Combat Zone: Delta Force in Panama
Delta Force in Panama
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Consider a special operations force that’s trained to the highest level in the United States military. The force is armed with cutting-edge weaponry, well-funded and answers only to one man. How can a group — trained as professional assassins and approaching the status of mercenaries — be reeled in if the U.S. government won’t even confirm that the group exists? Does such a force make the United States safer or more vulnerable? It’s questions like these that swirl around the United States’ most elite tactical combat group, the Delta Force.

A Delta Force operator prepares for a HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) jump exercise.
Photo Greg Matheison/Mai/
Time LifePictures/ Getty Images

A Delta Force operator prepares for
a HALO (High Altitude Low Opening)
Exercise. See more military images.

Delta Force is often referred to as Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. It’s also known as the Combat Applications Group (CAG). While it often draws its ranks from the Army Special Forces (the Army Green Berets) and shares Fort Bragg, N.C., headquarters with them, it isn’t an Army Special Forces detachment. Delta Force is a unit unto itself, composed of members from all branches of the military.

They’re not called soldiers, but operators and are said to shun the traditional philosophies of military life. They wear civilian clothes. They work for whomever needs them — for the Army, the FBI and the CIA. Mark Bowden, author of the book “Blackhawk Down” — for which he interviewed several Delta Force members — famously said of the operators, “They are professional soldiers who hate the Army” [source:].



It must be said that neither the United States government nor the military officially acknowledges the existence of Delta Force. To this end, almost all of the information contained in this article is unsupported by any official reports from the United States. It’s only in recent years that vague references by the government to the group’s existence have been allowed to go uncensored. These references have turned up in transcripts from Congressional hearings and biographies of high-ranking military leaders.

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