The US counterterrorism division of its Special Forces is called Delta Force. Delta is currently based in Fort Bragg, NC and is dedicated to addressing counterterrorism threats to the US both domestically and internationally. Its membership is composed of volunteers from every branch of the US military. All volunteer candidates are put through a rigorous screening process; few are selected. The entire force is composed of approximately 2,000 men. Its operatives are trained to address very specific scenarios such as nighttime hostage rescues and plane hijackings. Traditionally, Delta has avoided media attention at all costs; it only reaches the public eye when missions fail or during highly publicized situations.
DELTA Force, originally named the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment, Delta force was created in 1977 and placed under the command of Colonel Charles Beckwith to confront the rising threat of domestic terrorism. Although terrorist attacks were violent and common enough to merit a special counter division, many military personnel thought the 1st Operational Detachment was risky and suspicious. An experienced special operations veteran, Beckwith drew on his tactical knowledge to create specialized training and structure for the operatives under his command. He changed the name to Delta Force – reminiscent of the South Vietnam Delta project – shortly after the detachment was created. Delta has participated in numerous historically significant missions. After initial operational failures, the special operations division was restructured so that all special operations command flowed from a central authority – US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). Delta force and other special operations divisions benefited from the restructuring and began achieving greater operational successes. Its missions have varied from rescuing American hostages in Panama to searching for Al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan.
Delta’s first mission was significant and, unfortunately, a failure. In 1980, Delta received its first tasking, the rescue of American embassy staff in Tehran, Iran (operation Eagle Claw). The operation was mishandled and eventually aborted because of helicopter mechanical issues. Tragically, one helicopter actually collided with a transport plane. Overall, 8 soldiers were killed and 4 were critically wounded. This initial mission received copious negative press coverage which further damaged an already skeptical view of Delta. Reorganization and later missions, however, would restore faith in the special operations division. Delta has contributed greatly to US counterterrorism objectives and, like many military experiments, its first failures turned out to be growing pains for a now effective and specialized group.
Current action/important events or cases
Delta Force: In 2005 Delta accomplished its most publicly lauded mission, the capture of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Acting on good intelligence that Saddam had been spotted near the city of Tikrit, Delta and its accompanying joint task-force partners (SAS, 160th SOAR, and others) quickly zeroed in on his position. Delta forces found and secured Saddam hiding in a spider hole. Delta has also successfully rescued several American hostages from Iraq in 2004 and 2005.