Irish Army Ranger Wing brandishing their weapon and Avon tactical mask

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.

Members of Irish Army Ranger Wing (ARW) posing for 30th anniversary

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.

Irish Army Ranger wing training drills

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.

Irish Army Ranger Wing Insignia

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.