Delta Force sits in good company with the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group as the military's elite counterterrorism and special operations units. Once called the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, the unit has undergone many changes since its creation in the 1970s, but its purpose has always remained the same.
Beginning of Delta Force
Charles Beckwith joined the Army after college. He went to Vietnam with the 7th Special Forces Group with Operation Hotfoot. The U.S. forces were training the Laotian military.
When Beckwith came back from Vietnam, he was deployed with the British Special Air Service in Malaya. Working with the British gave him the idea for a Special Forces counterintelligence unit, Project Delta.
He created the unit in 1977 after years of petitioning senior military officials to create an elite military team. Finally, when international terrorist threats surfaced, the military decided it was time to create the unit Beckwith had long asked for.
Beckwith determined how candidates would be selected and oversaw the new unit's operation out of South Vietnam.
In 1980, Operation Eagle Claw was Delta's first operation. They attempted to save American hostages held by the Iranians. However, the mission was terminated after many issues and the deaths of 8 servicemen.
After the mission's failure, Beckwith retired from the Army. He landed in Austin, Texas, managing a private security group. He also wrote a book about his creation of Delta Force.
Delta Force did not let the failure of their first mission stop them, though. They trained and grew to be a top-level group that has been in many different international operations.
In the 1980s, they were active in the south and central America. They even had a hand in the Invasion of Grenada. Delta Force rescued Kurt Muse in Panama and detained Manuel Noriega.
It is also rumored that Delta Force had a hand in finding and killing Pablo Escobar, the infamous Columbian drug lord. Granted, many of Delta Forces missions have very few details for public consumption.
To become a member of this elite team, soldiers undergo a month-long process and compete against 100 or more others who are seasoned and at the top of their game. The selection process happens twice a year near Fort Bragg in North Carolina and has a failure rate of 90%.