Know Your Military

The Real U.S. Special Operations Command

March 29, 2019 | BY Jim Garamone

Most perceptions of special operations are formed by movies like "American Sniper," "Zero Dark Thirty," "Lone Survivor" or "Black Hawk Down."

There is some truth to those movies, but the command is far more.

Here are some facts you should know about U.S. Special Operations Command:

  • U.S. Special Operations Command is based at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, and Army Gen. Tony Thomas turned over the reins of the worldwide combatant command to Army Gen. Richard Clarke today.
    A service member aims a rifle.
    Sniper Competition
    A competitor in the Army Special Operations Command International Sniper Competition fires his rifle at a target at Fort Bragg, N.C., March 18, 2019. Twenty-one teams competed in the USASOC International Sniper Competition where instructors from the Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School designed a series of events that challenged the two-person teams’ speed, accuracy and teamwork in a variety of environments.
    Photo By: K. Kassens, Army
    VIRIN: 190317-A-OP908-515C
  • The command was formed after the failure of Operation Eagle Claw, a mission to rescue the American hostages in Tehran, Iran, in April 1980. Eight American special operations personnel died in the effort. A study faulted a lack of cooperation among the forces. This led to the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1987 and on, April 16, 1987, the establishment of Socom.
  • The military services man, train and equip their own special operations forces, but when they are used together, they come under the purview of Socom.
    Three service members point rifles in various directions as they move through dust kicked up by an aircraft.
    Joint Forces
    A joint special forces team moves together out of an Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft, Feb. 26, 2018, at Melrose Training Range, N.M., during Emerald Warrior, the largest joint and combined special operations exercise.
    Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Clayton Cupit
    VIRIN: 180226-F-EV310-0332C
  • Two special operators — Army Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Army Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shugart — posthumously received the Medal of Honor for their heroism in Mogadishu, Somalia on the Day of the Ranger, Oct. 3, 1993, during the battle made famous in "Black Hawk Down."
  • Special operators were among the first U.S. forces in Afghanistan after 9/11. One battle from this time illustrates just how joint special operations has become. In 2002, atop Takur Ghar mountain in Afghanistan, Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, Air Force combat controllers and Army special operations helicopters fought al-Qaida insurgents. Two men — a SEAL and an airman — received the Medal of Honor for that action.
    A male diver emerges from water.
    Military Dive
    A Navy SEAL conducts military dive operations during exercise Trident 18-4 near Panama City Beach, Fla., July 18, 2018.
    Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg
    VIRIN: 180718-F-IZ285-0020C
  • Army Special Forces — the Green Berets — specialize in working with indigenous forces. They performed this mission during the Vietnam War and continue with it today as they work with Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against ISIS.
    Airmen pilot an aircraft in a darkened cockpit illuminated by green instrument panels.
    Capt. Brown
    Air Force Capt. Jason Brown, a pilot in the 9th Special Operations Squadron, commands an MC-130J Commando II while flying in support of Emerald Warrior/Trident at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., Jan. 23, 2019. Emerald Warrior/Trident is the largest joint special operations exercise.
    Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Erin Piazza
    VIRIN: 190124-F-QS677-0184C
  • The Marine Corps did not have troops assigned to Socom until 2006. Now an integral part of the command, the Marines specialize in direct action and special reconnaissance operations.