The special forces divisions of the U.S. military are commanded by the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), formed April 16, 1987.

The Command plans and conducts special operations as directed by the president or secretary of defense. Its mission: provide special operations forces to defend the United States and its interests, and synchronize planning of global operations against terrorist networks.


The Army’s special ops efforts are directed by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC). With 26,000 personnel, it is the military’s largest special ops force.

Green Berets: Officially known as the U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne), the Green Berets, so-called because of their distinctive headwear, have five primary missions: unconventional warfare, direct action, special reconnaissance, foreign internal defense, and counterterrorism. The group was formed in 1952. The green berets were first worn in 1954, its color matching that of the “rifle green” beret of the British Rifle Regiments. The beret was banned in 1956 because outsiders to a retirement parade thought the beret-clad soldiers were a NATO outfit, but it was reinstated and finally adopted as the group’s official headdress in 1961.

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