- Humans are more important than hardware.
- Quality is better than quantity
- Special Operations Forces cannot be mass-produced
- Competent SOF cannot be created after emergencies occur.
- Most special operations require non-SOF assistance.
The history of the SOF Truths has been recounted in these pages in January, 2012.
We’re going to zero in on Number Four, which we’ve been thinking about for a while. And we’re wondering if it’s simply not true.
Here is a partial list of United States SOF that were created in anticipation of some emergency, future, unspecified.
- Airborne Ranger Infantry Companies (1950)
- US Army Special Forces (1952). Although you can argue this was reactive to the Cold War.
- Navy SEa Air and Land Teams (SEALs, ~ 1961).
- 1st SFOD-D (~1977). Although you can argue this was reactive to ,the terrorist plague of the early 70s, the Israeli raid on Entebbe and the absence of any parallel US capability at the time.
- USMC Scout/Snipers (date of founding? He’p me out, hogs).
- Various small and secretive detachments with specific tasks if the Cold War went hot. (Det A / PSSE for example).
Here is a partial list of United States SOF that were created once the emergency was underway:
- Rogers’s Rangers (French & Indian War aka 7 Years’ War)
- Morgan’s Rifles (Revolution)
- All USA and CSA Sharpshooters and other SOF and quasi-SOF elements (Civil War)
- Ranger Battalions (WWII)
- OSS Jedburghs and Operational Groups (WWII)
- OSS Maritime Unit (WWII)
- Underwater Demolition Teams & forerunners (WWII)
- Ad hoc Filipino guerrillas (WWII)
- Alamo Scouts (WWII)
- Marine Raiders (early WWII)
- 1st Air Commandos (USAAF, WWII)
- MARS Task Force / Merrill’s Marauders (WWII)
- 1st Canadian-American Special Service Force (WWII)
- UNPIK (Korean War)
- LRRP / Ranger Companies (Vietnam)
- Recondo elements (VN)
- MAC-V SOG (VN)
- MIKE Force, MSF, MGF, ad-hoc combined units led by Special Forces (VN)
- Numerous small USAF “mobs for jobs” (VN)
- Task Force Ivory Coast / Son Tay Raiders (VN).
Here are units that were stood up in reaction to failures of ad-hoc units or improvised task forces:
- Special Operations Aviation Regiment and forerunners (US Army)
- JSOC, USSOCOM, and the whole constellation of star/flag commands created by the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986.
We suspect an analysis of allied or competitor SOF history would demonstrate something similar. After all, among the things that define SOF are fitness for purpose and adaptability to situation.
Conclusion: it’s not only possible to create ad hoc units after the crisis is upon you, some legendary units were created that way. To be fair, it did take them one to two years of training to be combat effective, and it’s possible that the SOF Truth is just trying to jump-start that training ramp-up by having a force in being ante bellum, but that’s not what it says.
It’s possible that our historical interests have led us astray, and we’re listing too many historic units in the “post crisis” side, and leaving out key elements in the “pre crisis” side. Commenters, what’s missing?