Special Operations are defined as operations conducted by specially organized, trained, and equipped military and paramilitary forces to achieve military, political, economic, or psychological objectives by unconventional military means in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive areas. These operations are conducted during peacetime competition, conflict, and war, independently or in coordination with operations of conventional, nonspecial operations forces. Political-military considerations frequently shape special operations, requiring clandestine, covert, or low visibility techniques and oversight at the national level. Special operations differ from conventional operations in degree of physical and political risk, operational techniques, mode of employment, independence from friendly support, and dependence on detailed operational intelligence and indigenous assets.
Special Operations Forces or Special Forces are personnel that fight unconventional battles that ordinary line infantry is incapable of. It requires a special type of warrior, a professional soldier who is intelligent, dedicated, and motivated. When the military has difficult and dangerous missions to perform, they call upon special operations teams. These elite combat forces stay in a constant state of readiness to strike anywhere in the world on a moment's notice.
Special operations forces team members conduct offensive raids, demolitions, intelligence, search and rescue, and other missions from aboard aircraft, helicopters, ships, or submarines. SOF personnel in these teams usually undergo a grueling selection phase followed by intense training. Missions range from patrolling and sabotage behind enemy lines to training foreign forces in soldiering and tactics. In the U.S., there are six primary SOF activities listed.
Because special operations personnel must be prepared to anywhere in the world they are needed, they train and work in all climates, weather conditions, and settings. They may work in cold water and dive from submarines or small underwater craft. They may also be exposed to harsh temperatures, often without protection, during missions into enemy controlled areas.
In addition to their obvious military value, Special Forces can provide a psychological one as well. The fear of having such units operating behind their lines can cause many commanders to tie up large numbers of forces in a counter-guerilla type operation instead of fighting at the front and adding their strength to the regular forces. For example, In John Plaster's book SOG, about the US Special Observations Group in Vietnam, the author estimated that as 30,000 people may have been employed in counter-guerrilla operations along the Ho Chi Minh trail. These people were attempted (and many times succeeded) to track and neutralize small US teams providing critical intelligence data to the US effort there.