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Special Forces Berlin
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Special Operations Glossary

Home > Special Operations Glossary > S

The Special Forces community and the military services in general use a multitude of words, phrases, and acronyms in its vocabulary, documentation, correspondence, and publications.  This glossary is intended to aid those unfamiliar with specific special operations terminology.

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S-1.  Administration and personnel; Adjutant.

S-2.  Intelligence Staff Officer or intelligence section.

S-2X.  Intelligence Staff Officer or intelligence section that deals with Counterintelligence (CI) or Human Intelligence (HUMINT).

S-3.  Operations and training.

S-4.  Logistics and/or supply.

S-5.  Civil Affairs.

S-6. Signal and communications.

SA.  Security Assistance.  "Group of programs authorized by the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, and the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, as amended, or other related statutes by which the United States provides defense articles, military training, and other defense-related services by grant, loan, credit, or cash sales in furtherance of national policies and objectives".  (JP 1-02).

SA. Situational Awareness.

SADM. Special Atomic Demolition Munition. The MK54 was informally named the 'backpack nuke'. Specialty teams in the Special Forces groups were designated as SADM teams and trained to infilitrate and employ the weapons. Read more here.

SAEDA.  Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the U.S. Army.

SAFE.  Selected Area for Evasion.

SAID.  Selected Area for Evasion (SAFE) Area Intelligence Description.

SALUTE.  Size, Activity, Location, Unit, Time, and Equipment.

SAM.  Surface to Air Missile.

SAMS. School of Advanced Military Studies. An Army honors course that concentrates on the operational level.

SAR.  Search and Rescue.

SARDOT.  Search and Rescue Dot (on a map).

SARNEG.  Search and Rescue Numerical Encrypton Grid.

SAS. Special Air Service.

SATCOM.  Satellite Communications.

SAW.  Squad Automatic Weapon.

SBF.  Support by Fire.

SBS. Special Boat Section.

SCAMPI.  Single-Channel Antijam Man-Portable Radio.

SCI.  Sensitive Compartmented Information.

SCIF.  Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.

SDV.  SEAL Delivery Vehicle.

SEAD.  Suppression of Enemy Air Defense.

SEAL.  Sea-Air-Land team or individual.

Secret Writing. When conducting Unconventional Warfare in a denied rural area access to technology and advanced messaging may be limited. This was especially true in the early history of Special Forces and methods of secret communication were used by SF. The CIA provides a history of secret writing techniques.

Semtex.  Semtex is the trade name of an explosive made in Czechoslovakia.  It is a combination of RDX, PETN, and an additive.

SERE.  Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape.  See SERE.

SF.  Special Forces. Found only in the U.S. Army.

SFAS.  Special Forces Assessment and Selection.  A three-week course that Special Forces candidates attend to determine if they are suitable for the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC).  See SFAS.

SFAUC.  Special Forces Advanced Urban Combat.  See SFAUC.

SFG(A).  Special Forces Group Airborne.

SFLE.  Special Forces Liaison Element.

SFOB.  Special Forces Operational Base.  Usually denotes a group level organization in a deployed location or status.

SFOD.  Special Forces Operational Detachment.

SFODA.  Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha.  Sometimes referred to as an "A team" or "ODA".

SFODB.  Special Forces Operational Detachment Bravo.  Sometimes referred to as a "B team", "ODB", or "AOB".  A company sized headquarters commanded by a Special Forces Major.

SFQC.  Special Forces Qualification Course.  See SFQC.

Shadow Wolves. An elite tracking unit within Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The 'Wolves' are an all-Native American group that track drug smugglers and traffickers in the desert between Arizona and Mexico.

SIGCEN.  A signal center usually found in an FOB (SOTF) or SFOB (CJSOTF).

SIGINT.  Signal Intelligence.

SINCGARS.  Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System.

Singleton. An intelligence agent or special operations operative working alone.

SIPR.  Secure Internet Protocol Router.

SIPRNET.  SECRET Internet Protocol Router Network.

SIR.  Specific Information Requirement.

SIS. UK's Secret Intelligence Service.

SITEMP.  Situation Template.

SITMAP. Situation Map.  Usually setup on the wall of an operations center of AOB, FOB, or SFOB.  The SITMAPs are now complemented (if not replaced) by computer based graphical systems that are networked.

SITREP. Situation Report.

Skyhook. An informal name for the Fulton Surface-to-Air Recovery System or STARS. Used to exfiltrate individuals or important packages from denied areas where an fixed wing aircraft can't land and beyond the range of rotary wing aircraft.

SME.  Subject Matter Expert.

SMG. Sub-machine gun.

SMU.  Special Mission Unit.

SO.  Special Operations.

SOA.  Special Operations Aviation.

SOAR.  Special Operations Aviation Regiment.  See 160th SOAR.

SOC.  Special Operations Command.  Usually refers to the theater Special Operations Commands such as SOCEUR, SOCCENT, etc.

SOCAfrica.  Special Operations Command Africa.

SOCAP. Special Operations Campaign Artist Program (SOCAP). This 18-week long course conducted at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas prepares planners to serve in the Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOC). It is similiar to the Red Team Leaders Course. SOCAP " . . . was created in conjunction with the SOF Cell at the U.S. Army Comined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth. The course improves a planner's ability to translate strategic policy into operational plans and tactical action, with a particular emphasis on operational-level special warfare campaign planning in support of TSOCs and joint force commander's objectives". 1. 

SOCCE.  A Special Operations Command and Control Element.  As in SOCCE-HOA.  A SOCCE will sometimes be attached to a corps or division level element in wartime or during a large exercise that involves a large conventional unit and Special Forces elements.

SOCEUR. Special Operations Command Europe.

SOCCENT.  Special Operations Command Central.

SOCKOR.  Special Operations Command Korea.

SOCPAC. Special Operations Command Pacific.

SOCSOUTH.  Special Operations Command South.

SOCOORD.  Special Operations Coordination Element.

SODARS.  Special Operations Debrief and Retrieval System.

SOD-X. Special Operations Detachment "X", part of the North Carolina Army National Guard supporting JSOC. Read more in this news article.

SOF.  Special Operations Forces.  Not to be confused with Special Forces (found only in the U.S. Army).

SOFA.  Status of Forces Agreement.

SOI.  Signal Operating Instructions.

SOJTF-B. Special Operations Joint Task Force - Bragg. Subordinate to U.S. Special Operations Command and trains U.S. special operators prior to deployment overseas on missions. The first commander was BG Mark C. Schwartz. Read a news story on SOJTF-B.

SOLE.  Special Operations Liaison Element.

SOMPF.  Special Operations Mission Planning Folder.

SOMS-B.  Special Operations Media Systems - Broadcast.

SORO.  See Special Operations Research Office below.

SOP.  Standing Operating Procedure.

SOPC.  Special Operations Preparation Course.  A 30-day long course that 18X and Rep 63 Special Forces candidates attend to prepare them for SFAS and SFQC.

SOTF.  Special Operations Task Force.  Usually a battalion-sized Special Forces unit augmented with other personnel and attached units.

SOWT.  Special Operations Weather Team.  "A task-organized team of Air Force personnel organized, trained, and equipped to collect critical weather observations from data-sparse areas.  These teams are trained to operate independently in permissive or uncertain environments, or as augmentation to other special operations elements in hostile environments, in direct support of special operations".  (JP 1-02).  See SWO below.

SP.  Start Point.  Usually for a ground movement or convoy.

Special Action Force (SAF). There were two SAFs known to operate in the 1960s. One was the 8th Special Action Force in Panama and the other was the Special Action Force Asia (SAFASIA) based in Okinawa. The core of the SAF was the Special Forces Group but it was augmented with other units or elements such as engineer, medical, intelligence, PSYOP, CA, logistics, infantry, and aviation.

Special Collection Service. A joint group of the CIA and NSA that are responsible for placing high-tech bugs in hard-to-emplace locations.

Special Operations Research Office (SORO). A entity within the American University that operated in the 1960s. The office provided scholarly works on revolutions, insurgencies, unconventional warfare, and undergrounds.

SPEARPOINTS. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Purposed Emergency Access Response Point of Injury and Trauma Simulation.

Spectre.  Nickname for the Air Force AC-130 Gunship.

SPOE.  Seaport of Embarkation.

SPINS.  Special Instructions.  A specific part of the Air Tasking Order (ATO).

SPTCEN.  Support Center found at battalion or group level in a Special Operations task force.

SR.  Special Reconnaissance.  One of the missions of a Special Forces ODA.

SSE.  Sensitive Site Exploitation.

SSO.  Special Security Officer.

Stability Operations.  After the conclusion of sustained combat operations military forces will sometimes need to transition to stability operations which will many times involve combat and noncombat operations.  Short term goals of stability operations include securing and safeguarding the population, reestablishing  civil law and order, protecting or rebuilding key infrastructure, and restoring public services.  Long term goals include the establishment of essential services, the economy, rule of law, democratic institutions, and capable civil authorities.  Military forces will work with civil authorities, NGOs, and other organizations to enhance security, development, and governance.

Steganography.  The methodology of the hiding of the existence of a message.

StingRay. A cell-tower simulator that provides surveillance capability to law enforcement and other Intel types. See a news story on the StingRay in The Washington Post.

STS.  Special Tactics Squadron.  A Special Operations element of the Air Force.

STU-III.  Secure Telephone Unit III.

Substitution Cipher.  A method of encryption in which each letter of a message is replaced with another letter.

Subversion.  "Action designed to undermine the military, economic, psychological, or political strength or morale of a regime".  (JP 1-02).

Surface-to-Air Recovery System (STARS). Another names include: Fulton Extraction, Skyhook, and Fulton Recovery System. See Skyhook above.

SUV.  Sport Utility Vehicle.

SWCS.  U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.  Learn more about SWCS.

SWO.  Staff Weather Officer.

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1. For this quote on SOCAP see ARSOF 2022, Part II, USASOC, 2014. Page 6.


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