The fame and reputation of the United States Navy SEALS received a huge boost after their successful raid into Pakistan in May 2011 that resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden. The Navy SEALS are not the only special force unit in the world, however – many countries, including those in Europe, have Special Forces units in their militaries. How do the European Special Forces units measure up against the SEALS? There are three major differences between them – let’s take a look.
- Versatility: First, as their name itself indicates, the Navy SEALS are designed to handle almost any type of operation. SEALS is an acronym for Sea, Air, Land, the environments in which the SEALS are trained to operate. The Special Forces units of other countries are more specialized. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Special Forces units are divided between the Special Air Service (SAS) operated by the Royal Army and the Special Boat Service (SBS) manned by the Royal Marines. The SAS handles land and air missions, while the SBS has a naval focus. Germany has the KSK (Kommando Spezialkräfte (Special Forces Command, KSK)), which is operated by the Bundeswehr. The KSK’s mission focus is on land-based operations. Both the British and German Special Forces have a long and storied history and are feared and respected across the world; however, the training and resources of the Navy SEALS make them one of the predominant Special Forces units that the world has ever seen.
- Training: Another significant difference between Navy SEALS and the European Special Forces units is the size of their operational units. While the SAS and KSK are designed to operate in platoon-sized (20-40 man) formations, Navy SEAL teams are typically much smaller – only four or five men working together. Navy SEAL teams can be this small because the incredible amount of training that each SEAL receives enables them to perform many different functions. A single SEAL can act as a corpsman (medic), sniper, communications expert, navigator, diver, interrogator, bomb disposal expert and more. They can do all of these jobs because the training period for a SEAL is typically three years or more – much longer than the members of the European Special Forces receive.
- Women As Members: A third difference is that while women are eligible to join the European Special Forces, they are not allowed to be part of the Navy SEALs. This rule is part of a larger United States government policy that prohibits women from serving in positions that involve direct combat with the enemy. This rule may be changing, however; the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown that women can and should be allowed to serve in any job in the Armed Forces for which they are qualified.
There are several significant differences between the US Navy SEALS and the European Special Forces – versatility, training and whether women can be part of them. Although all Special Forces units are unique and capable in their own ways, the US Navy SEALS are generally recognized as one of the most potent fighting forces in the world.
This Article is written by James Kara Murat