What’s It Mean to Be “Elite?” — A Delta Force Commando’s Perspective

Mark A Hope
10 min readAug 20, 2023

I served in four elite units and attended the most challenging and elite training courses the U.S. military offers.

I have often reflected on the elite status of people, leaders, and organizations.

What people are defined as elite, and how did they achieve that status?

What are “elite” organizations, and how did they become so?

During my time in the service and the years following — as I built my business career — I often thought about what it means to be elite.

The Definition

“Elite” refers to a select group of individuals or entities considered superior or exceptional regarding their abilities, status, or qualities.

These individuals or entities often possess higher expertise, skill, influence, or power than the general population.

Being part of the elite typically implies prestige, privilege, and recognition within a particular context, whether in academia, business, politics, sports, or other fields.

The concept of “elite” can vary based on the criteria used to determine superiority, and it often signifies a level of achievement that sets individuals or groups apart from the majority.

My Military Experience

I joined the Army at the age of 17. After attending basic training and infantry advanced individual training, I was assigned to the 1st Ranger Battalion.

This was my first experience with an elite organization, and elite soldiers surrounded me.

Ranger School

At the ripe age of 18, I attended the Army’s Ranger School, one of the most challenging courses in the world. The Ranger Course is designed to teach leadership under stressful conditions. In my experience, most of us arriving at Ranger School were not inherently elite. We were of varying ages and experience levels, but we all came there to be challenged by the course.

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Mark A Hope

Mark A Hope, a former Army Delta Force operator and corporate executive, writes about business, performance, and life.