SOF Missions


Special Forces soldiers are trained to perform the following missions:

Unconventional Warfare (UW):

A broad spectrum of military and paramilitary operations conducted in enemy-held, enemy-controlled or politically sensitive territory. UW includes, but is not limited to, the interrelated fields of guerilla warfare, evasion and escape, subversion, sabotage, and other operations of a low visibility, covert or clandestine nature. Conduct a broad spectrum of military and paramilitary operations.

  • Long-duration, indirect activities including guerrilla warfare and other offensive, low visibility, or clandestine operations.
  • Mostly conducted by indigenous forces organized, trained, equipped, supported, and directed in varying degrees by special operations forces.

Direct Action (DA):

Either overt or covert action against an enemy force. Seize, damage, or destroy a target; capture or recover personnel or material in support of strategic / operational objectives or conventional forces.

  • Short-duration, small-scale offensive actions.
  • May require raids, ambushes, direct assault tactics; emplace mines and other munitions; conduct standoff attacks by firing from air, ground, or maritime platforms; designate or illuminate targets for precision-guided munitions; support for cover and deception operations; or conduct independent sabotage normally inside enemy-held territory.

Special Reconnaissance (SR):

Special Forces teams are infiltrated behind enemy lines to provide the theater commander with intelligence on the enemy or to gather information on the terrain, local populace, etc. of an area. Verify, through observation or other collection methods, information concerning enemy capabilities, intentions, and activities in support of strategic/operational objectives or conventional forces.

  • Reconnaissance and surveillance actions conducted at strategic or operational levels to complement national and theater-level collection efforts.
  • Collect meteorological, hydrographic, geographic, and demographic data; provide target acquisition, area assessment, and post-strike reconnaissance data.

Foreign Internal Defense (FID):

FID operations are designed to help friendly developing nations by working with host country military and police forces to improve their technical skills, understanding of human rights issues, and to help with humanitarian and civic action projects. FID missions assist another government in any action program taken to free and protect its society from subversion, lawlessness, and insurgency.

  • Government interagency activity to foster internal development of economic, social, political, and military segments of a nations structure.
  • Train, advise, and assist host-nation military and paramilitary forces.

Counter terrorism (CT):

Offensive measures taken to prevent, deter, and respond to terrorism. Preempt or resolve terrorist incidents. Interagency activity using highly specialized capabilities.

Psychological Operations (PSYOP):

Induce or reinforce foreign attitudes and behavior favorable to Government objectives. Influence emotions, motives, and behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.

Civil Affairs (CA):

Establish, maintain, influence, or exploit relations among military forces, civil authorities, and civilian populations to facilitate military operations.

  • May be conducted as stand-alone operations or in support of a larger force.
  • May include military forces assuming functions normally the responsibility of the local
  • government.

Coalition Warfare / Support:

Ensures the ability of a wide variety of foreign troops to work together effectively, in a wide variety of military exercises or operations such as Operation Desert Storm. Draws upon the SOF soldier's maturity, military skills, language skills and cultural awareness.

Humanitarian and Civic Action (HCA):

SOF soldiers' diversified military skills, language capabilities and cultural training make them a natural choice for supporting humanitarian and civic action Operations.

Other Individual Missions

Besides the individual skills of operations and intelligence, communications, medical aid, engineering and weapons, each Special Forces soldier is taught to train, advise, and assist host-nation military or paramilitary forces. Special Forces soldiers are highly skilled operators, trainers, and teachers. Area-oriented, these soldiers are specially trained in their area's native language and culture.

Other Special Operations Missions

In addition to the above specialized missions, the various Special Operations Commands must:

  • Prepare assigned forces to carry out special operations missions as required and, if directed by the president or secretary of defense, plan for and conduct special operations.
  • Develop doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures for special operations forces.
  • Conduct specialized courses of instruction for all special operations forces.
  • Train assigned forces and ensure inter-operability of equipment and forces.
  • Monitor the preparedness of special operations forces assigned to other unified commands.
  • Develop and acquire unique special operations forces equipment, material, supplies and services.
  • Monitor the promotion, assignments, retention, training and professional development of all special operations forces personnel.

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