Almost all countries have a special elite unit of soldiers that have been trained both physically and mentally to fight enemies when the job is a bridge too far for regular soldiers. Months of grueling training, which is too much for most aspiring elite soldiers, also teaches them to endure and withstand punishment and torture. We don’t know many of these elite soldiers because for the most part what they do remains a secret and with it their identity. They work in the background for much of the time, and only occasionally do the public hear of their missions. They provide their own citizens with security, but for their enemies they are ghosts to be feared. Today we’ll look at the best of them, in this episode of the Infographics Show, Most Elite Special Forces in the World.
Number 9. SSG – Pakistan
Also known as the Black Storks, the Special Services Group was formed in 1956. They assist the army in numerous conflicts and military operations, as well as serve the country in countering terrorism. The training is grueling, but that’s a given for this list. You can join this band of soldiers only if you have at least two years’ experience in the Pakistani armed forces. Training takes 9 months and includes such things as a 36 mile (57.9 km) march in just 24 hours. With Pakistan’s borders always on high alert, these are some very courageous soldiers that, unlike some units on this list, are in danger throughout much of their careers.
Number 8. GSG 9 – Germany
One might think that compared to SSG, Germany’s Gren-zschutz-gruppe 9 is not very busy. But as a police tactical unit, they are involved with matters not so much concerning protecting borders, but stepping in when the job is too big for the police. This might include terrorism, but also kidnapping and extortion. Their last known mission, for instance, was the 2016 mass shooting in Munich. They’ve even been involved in taking down Hell’s Angels. They may not have the most rigorous training on this list, but as a special police unit, they are hard to beat.
Number 7. MARCOS – India
The Marine Commando Force is India’s version of the U.S.’s Navy Seals or the UK’s SBS. Their motto is “The Few, the Fearless.” They deal with anything from counter-terrorism to fighting pirates and operations underwater. In 2015, the India Times gave 15 reasons why this Special Forces outfit was the best in the world, although the evidence was no more compelling than a few other units on this list could provide. They do have a very difficult 2-3 year training period, as it’s a continuous process, and apparently 80 percent of trainees drop out early. It includes “5 weeks of Hell”, according to the Times, consisting of long marches, sleep deprivation, and arms training. If they pass that, they then do their parachute and diving training. As India has all the perfect spots for intense training, MARCOS spend a lot of time being thrown into the jungle and left on mountains. One MARCOS said he did the NAVY SEALS course with ease during an exchange program.
Number 6. Delta Force
The USA’s Delta Force is a special unit of the army that deals mostly with hostage rescue and counterterrorism. It was actually formed for that in the 1970s following a slew of terrorist attacks. The unit is relatively small, with just 1,000 soldiers – around 300 of whom are trained for direct action. Recruits are taken from the military when they have enough experience, and as it’s a very secretive unit, recruits have to get past many security checks and must also have never incurred a court martial. You’ll also have to pass a series of physical tests, such as hikes with a 40 pound (18kg) backpack, and also be able to run 2 miles (3.2km) and swim 100 meters fully clothed. It doesn’t sound as grueling at the SEALS, but trainees will also be pushed to their psychological limits under interrogations.
Number 5. Alpha Group – Russia
Of course Russia has an excellent Special Forces unit, with such a powerful military. The Alpha Group is what the name says, the best soldiers in all of Russia. Created by the KGB in 1974, the unit helps with police matters but also with military matters. This might relate to terrorism, hostage taking, and covert operations in and outside the country. One such internal operation included the 1983 hijacking of Aeroflot Flight 6833, which unfortunately resulted in the loss of life of five hostages, but also the capture and killing of the hijackers. They were also heavily involved with the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Training lasts three years, and you must be between 22 and 27 years old to start. They only want the smartest soldiers, so you must have a university education to join. You’ll then have to pass a series of physical tests, and also diving, sniper operations, parachuting, and martial arts.
Number 4. SBS
The Special Boat Service is the UK’s wet version of the SAS, and has similarities to the Navy SEALS. Like the SAS, it was formed during World War II as a special covert unit often working behind enemy lines. The training is quite similar to that of the SAS, although obviously recruits have much more challenging training in the water. In fact, according to an elite forces website in the UK, SBS soldiers believe they are better trained because the ocean is a much more challenging environment than land. The counter-argument is that the SAS are more involved in conflicts and are better funded, so they are put to much more use.
Number 3. Sayeret Matkal – Israel
Otherwise known as the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit 269, this Special Forces unit like the SAS spends much of its time behind enemy lines. In fact, it shares the same motto of “Who Dares, Wins”. It was formed in the 1950s and the small unit consisted of hand picked men who were not just physically strong, but showed superior intelligence to other soldiers. Recruitment camp itself is reported as hell, with the young men going through intense physical training without much sleep. If they get through that, secondary training lasts for almost two years. This will consist of large and small arms training, navigation and reconnaissance, martial arts, and an insanely long 75 mile march (120-kilometers). After that, they will specialize in one or more skills.
Number 2. US Navy SEALS
The SEALS is renowned for breaking people, and as you will know from our show on this unit, very few people actually make it through the training. Not only that, just in the last few years there have been instances of deaths occurring during recruitment, which have occurred in the training pool and elsewhere. In fact, in 2016 it was reported that the 9 deaths during training from 2013 to 2016 was more than happened in actual combat. Although we should say that these were not only due to training, but the consequences of the stresses of going through it. Recruits experience a personal hell, literally as the worst of the training is called Hell Week. This is when most people drop out. If you do manage to get through it all, there is no doubt you are one tough cookie. You’ll also have some of the best military acumen in the world.
Number 1. British SAS
You may be wondering why we are putting the SAS above the SEALS, a unit that has seen its fair share of deaths during training. The difference is, the SAS has a more vigorous – some might say torturous – mental training. The physical training seems as difficult as the SEALS’ training, and you are expected to navigate through jungles in Belize and Borneo as well as make your way out of mountain ranges carrying a heavy backpack and weapons. This is where the deaths occurred recently. But there is something even more brutal, and that is the psychological training of the SAS. Veterans have said you might get injured doing the physical stuff, but when the trainers get into your head, many people cannot stand this. It will include humiliation techniques, being held in stress positions, getting no sleep, or food, or water, having music blasted at you, and even being locked in small cages. The sadistic Brits, eh? Another thing about the SAS is that you work closely with Mi5 and Mi6, which basically makes you both a soldier and a spy.
So, based on everything you heard about these Elite Special Forces Units, which do you think is the best? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called American Soldier vs British Soldier! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!