How are the Rangers and Special Forces different?

By Dominic Oto

The U.S. Army’s 75th ranger regiment and the U.S. Army Special Forces are both Army units that are a part of the Special Operations Command. The units are different. Their table of organizations show the different types of missions they execute. Both organizations do different things for the Army. The confusion comes between Rangers and Special Forces because both units belong to the Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

What are Rangers?

The Rangers are infantrymen with special skills. Rangers are often the first soldiers into battle. They raid and take control of enemy bases. The Rangers are highly trained at capturing and securing airports and airfields. The Rangers are a quick strike force and the best light infantry force in the world. They are sometimes called “shock troops.”

Rangers are known for their physical strength and exceptional stamina. The Army has three infantry battalions and one special troops battalion forming the 75th Ranger Regiment. The soldiers of the Regiment are highly trained fighters. The Rangers are ready to go into battle anytime and anywhere.

What are Special Forces?

Special Forces soldiers are trained for unconventional warfare than direct action missions. Direct action missions are what Rangers specialize in. Special Forces are known as the “Green Berets” because of their distinctive headgear.  The mission of Special Forces is to go behind enemy lines to train allies, gather intelligence, and carry out quick strikes.

The motto of the Special Forces is “De Oppresso Liber.” It’s Latin for “To Free the Oppressed.” One feature that separates Special Forces from all other soldiers of the U.S. Army is that SF soldiers are not under the direct command of the American military commander in the countries they are fighting in.

SF soldiers do have a direct action capability. But their mission is to convince and communicate leaders in other countries. SF troops move ahead of conventional Army units in small teams of 12 commandos called an Operational Detachment Team- A or “A-Team.” Special Forces train troops in foreign countries that are allied with the United States. The SF mission of Internal Foreign Defense (training foreign soldiers) is something that the Rangers would never do.

How are they the same?

Both Special Forces and Ranger fight with many weapons. Machine guns and grenade launchers are used against enemy fighters. Both units are trained paratroopers. All Special Forces soldiers are trained in infantry tactics. Many Special Forces soldiers are former Rangers. Their unique missions set them apart. 

About the author:

Oto holds a BS in History from Oregon State University and a MMA in Military History from American Public University. He served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Company Commander and Staff Trainer to the Afghan National Army. He was wounded once and decorated three times. Oto is an Infantry Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve.

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