Special Operations Forces (SOF) are those active duty and reserve members of the armed forces who have been deliberately chosen, organized, trained, and equipped to carry out and assist special operations.
They are designated by the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF). These operations are distinguished by one or more of the following characteristics: time-sensitivity, clandestine or covert nature, low visibility, working with or through indigenous forces, greater requirements for regional orientation and cultural expertise, and a high degree of risk. Personnel employed in SOF operations (often referred to as “operators”) go through a difficult screening and selection procedure with a low selection rate. Following selection, they go through mission-specific training to master a range of special operations skills. Congress passed legislation to strengthen the position of special operations within the defense community and to strengthen interoperability among the U.S. military branches in 1986 due to concerns about the status of SOF within overall U.S. defense planning and budgeting. SOF.
The main pursuits of SOF are:
- Direct action
- Special reconnaissance
- Countering weapons of mass destruction
- Unconventional warfare
- Foreign internal defense
- Security force assistance
- Hostage rescue and recovery
- Foreign humanitarian assistance
- Military information support operations
- Civil affairs operations