What are Special Forces?
The term “special forces” carries weight everywhere in the world. Highly trained, modern day elite warriors who are as ruthless and cunning as the threats they are trained to eliminate. Only the best make it to training and they must endure grueling boot camps and extreme instructors, and only a select few will pass the training. Designed to carry out what is known as “unconventional warfare,” these forces can be deployed for a multitude of purposes. They are trained to defend and maintain the safety of their homeland, but often are used deal with threats to the state. They go behind enemy lines, infiltrate militant organizations, defend homelands, and fight wars without being noticed. In today’s modern age of terrorism, combating forces of terror has become their specialty.
The special forces have gone from elite army unit to counter-terrorist organizations, and rightfully so. They operate at a level above the rest of the military, following a different set of rules making them increasingly lethal and impossible to stop. Silent, unsung heroes who are the very best at what they do. Most importantly is the unit size. Each special forces unit is designed for infiltration and silent extermination. They work in small units that much larger forces cannot counter easily, or at all. Simply put, whenever anyone is in trouble, the special forces are the only ones on earth capable of getting them out.
Indian Navy’s Marine Commandos, or MARCOS, are the nations pride and joy. Not many people suspect such an elite unit to come from a country not well-known for its military, but then they’ve never seen MARCOS in action. Living by the motto “The Few the Fearless,” MARCOS were developed in 1985, originally known as the Indian Marine Special Forces. Their training is a grueling three year trial, but before making it to that point there is a three-day screening and aptitude test that eliminates over half of the applicants, followed by a five week version of the always exciting “hell week.” After their initial basic training, they join their trial groups to carry out missions of counter-terrorism and similar scenarios.
One of the few special forces groups capable of being para dropped into the ocean in full combat gear, all MARCOS must be static line para jump qualified. After three years of training, they serve for up to five years. Equipped with the highest grade of military weapons available, the MARCOS are truly a sight to behold, and a terrifying one at that.
The Gruppo Di Intervento is an Italian military force, on steroids. Specializing in counter-terrorism, these guys are part of a branch of the Italian Military Police. Formed in 1977, this elite unit is comprised of nearly 150 men, with each being divided into a four person group always prepared to leave base within 30 minutes. Candidates are first interviewed to gauge motivation, a critical aspect.
Afterwards they undergo a five-month basic training, they are instructed in martial arts for hand to hand combat, trained in the English language, prepped for multiple terrorist situations, and then undergo intensive firearms training. More than half of the applicants are eliminated. Even passing does not guarantee entry, as only the most elite are trained for a job in a specialized field. They are trained in combat diving and have collaborative relationships with multiple special force units from all over the world.
EKO Cobra: Austria
In Austria, EKO Cobra handles everything from international terrorism to domestic law enforcement. Founded in 1978 as a response to attacks in the 1972 Olympics, this unit was originally founded under the name GEK, but it was later changed to EKO Cobra (a much cooler name). EKO Cobra units are set up all over the nation to allow any area accessible within a 70 minute response timeframe.
Recruits are drawn from applicants to Austria’s Federal Police, given a thorough psychological examination and then put through rigorous physical training. After these initial tests, applicants are placed into specialized units, preparing them over a six month period for all pertinent threats they may face. They utilize Austrian made weaponry and specialized suits and gear, making them a force to be reckoned with.
This special forces unit of the French Armed Forces is designed to destroy any stereotype of the “quick to surrender” frenchman still remaining. That and to prevent terror throughout the world. Formed in 1973, the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group was put in place as a response to the massacre at the 1972 Olympic games, just as the Austrian EKO Cobra. It is divided into a command cell, an administrative group, and four operational troops of twenty troopers.
This group is widely known for the high quality of its special forces firearm training, utilizing the latest technology available to create superior weapons. The quality of training is so high that many special forces units from around the world send their applicants there for training. Only 7-8% of applicants make the cut, and these select few are divided into two units of specialization: HALO/HAHO and divers.
The Joint Task Force 2 is perhaps the most secretive of the special forces, with not even the Canadian government commenting on its actions or members. The members are unnamed, and remain that way even in court-marshal. Operating in total secrecy, this force is the elite of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, originating in April of 1993.
Not much else of the group is known regarding their training systems, although they specialize in counter terrorism. One member was court marshaled, however not even his identity was given away, raising questions as to the accountability of this force in carrying out their sworn duty.
The Special Forces Unit of the Pakistan Army, the SSG is widely known as one of the best and most effective special force units in the world. Formed in 1956, the force is split into seven battalions composed of 700 men divided into four companies then split into platoons and ten man teams (basically a whole lot of division happening).
Officers must have at least two years of military experience, and survive training so grueling (including an 18 mile swim) that only 5% of applicants make it. After this, they are given specialized training and then prepared for active duty.
JW GROM: Poland
Named in honor of the Silent Unseen WWII special polish force, JW GROM has been active since 1990, making them one of the newer specialized forces in the world. A member of the Polish Armed Forces, applicants are put through a battery of psychological and physical exams designed to weed out the weak.
They also receive basic special operations training by the Swedish Navy and are divided into four-man teams, this group is highly adaptable, with nearly 75% of members are medics or paramedics, and most are capable of speaking two foreign languages fluently. The training is physically intense, as is the psychological examination in nearly all special forces units worldwide.
GSG 9: Germany
Like many other European anti-terrorist groups, the GSG 9 was formed in response to the massacre at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. This tragedy revealed the lack of a necessary force to defend citizens against terror attacks. The GSG 9 was founded in 1973, and is divided into eight units. Members must have at least two years experience in the German Police before becoming eligible to apply for training.
Training consists of a final interview, marksmanship training, physical exam, and psychological testing. Only one in five pass the training course and it lasts nearly 22-weeks. The identity of members are classified as top secret and further training is conducted with international counter terror units.
The Special Air Service Regiment is a direct command unit of Special Operation Command in Australia. Formed in 1957, they are a counter terrorist unit priding themselves on team skill as opposed to individual capabilities. The standards for entry are very high and individual strength and mental ability are tested to a very high degree despite emphasis on teamwork within units.
A soldier must also possess unsurpassed ability to blend with his environment, utilizing it to his advantage in any given circumstance. Officers are also some of the highest paid soldiers on the planet, earning nearly $100,000 a year. The only risk is a reduction in rank upon leaving one branch to join the special forces.
Alpha Group: Russia
Swearing allegiance to the Moscow Kremlin, this special force unit Hespans many different countries as it was founded during the Soviet Union (1974). A specialized unit with the Russian Center for Special Operations, candidates for the program are between 22-27 years of age, must be college educated and complete a three year training course in order to become a member.
With a motto like “Where Alpha Appears, Compromise Stops,” this unit is one to be especially wary of. Russian special forces are notorious for their extreme physical conditioning and training is designed to break lesser men. Only the truly elite are able to comprise this unit of elite soldiers.
Sayeret Matkal: Israel
The Israeli Defense Force is well known for its high caliber soldiers, as all citizens must report for mandatory training and service time at legal age. Their special forces unit is no exception. They are highly trained and very capable, however they are primarily a reconnaissance Unit, designed to collect intelligence.
Highly classified, members are the elite when it comes to counter-intelligence. Their training, however, is still very physically demanding and makes them capable soldiers in every sense of the phrase. In volatile foreign situations, the Sayeret is called upon to aid with hostage location and rescue.
Active since 1940, the SBS is the UK version of the US Navy SEAL’s. Members of the British Navy, this special forces unit handles all terrorism at sea (obviously), their training is divided into two phases: the Aptitude Phase, consisting of 4 weeks of physical training and development/testing of navigational ability, and the Continuation Training: Consisting of tactics and procedures and employment training, including resistance to interrogation.
Only candidates with previous military experience are allowed to enlist. The SBS operates with fellow special force SAS, also originating in England. The partnership is remarkably similar to the Navy SEALs and the Delta Force, both trained to handle similar circumstances.
The US Sea, Air and Land teams have gained fame for the notorious Seal Team Six killing Osama Bin Laden, and were formed in 1962. Numerous accounts of their heroism and bravery are what popularized special forces in the first place. All members serve in the U.S. Navy and work with special intelligence forces such as the CIA. Training totals 61 weeks, and is notoriously brutal in terms of physical and mental training.
However, even after those 61 weeks there is further specialization training that must be successfully completed before mission deployment. It may take nearly a total of 2.5 years to complete. Known for their team abilities, the Navy SEAL’s are widely respected as the nations most elite warriors
The Delta Force is the United States Army’s version of the SEAL, utilized for hostage rescue and counterterrorism but with a focus on land operations as opposed to naval ones. Primarily a military unit founded in 1977, recruitment starts with standardized tests and then advances to numerous psychological exams.
Training covers marksmanship, demolitions and breaching, combined skills and executive protection. This comes to the culmination exercise, where one must prove they can dynamically adopt all of the skills he/she has learned and utilize them to their fullest potential. Operating in partnership with the famous SEAL Team Six, Delta Force is one of the deadliest counter-terror military units in the world.
SAS: The Best of the Best
The Special Air Service is the special operations branch of the British Army. Founded in 1941 as a regiment, they historically consist of a Commando or Air Force background, coming from the British Army for specialized training. Physical training is brutal, with candidates needing to swim two miles in 90 minutes and run four miles in 30 minutes.
Following this, candidates are thrown into the jungle to be taught navigation and survival skills, then upon return learn to use foreign weapons and receive training in combat survival skills. Finally, to truly weed out the weak, there is the notorious Resistance to Interrogation Training, which consist of 36 hours of unimaginable hell. Known for their ruthlessness, the SAS is a truly powerful special operation branch that has protected the British people for decades.