Special Operations: February 27, 2004


The United States is having a hard time increasing the size of its  commando force (Army Delta Force and Navy SEALs). Most of the operators (as the commandoes call themselves) are SEALs, and they are trying to increase their strength by 270 (to about 3,000) in the next two years. It's not easy, as only about five percent of those that apply (and they have to meet minimum physical and mental standards, and already be in the navy, to get that far) eventually get through all the testing and training to become SEALs. The SEALs run five classes, each of 120 men, each year. More than half drop out, or are flunked out, by week six. At the end of the 27 week course, only about two dozen graduate. 

Delta Force, which only has a few hundred operators, is thought to be even more exacting. Twice a year, Delta Force recruiters go looking for recruits among active duty soldiers. About five percent of army troops in Korea applied recently, and that might yield a dozen or so Delta operators several years form now. 

The commando officers have so far resisted appeals from Pentagon brass to lower standards in order to increase the number of commandoes. The commando leadership know their history, and realize that lowering commando standards simply gets commandos killed in failed missions.

U.S. commandos have been taking the lead in the war on terrorism. The commando units avoid publicity (in order to keep their methods secret), but have been involved in hundreds of operations. The guys who pulled Saddam out of his hole were commandos, and many of the key raids in Iraq and Afghanistan were led by commandos. The most difficult operations tend to go to commandos, because these troops rarely fail. But that's only because they are carefully selected and trained. naturally, the brass would love to have more of these guys. But that's the problem with selectivity; you can't have more.


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