What are Special Ops?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Oleg_Zabielin, C Barhorst, Oleksii Nykonchuk, Commander, U.s. 7Th Fleet, Fotoluminate Llc
  • Last Modified Date: 27 March 2020
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Special operations or special ops are unique missions which are carried out by highly trained members of the military. These individuals may refer to themselves as special forces or special ops, in a reference to the kind of tasks that they perform. Most militaries around the world have special operations forces which are used in a wide variety of situations; these military elite are often highly esteemed by other members of the military.

Some examples of special ops include counter-terrorism projects, reconnaissance, and asymmetrical or unconventional warfare such as quickly attacking in an unexpected spot. Generally, special forces work in very small but highly coordinated groups, and they are not slowed down by a larger force. As a result, they can move quickly and extremely secretively; this is an immense advantage, as one might imagine. Special operations forces may also supplement their advantage with an assortment of specialized tools which have been tailored for special ops.

Special ops are often clandestine, and many members of special forces never see their work acknowledged as a result, even though their work is extremely important. It is also highly dangerous, because special forces are often isolated from the bulk of their military support, and a government may not be able to extract or assist special forces when they are in trouble. Members of special forces must also be very good at thinking on their feet and they must be capable of making quick decisions under pressure.


In addition to working on clandestine missions, some special forces also work on more public tasks. For example, special forces helped to train local military and law enforcement in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq after the American invasion in the early 21st century. These light, mobile forces could quickly train a force of capable law enforcement officers, thus quickly expanding control over a region. These military units also paved the way for larger allied troop units as they entered these nations.

People who are interested in a career in special ops should start by talking with regional military recruiters. In some regions, a college education can be very helpful for someone interested in special forces, in which case an ROTC program can be a great start. Once in the military, people can apply for positions on special ops teams, but they should make sure that they are performing in peak condition before applying, as special forces are famous for being very picky about whom they accept.



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