Most perceptions of special operations are formed by movies like "American Sniper," "Zero Dark Thirty," "Lone Survivor" or "Black Hawk Down."
There is some truth to those movies, but the command is far more.
- U.S. Special Operations Command is based at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, and Army Gen. Tony Thomas turned over the reins of the worldwide combatant command to Army Gen. Richard Clarke today.
- The command was formed after the failure of Operation Eagle Claw, a mission to rescue the American hostages in Tehran, Iran, in April 1980. Eight American special operations personnel died in the effort. A study faulted a lack of cooperation among the forces. This led to the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1987 and on, April 16, 1987, the establishment of Socom.
- The military services man, train and equip their own special operations forces, but when they are used together, they come under the purview of Socom.
- Two special operators — Army Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Army Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shugart — posthumously received the Medal of Honor for their heroism in Mogadishu, Somalia on the Day of the Ranger, Oct. 3, 1993, during the battle made famous in "Black Hawk Down."
- Special operators were among the first U.S. forces in Afghanistan after 9/11. One battle from this time illustrates just how joint special operations has become. In 2002, atop Takur Ghar mountain in Afghanistan, Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, Air Force combat controllers and Army special operations helicopters fought al-Qaida insurgents. Two men — a SEAL and an airman — received the Medal of Honor for that action.
- Army Special Forces — the Green Berets — specialize in working with indigenous forces. They performed this mission during the Vietnam War and continue with it today as they work with Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against ISIS.
- The Marine Corps did not have troops assigned to Socom until 2006. Now an integral part of the command, the Marines specialize in direct action and special reconnaissance operations.