These Are America\u2019s 17 Most Elite Special Forces

The U.S. military, one of the largest in the world, has dozens of special forces groups. Nearly all of the six branches have one or more extremely selective and elitee squad, reserved for the highest priority sensitive missions. The United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) oversees over 50 unique units, each with its own specialization, everything from special vehicles units to psychological operations groups, to reaction teams, and more. Amid these highly exclusive groups, some stand out as the best of the best. (Also see: 20 of the world’s most elite special forces)

To build the list of the 17 most elite American special forces units, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed several lists, including from Armed Forces History Museum, CBSNews, Special Ops Magazine,, and Business Insider. Information about the units came from their websites or American Special Ops site. Our list mostly includes units whose roles include direct action, hostage rescue, counterterrorism, covert operations, and reconnaissance. We also included the Central Intelligence Agency’s Special Activities Center — the CIA’s paramilitary special operations unit.

The Navy SEALs are celebrated for their adaptability across sea, land, and air domains. The Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as DEVGRU or SEAL Team 6, falls under the purview of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command. This unit, recognized for eliminating the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, represents the pinnacle of excellence. Its members are chosen from among the ranks of SEAL teams. (This is every state’s most impressive medal of honor recipient.)

The U.S. Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets, are known for unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, and counterterrorism skills. Delta Force is the Army’s elite counterterrorism unit. It is highly skilled in sniping and close-quarters combat ability. 

Within the Marine Corps, elite entities like Marine Force Recon operate as a subset of the Elite Reconnaissance Marines. They specialize in deep and amphibious reconnaissance endeavors to back up the Marines.

The Air Force boasts various air commando units, including several featured here, alongside distinct Special Operations Squadrons within the Air Force Special Operations Command, operating a diverse array of specialized aircraft. Their roles encompass supplying ground units and conducting aerial reconnaissance. Notable units, such as the Pararescue Jumpers (PJs), are charged with rescuing injured personnel from hostile or otherwise inaccessible areas.

The Coast Guard deploys assorted special operations forces, categorized under regional commands in the Atlantic and Pacific sectors. Among these is the Maritime Safety & Security Teams, a security unit established after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Its primary function revolves around safeguarding seaports and maritime facilities against potential terrorist threats.

Click here to see 17 of America’s most elite special forces

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