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Green Berets Vs. Rangers: 5 Major Differences

Green Berets and Army Rangers are considered some of the toughest special operations forces in the US Armed Forces, if not the world.

However, there are some notable differences between Green Berets and Army Rangers that most people don’t realize.

While both of these units are highly elite in their own right, the amount of specialized training it takes to be a Ranger is less than what it takes to be a Green Beret.

The purpose of this article isn’t to determine which one is better, who has the harder training or selection program, or who would win in a fist fight.

Rather, it’s to outline and compare the major differences between the overall roles, selection process, and history of the Green Berets Vs. Army Rangers.

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Here’s a quick snapshot of some of the differences:

Quick Green Berets Vs. Army Rangers Comparison Chart

 Green BeretsArmy Rangers
SummaryGreen Berets are the US Army unconventional warfare apparatus, involved in Combat Search and Rescue, Psychological, and Peacekeeping missions.Army Rangers are an elite light infantry unit tasked with missions like direct action raids, airfield seizure, reconnaissance, and personnel recovery.
FoundedJune 19, 19521943
MottoTo Liberate The OppressedRangers Lead the Way
Average Age3124
Logo / Insignia
Commanded By1st Special Forces CommandUS Army Special Operations Command
Total SizeAround 7,000Around 3,600
Primary Role- Unconventional Warfare

- Counter-Terrorism

- Direct Action

- Special Reconnaissance

- Foreign Internal Defense
- Direct Action

- Special Reconnaissance
Requirements- A US Citizen

- Age 20 - 36

- High School Graduate

- Airborne qualified or volunteer for Airborne

- Physical Fitness Assessment; Min. 49 push-ups, 59 sit-ups, 6 pull-ups, 2 mile run in a min. of 15:12

- Eligible for a security clearance

- 50 meter swim in boots and ACU's

- 20/20 vision (correctable allowed) in both eyes, both near and distant vision.

- 1 yr. of college preferred
- US Citizen

- Physical training score of 240+

- Qualify / volunteer for Airborne training

- In good moral character

- Eligible for a security clearance
Training And Selection- Special Forces Preparation and Conditioning (SFPC)

- Special Forces Assessment And Selection (SFAS)

Phase 1: Course Orientation and History

Phase 2: Language and Culture

Phase 3: Small Unit Tactics and SERE

Phase 4: MOS Training (Special Forces Detachment officer, Weapons Sergeant, Engineer Sergeant, Medical Sergeant, or Communications Sergeant)

Phase 5: UW CULEX / Robin Sage

Phase 6: Graduation

- Advanced Skills Courses

Military Free Fall Parachutist Course
Combat Diver Qualification Course
Special Forces Sniper Course
- Ranger Assessment And Selection Program(aka RASP), which includes:

RASP 1: 8 week course broken down into 2 phases.

RASP 2: 21-day course that tests the mental and physical capabilities of the applicant.

- Continued Training (contingent upon MOS):

Sniper training
Primary Weapons- Assault Rifles / Machine Guns

MK 46

- Handguns

M9 Beretta

- Sniper Rifles

MK 12 Mod 0
- Assault Rifles / Machine Guns

MK 46
Mk 48

- Handguns

M9 Beretta
Glock 19

- Sniper Rifles

MK11 Mod 0
ASVAB RequirementsGeneral Technical: 110

Combat: 98
General Technical: 105
Are Women Allowed?YesYes
Notable Engagements / Operations- World War II

- Korean War

- Cold War

- Vietnam War

- Operation Urgent Fury

- Operation Just Cause

- Gulf War

- Somalia Civil War

- War On Terror

- Iraq War
- World War II

- Korean War

- Vietnam War

- Invasion of Grenada

- Invasion of Panama

- Persian Gulf War

- Battle of Mogadishu

- Kosovo War

- Operation Enduring Freedom

- Iraq War

- Operation Anaconda
HeadquartersFort Bragg, North CarolinaFort Benning, Georgia


What Are Army Rangers?

Army Rangers, just like Green Berets, are part of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM).

SOCOM is based out of MacDill Air Force Base just outside of Tampa, Florida.

The first thing that you should understand about the US Army Rangers is this:

There is the 75th Ranger Regiment, and then there is Ranger School.

Rangers are NOT identified by the Ranger tab seen on the left shoulder of some soldier’s uniforms.

What they are identified by is the tan beret.

ranger tab and tan beret

A Ranger tab denotes that a soldier has been through and passed Ranger School: a 61-day gruel-fest that is not for the faint of heart.

Differences Between Attending Ranger School And Being A Ranger

Almost any soldier can attend Ranger School, and it is understood to be valuable leadership training that a soldier thinking of making a career out of the military should consider.

army ranger school
Army ranger school. Image:

However, being a member of Ranger Battalion, the ones who wear the tan beret, is something entirely different.

Whereas regular soldiers who attend Ranger School live the Ranger life for 61 days, members of the 75th Ranger Regiment live the life 24/7/365.

Additionally, every soldier in a Ranger Battalion (aka “Ranger Batt”) goes through Ranger School, usually once they achieve the rank of Specialist (E-4) and before they get their first leadership position.

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What Are Green Berets?

army green berets standing at attention

Traditionally, Green Berets are experts in unconventional warfare.

Essentially, in addition to being highly adept soldiers, they’re also going to become extremely proficient in the culture that they are assigned to operate in.

In fact, one of the longest courses that a Green Beret is required to go through is language school.

Not every SF member is going learn Arabic, Farsi, Pashtu, or Dari (the most commonly used languages where Americans operate in the Middle East today).

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Since the Green Berets operate worldwide, some groups are required to learn Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, and some African languages.

Green berets teaching Honduran soldiers. Image:

Short History Of The Green Berets

Though Special Forces can trace their roots back to the beginning of the Korean War, the unit that we recognize today as the Green Berets officially started in the early sixties and the early stages of Vietnam.

Green Berets teaching south Vietnamese soldiers. Image:

When conventional war tactics failed in the foreign jungle terrain, Green Berets stepped up.

They were the ones responsible for training the South Vietnamese in unconventional warfare (also known as guerrilla warfare).

Since Vietnam, Green Berets have fought in every known—and many unknown—conflicts the US has been involved with.

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What Do Army Rangers Do?

Army Rangers are an elite light infantry unit. 

They are a large scale force that is typically involved in joint special operations raids, airborne assaults, reconnaissance missions, and search and rescue.

ranger regiment insignia

Think of them as a smaller, highly trained, and very mobile version of an Army company that is tasked to deal with specific situations.

Need an airfield quickly taken over?  Call the Army Rangers.

US Government requires a communications array to be taken over and destroyed?  Call the Army Rangers.

Have a power plant in enemy territory that needs to be secured?  Call the Army Rangers.

What Do Green Berets Do?

Green Berets are teachers (and practitioners) of unconventional warfare.

Green Berets specialize in 5 primary missions: unconventional warfare, counterinsurgency, special reconnaissance, direct action missions, and foreign internal defense.

green beret insignia

This can involve everything from supporting, training, and equipping foreign fighting services, to conducting reconnaissance deep behind enemy lines.

Need a military unit capable of counter-narcotics specialization?  Call the Green Berets.

Training the indigenous peoples of a 3rd world country how to fight?  Call the Green Berets.

Need to keep the peace in some worldwide hotspot?  Call the Green Berets.

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Green Beret Vs. Army Ranger Selection Process

US Army Ranger Selection Process

To join Ranger Battalion, you need to sign a contract with an addendum marking you as an X-Ray applicant.

If you’re infantry, then you’ll be an 11X-Ray, meaning that after Basic and Advanced Infantry Training and Airborne School, you’ll go to the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP).

Compared to RASP, Army Basic Training, Advanced Individual Training, and Airborne School will feel like summer camp.

RASP Phase 1

RASP is eight weeks long, split into 2 four-week phases.

Phase One, testing phase, consists of 6 to 12 mile ruck-marches with a 50-pound pack, timed 5 mile runs, medical skills tests, and psychological exams.

army rasp training program

However, according to some, the most grueling part of phase one in RASP is the day and nighttime navigation tests.

Using only a map and compass, Ranger candidates must make their way to an objective, working sometimes as a group and other times individually.

RASP Phase 2

Phase Two begins the Ranger skills training, consisting of combat driving, marksmanship and tactics, and even some explosives and breaching training.

us army ranger training

If you successfully complete RASP, you get the esteemed honor of donning a tan beret, a symbol to the world that you’re a real Army Ranger.

Army Green Beret Selection Process

Similar to how a new recruit can sign up to enter RASP right after Airborne School, if a recruit is over the age of 29 and a male (sorry, ladies), instead of RASP, he could option to go directly to SF selection.

SF selection, formally known as Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) and colloquially known as the “Q Course,” is a two-year process.

However, before a soldier even gets to the Q Course, he has to pass a 19-day pre-selection course called Special Forces Preparation and Conditioning (SFPC).

army sfpc training

This short course consists of physical training and land navigation tests, and is intended to weed out soldiers that are not prepared for the rigors of the Q Course.

But passing SFPC and getting into the Q Course doesn’t mean you’re a Green Beret.

The Q Course consists of six distinct phases (the sixth really just being the graduation), and each one presents its own unique challenges.

Q Course Phase 1

Phase I of the Q Course covers course orientation and Special Forces history, and lasts for seven weeks.

In that time, students cover everything from military planning and decision making to an Airborne operations refresher, as well as the familiarization of how SF operates worldwide.

airborne school zipline

Q Course Phase 2

Phase II, Language and Culture training, sends the candidate to the Defense Language Institute for 18 to 25 weeks, depending on the language he was assigned.

At DLI, students become adept in the conversational application of their specific language, as well as educated on the historical and current political, economic, and ethnic components associated with their training.

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Q Course Phase 3

Phase III, small unit tactics and SERE training, is probably the most infamous of all the phases.

shooting qualifications green beret training

The phase lasts 13 weeks, and while the majority of it covers such skills as advanced marksmanship and urban operations, at the end of the training, a student has to endure a five-day survival, evasion, resistance, and escape test (SERE).

The test is exactly what it sounds like: a student has to prove that he can procure food and water while alone in the wilderness.

green beret participating in sere training

He has to evade aggressive tracking techniques, typically involving dogs.

The candidate also has to resist “simulated” interrogation techniques (like open hand slaps to the face while strapped to a chair), and escape capture.

Although you may not be an official Green Beret after SERE, if you pass, in my book you are an official badass.

Q Course Phase 4

Phase IV is MOS (military occupational specialty) training, and it’s here that each soldier either becomes a medic, an engineer, a weapons specialists, a communications specialist, or, if you’re going through the Q Course as an officer, a Special Forces Detachment Officer.

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This phase lasts anywhere from 14 to 50 weeks depending on the training.

Q Course Phase 5

The fifth phase of the Q Course is called “Robin Sage,” named for the nearby town of Robbins, North Carolina and for the WWII veteran colonel Jerry Sage who was one of the leading figures in teaching unconventional tactics.

Robin Sage lasts four weeks, and serves at the final test for Q Course candidates.

The phase puts all the skills the candidates have learned over the previous phases to the test.

trainee participating in robin sage green beret training

In a fictional country called “Pineland,” which covers fourteen rural counties across North Carolina, students work together to devise a plan to recruit, train, and assist faux-guerrilla soldiers in the overthrow of an oppressive regime.

Once they present their plan to their commander, students parachute into Pineland and carry out their mission.

After Phase V, a student gets to move on the Phase VI, graduation, where he gets to don his Green Beret and officially join the ranks of the US Army Special Forces.

green beret graduation day

Green Berets Vs. Army Rangers History And Notable Missions

The Green Berets were founded under Colonel Aaron Bank in June of 1952, and is thought to be inspired by unconventional warfare units like the Alamo scouts and Philippine guerrillas.

The Green Berets have been involved in nearly every major conflict the United States has been engaged in since their inception in 1952.

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Because of the nature of their operations, they are also likely involved in a wide variety of clandestine operations that go unreported to the American public.

Some of the more well-known recent engagements include:

  • Operation Enduring Freedom
  • The Iraq War
  • War in North-West Pakistan
  • Operation Inherent Resolve
  • Operation Atlantic Resolve

In it’s current form, The Army Rangers (75th Ranger Regiment) were actually founded in February of 1986.

Prior to this time period, there were 6 Ranger battalions that all operated under the Combat Arms Regimental System.

Just like their Green Beret counterparts, the Army Rangers have been involved in a wide array of foreign conflicts since their inception.

Some of the more well-known recent engagements include:

    • Battle of Mogadishu (aka “Black Hawk Down”)
    • Kosovo War
    • Operation Enduring Freedom
    • Iraq War
    • Operation Freedom’s Sentinel

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There you have it, these are the major differences between Green Berets and Army Rangers.

As I mentioned earlier, each of these special forces outfits is unique and important in their own right.

While the Green Berets have what many would call a harder selection, there’s no denying that the Army Rangers selection is no cake-walk either.

In fact, many Army Rangers are plucked from the unit to serve in the Green Berets themselves.

One thing is for sure, I’m personally glad they’re on our side!


See Also

Navy SEALs vs. Army Rangers

Army Rangers vs. Marines

Elie P.
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Learn more about the differences between Green Berets and Army Rangers, including the requirements, overall mission, training, and more.
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10 Replies to “Green Berets Vs. Rangers: 5 Major Differences

  1. This was the most informative article about the two groups of soldiers and what differentiates the two. Thank you for your service.


        1. Thanks for that Jeff, will get it changed up ASAP. Do you happen to know what model Glock they’re using? Can’t seem to find an accurate answer anywhere.

          Glad you like the article!

  2. You did a great job with the article. I was a Ranger for 7 and a half years before being selected for SF. There are things in this article that I didn’t even know…Again, great job and Happy New Year!!!

  3. Spot on. The article was informative and accurate. When I share THAT difference with people who ask me the differences and why I wore a Ranger tab with my SF tab and call myself “SF” or “Green Beret”, I tell them much of what you refer to in your article.
    Fyi: I served 28 years (26 yrs SF) and retired. Got my doctorate and mostly enjoying life.
    Dr. J. H.
    Maj, USArmy ret

  4. SF has its roots in the OSS and the First Special Service Force. These are WW2 organizations, not Korean War.

    Good write up.

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