Special operations are forces that fight unconventional battles that ordinary
line infantry is incapable of. It requires a special type of warrior, a
professional soldier who is intelligent, dedicated, and motivated. Special
operators in these teams usually undergo a grueling selection phase
followed by intense training. Missions range from patrolling and sabotage
behind enemy lines to training foreign forces in soldiering and
tactics. In the U.S., there are six primary SOF activities listed.
In addition to their obvious military value, Special Forces can provide a psychological one as well. The fear of having such units operating behind their lines can cause many commanders to tie up large numbers of forces in a counter-guerilla type operation instead of fighting at the front and adding their strength to the regular forces. For example, In John Plaster's book SOG, about the US Special Observations Group in Vietnam, the author estimated that as 30,000 people may have been employyed in counter-guerrilla operations along the Ho Chi Minh trail. These people were attempted (and many times succeeded) to track and neutralize small US teams providing critical intelligance data to the US effort there.