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Special operations are forces that fight
unconventional battles that ordinary line infantry is incapable of. It
requires a special type of warrior, a professional soldier who is
intelligent, dedicated, and motivated. Special operators in these teams
usually undergo a grueling selection phase followed by intense
training. Missions range from patrolling and sabotage behind enemy
lines to training foreign forces in soldiering and tactics. In the
U.S., there are six primary SOF activities listed.
In addition to their obvious military value, Special Forces can provide a psychological one as well. The fear of having such units operating behind their lines can cause many commanders to tie up large numbers of forces in a counter-guerilla type operation instead of fighting at the front and adding their strength to the regular forces. For example, In John Plaster's book SOG, about the US Special Observations Group in Vietnam, the author states, "30,000 NVA--as rear security, kept out of battle by 50 SOG Americans who operated in Laos at any given time, a ratio of 600:1 or more than one battalion per Green Beret." These security forces were attempting (and many times succeeded) to track and neutralize small US teams providing critical intelligance data to the US effort there.
Regaurdless of their military or psychological effect, special forces units require more support than conventional units. Because they are traveling in smaller teams, they require air support to survive if caught by a larger unit they can't break free from. Some missions require expra planning and intelligence, sometimes including fabrication of mock-ups for practice assaults. The higher state of readyness these units posses call for an agressive training regiment that is naturally more expensive than a peace-time infantry battalion.