US Army Special Forces troops aboard chinook helicopter over Afghanistan
US Army Special Forces troops aboard chinook helicopter over Afghanistan

No matter what your position, it takes guts to be in the military. Even if you’re not “in the field,” the daily mental and physical challenges can be enough to strain even the most solid nerves. And during combat situations these demands are magnified a hundred fold as the specter of death or danger is always right around the corner. Here are some of the most dangerous jobs in the military.

Explosive ordnance disposal

A U.S. Marine with the Explosive ordnance disposal unit defuses a Taliban IED near Baqwa, Afghanistan
A U.S. Marine with the Explosive ordnance disposal unit defuses a Taliban IED near Baqwa, Afghanistan

When there’s an explosive device that needs to be disarmed, a chemical weapon that has to be diffused or the threat of any type of weapon of mass destruction emerges, the Navy’s explosive ordnance disposal unit gets the call. Trained to perform just as efficiently underwater as above ground, they conduct demolition of hazardous munitions, pyrotechnics, and retrograde explosives using detonation and burning techniques. Members of this highly technical operation undergo a rigorous selection process to prepare them for the physical and mental stress of potentially deadly daily assignments.

Delta Force

Military helicopters and troops on air base in the Philippines
Military helicopters and troops on air base in the Philippines

Probably one of the most heralded but also most secretive military operations is Delta Force, also known as “The Unit.” Registered as one of only a handful of elite “Tier 1” military sectors, Delta Force teams are highly skilled three-to-six member teams assigned to the most dangerous counter terrorism situations. Since it the unit was established in 1977, Delta Force members have been known as the best marksmen in the armed forces and have their own mini army at their disposal, including an aviation regiment and a little-known group of mostly female covert operatives known as the Funny Platoon. Delta Force candidates are selected on an invitation-only basis, usually from the Green Beret or Ranger divisions.

USAF pararescue jumpers

An Air Force pararescue jumper takes off from a HC-130 Hercules aircraft over the South Pacific Ocean
An Air Force pararescue jumper takes off from a HC-130 Hercules aircraft over the South Pacific Ocean

When there’s an armed forces member who has been injured behind enemy lines or who is stuck in a dangerous situation where specialized skills are needed, it’s the pararescue jumpers, or PJs, who get the call. Pararescue jumpers are primarily recovery specialists, with emergency medical capabilities in humanitarian and combat environments. This elite Air Force Squadron trains daily at everything from jumping out of aircraft or practicing rescue dives. Trained in approximately 250 core skill areas, PJs are always on alert and ready to jump into the most dangerous surroundings to save their fellow military personnel.