John Spence who wore a green wetsuit. Not the most dignified nickname for a professional soldier…

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