How Delta, Rangers, and the Green Berets’ unique training would pay off in an Arctic war with Russia

Army Green Beret Special Forces Arctic
US Army Green Berets with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) practice self-recovery from a glacial crevasse during an Arctic warfare exercise in Seward, Alaska, October 15, 2020.

  • The increasing accessibility of the Arctic has led to more commercial and military activity there.
  • The demanding Arctic environment requires special skills to survive and operate effectively.
  • US Army special-operations forces have long emphasized those skills and could put them to use in a war.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After a long period of hibernation, tension in the Arctic is increasing, with military build-ups and encounters there between the US and its near-peer competitors, Russia and China.

In a reflection of that tension, the Army recently released a strategy meant to secure its military preeminence in the Arctic.

Dubbed “Regaining Arctic Dominance,” the strategy aims to create a dedicated headquarters and specialized Arctic warfare units, improve infrastructure in the region, and invest in individual and collective training.

Although mentioned only briefly in the document, Army special-operations units are expected to have a significant role in the region both in peacetime and during war.

Why the Arctic?

Army Green Berets Special Forces Finland Poland Estonia Arctic parachute
US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) soldiers and Finnish, Polish, and Estonian special-operations forces jump out of a C-130 during airborne operations over Rovaniemi, Finland, March 14, 2018.

Economic and military activity in the Arctic is nothing new, but the region’s value has been steadily increasing as it becomes more accessible.

As the ice melts and more passages open, trade becomes easier. The Northern Sea Route, stretching along the Russian coast from Norway to the Pacific Ocean, promises to connect Europe and Asia, two markets with more than 70% of the world’s GDP.

In addition, the increased accessibility caused by climate change allows for the exploitation of natural resources that have thus far been unreachable. Although the exact size of the oil and natural gas reserves underneath the Arctic is still uncertain, it is considerable enough to catch the interest of every major global player and several regional ones.

Further, climate change means that the region is becoming increasingly accessible to military forces.

Russian Arctic Elk
Members of a Russian Northern Fleet motorized rifle brigade being pulled by reindeer during an exercise in 2017.

Recent satellite images show that Russia is amassing forces in the region and testing new weapons.

In addition to Russian ground and air force buildup in the Arctic, there is the formidable Northern Fleet, which is Russia’s largest naval formation, accounting for close to 75% of its naval power. It is responsible for both the Arctic and the Atlantic oceans.

Russia is a legitimate Arctic state and has the world’s longest Arctic coastline. China doesn’t border the Arctic, but Beijing still wants a slice of the pie.

In 2018, China declared itself a “near-Arctic state” and launched the Polar Silk Road Initiative. Similar to the much-criticized Belt and Road Initiative, this project aims to make the Arctic a route for Chinese goods.

Since 1996, the countries bordering the Arctic – Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Russia, and the US – have used the Arctic Council to address issues facing the region, with the exception of security matters. A number of non-Arctic states have observer status with the Council, including China.

Army commandos in the Arctic

Army Green Berets Special Forces Finland Arctic
Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) soldiers and Finnish special operations forces during live-fire training in Rovaniemi, Finland, March 16, 2018.

In the Arctic, Army special-operations units can contribute significantly to deterrence in peacetime and in a potential conflict.

Rangers, Delta Force operators, and Green Berets all have valuable mission-sets and skills that can translate very well to the Arctic domain.

The 75th Ranger Regiment is the world’s premier light infantry special-operations unit focused on direct-action missions, such as raids, ambushes, and airfield seizures.

The harsh Arctic climate means logistics and the resupply of forces are particularly challenging, making the Rangers’ ability to seize airfields especially useful in case of conflict.

Army Rangers Arctic snow Wisconsin
Students in a Cold-Weather Operations Course, including 75th Ranger Regiment soldiers, on a ruck march at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, March 1, 2019.

Delta Force is the Army’s direct-action special-mission unit and primarily specializes in hostage rescue and counterterrorism.

In the Arctic, Delta Force could conduct unconventional warfare and sabotage operations similar to the World War II missions of the British Special Air Service (SAS), a unit that influenced Delta’s formation and early days.

The SAS wreaked havoc on Nazi and Italian forces in North Africa, destroying more planes on the ground than the Allied planes did from the air. SAS operations also forced the Axis powers to use a significant number of their forces for base and vehicle convoy security rather than on the frontlines.

“We certainly have the capability and the necessary skill sets to operate all alone and deep behind enemy lines for long periods without regular resupply. The Unit has already done it in the past during Desert Storm and the invasion of Afghanistan but also more recently in Syria,” a former Delta Force operator told Insider.

Army Green Beret Special Forces ice diving
Green Berets from 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) prepare for a dive during ice-dive training at Fort Carson, Colorado, February 18, 2021.

Finally, Special Forces operators can be very valuable as trainers of conventional Army units.

Green Berets thrive in foreign internal defense, or the training of foreign partner forces. They can take that knowledge to train their conventional counterparts in specialized skills such as mountaineering and cold-weather operations.

The 10th Special Forces Group already routinely trains soldiers from the Army’s 4th Infantry Division in cold-weather operations.

There are many other courses run by Green Berets that could prove useful, such as the Special Operations Advance Mountaineering School and the Winter Mobility Instructor Course.

Army Green Beret Special Forces ice Arctic
A Green Beret from 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) climbs a frozen waterfall at Fort Carson, November 14, 2019.

“If you look at the Multi-Domain Task Force and long-range precision fires that will be in there, the capabilities, it’s ideal for the amount of training space that we have, whether it’s a maritime component, whether it’s a land component, or an air component,” Maj. Gen. Peter Andrysiak, commander of US Army Alaska, told Insider during a March press briefing.

“So there’s a lot of opportunities to look at the breadth and depth of a future battlefield where Special Operations Command will play a role,” Andrysiak added.

All of the above units can also conduct special reconnaissance and direct both airstrikes and naval gunfire.

Other Army special-operations units, such as the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the “Night Stalkers,” and the Psychological Operations Groups could also contribute by enabling operations or shaping the critical information environment.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How the Army uses the West Virginia wilderness to find out who has what it takes to join Delta Force

Delta Force graduates 1978
Graduates of one of Delta Force’s Operator Training Courses in 1978.

  • The Army’s Delta Force is among the US’s most skilled and secretive special-operations units.
  • That status is due in large part to Delta’s arduous, and at times brutal, selection process.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Delta Force is the Army’s special-mission unit for counterterrorism and hostage rescues.

Created in the late 1970s in the image of the British Special Air Service (SAS), Delta Force has been at the very tip of the US military spear for decades.

The Unit, as Delta Force operators refer to it, has been involved in all major and minor US military operations and campaigns since its formation, including in Iran, Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

Delta Force is part of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) alongside its Navy counterpart, SEAL Team 6, and some other special-mission units that specialize in intelligence gathering and covert and clandestine transportation.

With an attrition rate historically hovering at 90%, Delta Force has one of the hardest and most selective selection and assessment processes in the US military.

Considered the cream of the crop of US special operations, Delta Force’s selection process reflects its vaunted status.

Open to all

Army soldiers Delta Force
US Army 10th Mountain Division soldiers at a Delta Force recruitment meeting in Iraq, August 23, 2007.

Anyone can volunteer for the course, formally known as Assessment and Selection, regardless of their service branch or status (active duty, national guard, or reserves).

“In my time, it was usually about 60% Green Berets, 39% Rangers, and 1% random guys, such as cooks, chaplain assistants, and mechanics. We even had a flute player from the Army band try out in my Selection, but he didn’t make it,” George Hand IV, a retired Delta Force operator, told Insider.

That dynamic, however, has gradually changed, with more Rangers and fewer Green Berets trying out for the big leagues. Special-operators from other services also volunteer for Delta Force’s Selection.

In the last few years, Air Force Pararescuemen, Recon Marines, and Marine Raiders have passed Selection and moved to the next phase, with some even making it into the Unit.

“The great thing about the Unit is that we’ll get candidates from all over the place. Not just from the Army, but from other services as well. Blue [SEAL Team 6], doesn’t get that. They only get vanilla SEALs and SWCC guys,” a former Delta Force operator told Insider.

Although SEAL Team 6 recruits from across the Navy for its various support and enabler positions, it only screens SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) for its assault squadrons.

For example, a Navy explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) technician or a cryptologist could serve on SEAL Team 6 in a support role and go out on target, but they wouldn’t go through the physically and technically arduous Green Team.

“The [Delta] cadre are very professional. They’re following a script. This isn’t your Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) or Ranger Assessment and Selection Process (RASP). There is no yelling, no shouting. That alone is enough to unsettle seasoned guys who are used to an ‘in-your-face’ approach during Selections,” the former Delta Force operator added.

A hard course

Delta Force candidate soldier Assessment Selection
A Delta Force candidate during the Stress Phase of Assessment and Selection.

Assessment and Selection takes place in the mountains of West Virginia and last for about a month. Delta Force Selection is divided into three phases.

In the first phase, the cadre, which consists of Delta Force operators overseeing the process, get the candidates acquainted with the course and administer basic physical training, administrative tests, evaluations, and land-navigation instruction.

During this phase, candidates complete individual ruck marches and instructor-led ruck marches, during which Delta Force operators will set the pace and candidates have to keep up or quit.

In the next phase, called the “Stress Phase,” candidates don’t get to return to barracks after each day. Instead, they remain on the field, and every morning they get a set of coordinates for a location that they have to find with just a compass, map, and their wits.

Although the points might be a few miles apart, the West Virginia terrain requires candidates to cover far more than the map distance between points. The candidates average between 12 to 18 miles a day throughout the course, with several 20-miles plus ruck-marches.

Candidates aren’t allowed to communicate with each other at any time. Cadre continuously stress that Selection is an individual effort. The few that make it this far face the longest ruck-march yet.

Selection’s final event is the “Long Walk,” in which candidates have to finish a timed 40-mile ruck-march. By this point, candidates are already physically destroyed, having covered hundreds of miles during the previous weeks.

The survivors then go through the commander’s board, where the Delta Force commander and his ranking men grill each candidate individually to determine if he is a good fit for the Unit.

Addition by attrition

Delta Force candidate soldier Assessment Selection
George Hand IV sends a candidate to his next point during the Stress Phase of Assessment and Selection.

Selection often produces some hilarious stories. When a Selection course starts, locals are usually briefed so they aren’t surprised to see random men in fatigues with huge rucksacks roaming through their fields.

“When I realized I was lost on day four I knocked on a hillbilly’s door and asked him for help. He sat with me and we looked over my maps carefully. After a brief while he finally slapped his knee, claiming he could get me where I needed to go. He drove fast and left me in a cloud of dust. When the dust settled, I could see that I was in the exact same spot I was when I first realized I was lost. They know not to help candidates,” Hand told Insider.

For those who do manage to pass the commander’s board, the journey has just begun.

Following Selection, there is the Operator Training Course (OTC), a six-month course that teaches prospective operators the dark arts of close-quarters battle and close target reconnaissance, as well as other skills like military free-fall parachuting and offensive driving.

Those unfortunate enough to finish Selection but not pass the commander’s board return to their units with a certificate for finishing an advanced land-navigation course.

“My class of Delta Selection had the highest graduation number in history to date,” with 29 members, Hand said.

“The attrition was 87.5%. Most classes run in 90s percentile attrition. A graduation of just two men was not unheard of, and there is even a class graduation of a single man, Ray P., the Million Dollar Man,” Hand told Insider.

Hand has written one of the few accurate accounts of life inside Delta Force. “Brothers of the Cloth” describes Hand’s time in Delta, with operations from Mogadishu to the Balkans, and includes stories from legendary Delta Force operators.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

Read the original article on Business Insider