The Irish Army Ranger Wing (ARW) is the special unit in the Irish Defence Forces. The Army Ranger Wing is Ireland’s hostage rescue unit and they are closely related to specialised Irish Emergency Response Unit (ERU). Sciathán Fiannóglach an Airm (Irish: Army Ranger Wing) and An Garda Síochána (Emergency Response Unit) are training together and in of any hostage situation, the Irish Ranger Wing could be requested to support the ERU.
The Army Ranger Wing trains and operates as many international special operations units worldwide. Their training is often concluded in cooperation with the US Army Rangers, French GIGN, German GSG 9, Polish GROM, Swedish SOG, Italian COMSUBIN, Australian SAS, New Zealand SAS, and Canadian JTF2 among others.
Roles of Irish Army Ranger Wing
The ARW has a wide variety of roles, covering conventional warfare, anti-terrorist warfare, and training for the Defence Forces including:
- Offensive operations behind enemy lines, e.g. securing of vital objectives, long range patrolling, raids, ambushes, sabotage, capture of key personnel, diversionary operations, delay operations, intelligence gathering.
- Defensive operations, e.g. VIP protection, counter-insurgency.
- Specialist aid to the civil power (anti-terrorist tasks), anti-hijacking operations, bus, plane, train, ferry hostage rescue operations.
- Standards, e.g. testing and evaluation of military equipment, conducting specialist courses.
- Returning highly skilled personnel to the Defence Forces on completion of service in the ARW.
History of Irish Army Ranger Wing
Let’s go to the very beginning, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when a small number of Irish Defence Forces personnel attended the United States Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia. After they successfully completed courses at Ft. Benning, these personnel organised similar courses. The first course was attended by 12 students and it was conducted in the Military College in the Curragh Army Camp in 1969. Students on these courses were selected from among all ranks and units of the Irish Army, Air Corps and the Naval Service. The students had tests in physical endurance, marksmanship, individual military skills and small unit tactics.
Formalising these standards and creation of the Irish Army Ranger Wing resulted from the increase in international terrorism in the late 1970s and 1980s. The increased skills and endurance training of new personnel trained by Ranger programme provided the basis for the creation of a new specialist unit. The new unit, formed to counter threats from international terrorism was named the IrishvArmy Ranger Wing (ARW) and the unit was formally established, in accordance with the Defence Act, by Government order on 16 March 1980. Their first official mission was to be deployed into Somalia, providing protection for convoys.
Training and selection
Selection for the Army Ranger Wing takes place annually, and it lasts for 4 weeks, usually in October. The selection process takes two phases: 3 weeks of the regular selection process and one week for psychological evaluation of the candidate. If the candidate met minimum requirements it will be sent to the basic 6-month training. The candidates for selection must be serving members of Irish Defence Forces, and, of course, to be volunteers. They are not subject to an age limit. Selection is open for three branches of the Irish military, and also, the selection is open female soldiers, although none has ever passed the initial selection course.
In the first phase, instructors demonstrate the basic requirements to become a Ranger and candidates must pass a number of initial physical tests – including water confidence training, assault course training, individual navigation tests as well as a 10 km combat run test. If a candidate fails more than 3 out of the 9 basic tests they are returned to their home unit. A selection course may only be attempted three times by any candidate.
In the second phase, candidates are taught special forces tactics such as long-range reconnaissance patrolling (LRRP), surveillance, intelligence gathering, search tactics, and ambush organisation. The course culminates in a 45 km group march which must be completed in a set time.
In all, candidates must complete assessment in the following areas:
- Abseiling – Assesses a student’s confidence when working at height.
- Bridge jump – Tests confidence in the water.
- River crossing – Evaluates ability to work in a team.
- Claustrophobia – Tests a student’s ability to work with their equipment in confined spaces.
- Gym tests – Assesses muscular endurance and strength while performing a set number of exercises.
- 10 km run – under 50mins Tests cardiovascular endurance over a set distance and time.
- Mountain walk – Tests endurance over a set uphill march, while carrying a medium load.
- Hill circuit – Assesses stamina and strength over a set cross-country course, while carrying a light load.
- Forced march “cross-country” – Assesses stamina and strength over a set cross-country course and time while carrying a medium load around 20 kg.distance is 25km to finish under( 6 hrs 30mins )
- Forced march “road” – A group test to assess the student’s tolerance of pressure over a set course and time, while carrying a medium load, the distance is between 35–40 km. ( march speed is 4km/hr )
- Route march – A group test to assess overall stamina, endurance and strength during a forced march over the mountains while carrying a medium load.
Of the 40 to 80 candidates that start the annual Ranger selection course, only 15% remain at the conclusion. All candidates who successfully complete the Ranger course are presented with the Fianóglach shoulder flash.
If a candidate passes selection at this stage, they are sent on a further six-month ranger skills course. This course includes long-range reconnaissance and survival training, unarmed combat , counter-terrorism, close protection, advanced driving, combat diving, boat handling, sniping, explosive intervention, advanced navigation, and close quarters combat skills, advanced first aid, advanced combat shooting and parachuting. Upon passing this selection course and probationary period they then earn the right to wear the prestigious Green beret. Some parts of the combat diving training course are done under the supervision of the Naval Service’s Naval Service Diving Section.
The Irish Army Ranger Wing also has its own purpose built a tactical training facility. Their tactical training facility includes shoot houses with various scenarios, training ranges and various urban settings. The facility is known as TAC TOWN.
The Irish Army Rangers are regular members of peacekeeping missions around the world with the UN and EU and PfP. They have already conducted missions in Liberia, East Timor and Chad. For sure, the Irish Army Ranger Wing is a truly professional unit and capable of finishing every objective assigned.
Portuguese Army Special Operations Forces
In Portuguese, it is called Centro de Tropas de Operações Especiais (CTOE), and you can translate it to Special Operations Forces Center, they are the Portuguese Army Special Operations Forces (SOF) and are part of the Army Rapid Reaction Brigade. They are based in Lamego, a city in the North of Portugal surround by mountains and very close to the Douro River. The very cold environment in the winter mixed very hot in the summer, the mountain terrain together with the harsh training the men receive is a great recipe to create very tuff Men.
Organized in Special Operations Platoons and Task Units (TU), but together with support and logistics, they have a Battalion size unit. The CTOE is composed of a specially selected man, which are organized, trained, equipped and use techniques, tactics and procedures that are nonstandard to regular forces. They are able to conduct activities in all spectrum of warfare, independently or integrated with other regular or irregular forces in a way to achieve victory. In case of Political need they are also able to conduct descript or even covert operations. Special Operations can be conducted directly against an enemy, or indirectly by training and supporting local foreign military or even create militia from populations.
Portuguese SOF TU can be infiltrated by air, land or water and coordination with Air, Land and Naval Firepower support is common in any Joint Operations Area as it augments Special Operations capacities.
The regular TASK UNIT is composed of Commander (Captain), Operations and Intelligence Officer (Lieutenant), Operations and Intelligence Sargent, Team and Logistics Master Sargent, one support section, one maintenance section, one medical section, one communications section and a Platoon of Special Operations soldiers. Sometimes, if needed, it can be augmented with Air Force Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) personnel.
Portuguese SOF missions include:
- Perform studies and experiments with new tactics and gear,
- Organize, train and maintain Special Operations Forces,
- Organize, train and mentor irregular/civilian forces,
- Organize and perform Subversive Warfare in case of homeland invasion by foreign forces,
- Unconventional warfare,
- Psychological warfare
- Direct and indirect actions,
- Raids and Sabotage against high-value targets,
- Long range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP),
- Locating enemy command and control centers,
- Targeting and destruction of enemy air defenses and radar systems,
- Hostages, POW and other personnel rescue operations,
- Many other that it´s commander find suitable.
Portuguese Army SOF has been deployed worldwide. Some of the known countries are Angola, Mozambique, Guinee-Bissau, Iraq, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, East-Timor, Afghanistan, Mali and the Central African Republic. They have been a part of NATO Immediate Reaction Forces since its creation.
Working in other countries for long time period missions demands that the unit acquires knowledge of the local language and cultural costumes. English and French are common languages taught to the unit. Portugal has a long military tradition in Africa so this is one area of operations where the unit feels very comfortable
Some of the foreign qualifications that the Officers and Non-Commission Officers take are:
- Forward Air Controller (FAC) in Germany
- Sniper in the United Kingdom,
- Special Forces in the United States,
- Airborne in the United States,
- Ranger in the United States,
- Special Operations Military Free-Fall in the United States,
- Jungle warfare in Brazil,
- Artic Warfare in Norway,
- Enemy vehicles recognition in Germany,
- Long range reconnaissance patrol in Germany
Portuguese Army SOF has been modernizing itself for the last years. Especially in what concerns the individual soldier equipment. New weaponry like assault rifles, silencers, light and medium machine guns, Trijicon and Schmidt & Bender scopes, AN PEQ-16B laser/illuminator modules, AN PVS-21 night vision goggles, but also protection equipment like the Ops core Helmets, Warrior assault systems Tactical Vests and some day by day items like the mystery ranch backpacks, Harris Radios and Peltor Headsets.
Portuguese Army SOF is a modern force with experience in many theatres. With participation in United Nations, European Union and NATO operations, it is a strong asset to these Organizations and its partners.
Their motto is: “Que os muitos por sermos poucos não temamos” – Don´t fear the many just because we are few.
German alternative to US Navy SEALs: Special forces of underwater commandos
The elite detachment of combat divers, Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine (KSM) is a special unit of commandos of the German Navy that may serve as Berlin’s response the US Navy SEALs. Against the background of the current situation in the world (cold wars, sea piracy, etc.), KSM acts as an important tool of Germany’s foreign policy. KSM was established for special operations under the water.
Special forces in the naval forces of Germany appeared relatively recently. First-ever German military divers were trained in France in 1959. The task of the German battalion “Specialized operational marine forces” (Spezialisierten Einsatzkräften der Marine) included special operations on land and under the water. From 2003 to 2014, the battalion was one of the most sought-after units of the German army.
Special operations were conducted in Afghanistan, Cyprus, Lebanon, Kosovo and Somalia. In the process of the recent reorganization of the German Navy, the battalion was divided into several groups. In April 2014, a fundamentally new military organization was created – special forces of commando divers – Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine, or KSM.
The Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine is based in the German city of Eckernförd, where the entire fleet of German submarines is deployed. “The new military structure has a narrow specialization, this allows us to better perform the tasks set. Guys do their work professionally, and it is the most important thing for me,” the commander of KSM, Jorg Buddenbaum, said.
The tasks of Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine (KSM) special forces include reconnaissance and sabotage activities on the water, under the water, and in the coastal zone. Missions can also be life-saving, peacekeeping, aimed at protecting and ensuring security of any objects (ships, oil and gas offshore platforms). The work of the unit is often conducted under the aegis of NATO or the UN.
Each mission usually involves four or five military divers – a commander, a sniper, a medic, a radio operator and an observer. Their diving equipment includes German rebreather Dräger LAR-V, dry and wet suits from 5 to 7 mm, fins and masks, navigation gadgets, knives, underwater watch and underwater pistol P11 Heckler&Koch (silently fires steel arrows). KSM divers use submarine scooters to move underwater, while air cushions, speedboats, kayaks, etc. are used on the water surface.
The German Armed Forces do not disclose any information on the number of KSM soldiers. According to various reports, it goes about 130 men (only men can serve in KSM).
KSM candidates have to undergo an exceptionally intense 3-year training course. In the process of training, candidates master the knowledge and skills necessary for naval commandos: diving, parachute jumping, rock climbing, counter-terrorism training, boat and ship navigation. As a rule, only 30 percent of candidates join the rank of KSM servicemen. To date, KSM is considered one of the most highly trained special units of the German army.
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