Estonia, the small country in the Baltic, have an elite Special Operations Force known as ESTSOF or EOG. It is also known as Special Operations Group. The unit is highly secretive with regard to members numbers and structure, it is likely to be among the first units to respond to any kind of action. Their first neighbor to the south is Russia.
The ESTSOF is relatively young in the world of Special Forces, like its homeland. Since Estonia only broke free of Russia in 1991, its race to create a credible military force took years, and the ESTSOF existed on nothing more than paper for some seven years starting in 1995, they had been planned, but nothing was invested.
By 2002, a preparation unit from Estonian military came together to chart out selection and training regimens which proceeded slowly until in 2005, when they announced their intent to create the special unit, with a website briefly appearing online showing what its mission was to be. Yet it was four more years before the first candidates arrived for selection. By this time, the ESTSOF had its own financial department, which helped speed up the process.
Initially, there existed the requirement for having served three years in the military before applying, but before the first selection began this requirement was dropped, which allows many more candidates for testing and filling out teams for training, which was the right move.
In usual Special Forces fashion, selection and training are taken to the extreme. Estonia needs its men to operate in every terrain and environment imaginable and so tailored its courses in kind.
The selection phase involves performing 62 pushups and 72 sit-ups in under two minutes. Also, a 2-mile run must be completed in under 13 minutes and 49 seconds. In the water, candidates must be capable of diving 15 feet, where they then must put on a mask. Other water tasks include swimming 75 feet underwater while holding their breath, and a 1,200 foot swim on the clock. Amidst all this are extensive mental tests probing candidates’ abilities to perform complex tasks and control their emotions.
Upon passing selection, the candidates begin training. The exact length and specific types of courses are unknown, but suffice it to say, they go on for several months and are well beyond most of the candidates limits. Phases are believed to include land, airborne, and swimming, with ever present shooting drills and problem-solving tests escalating.
What’s it like? An instructor once described to the media that during one 8-week course, the candidates trained in mountains, forests and swamps, with only one to four hours of sleep allowed per day. Cursing from instructors is constant and the toll of the experience found one of the candidates talking to trees, no longer able to discern reality.
If the candidates pass training, they receive the unit beret and graduate into the ESTSOF, which comes under the command of the Army intelligence battalion, and as history shows, has been eager to use its most elite force in combat.
Not long after Estonian special forces called ESTSOF saw its first 36-man unit became operational in 2011, ESTSOF received its flag denoting its recognition by the armed forces on October 2, 2012. This day became monumental because, on that same day, an agreement was signed with NATO to send an ESTSOF unit to serve in Afghanistan, and before the year was out one unit was operational in the country conducting combat missions as part of the ISAF. As of 2014, ESTSOF is still there conducting missions alongside its allies.
According to the various reports from the allied forces, and the ISAF command staff it looks like ESTSOF is doing well and they quickly become a vital part of the ISAF mission.
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.