Army Ranger Wing

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Irish Army Ranger Wing
Sciathán Fiannóglaigh an Airm
Sciathán Fianóglach an Airm insignia and shoulder flash.gif
Shoulder flash and insignia of the Irish Army Ranger Wing
Active 16 March 1980; 34 years ago (1980-03-16) – present[1]
Country  Ireland
Branch Irish Army
Type Special forces
Role Special operations
Size Classified
(estimated ~ 150 operators)[2][3]
Part of Badge of the Irish Defence Forces.svg Defence Forces
Garrison/HQ Curragh Camp, County Kildare[4]
53°08′50.8″N 6°49′47.4″W / 53.147444°N 6.829833°W / 53.147444; -6.829833
Nickname "Fiannóglaigh/Fianóglach"[5]
"Devils of Kildare"[6]
Motto Glaine ár gcroí, Neart ár ngéag, Agus beart de réir ár mbriathar[7]
(The purity of our hearts, the strength of our limbs and the commitment to our promise)[7]
Colors Bottle green (beret)[8]
Engagements United Nations Operation in Somalia II
International Force for East Timor
United Nations Protection Force
United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara
United Nations Mission in Liberia
United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad

The Army Ranger Wing (ARW) (Irish: Sciathán Fiannóglaigh an Airm, "SFA") is the elite special operations forces of the Defence Forces, the military of Ireland. The Army Ranger Wing is a branch of the Irish Army, with personnel drawn from the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service. It serves at the behest of the Defence Forces and the Government of Ireland, operating overseas and internally. The ARW was officially established in 1980. The unit is based in the Curragh Camp, County Kildare,[7] and is estimated to have a manpower of 150 operators.[3][2]

Army Ranger Wing personnel have served overseas in a number of international peacekeeping missions, including in Somalia, East Timor, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Cyprus, Lebanon, Western Sahara, Liberia, and Chad. The ARW trains with a number of similar special forces units in the western world, mainly in Europe and North America.[9] The ARW is also tasked with domestic duties, such as counter-terrorism, intelligence gathering, hostage rescue and close protection. The Army Rangers work with the Defence Forces' Directorate of Intelligence (G2), the military intelligence agency, and trains with the specialised firearms and tactics service of the Garda Síochána (national police), known as the Emergency Response Unit (ERU).[4]

Roles[edit]

Irish Army Ranger Wing tactical team conducting urban counter-terrorism (CT) training

The Irish Army Ranger Wing has a number of responsibilities, both foreign and domestic, within the Defence Forces and externally to the Irish government and her agencies. Its roles are divided between military conventional warfare and unconventional warfare ("Green Role") and specialist Aid to the Civil Power (ATCP) duties ("Black Role");[10]

Military tasks[edit]

Offensive operations behind enemy lines

Defensive operations

Aid to the civil power tasks[edit]

History[edit]

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a number of Irish Defence Forces personnel attended the United States Army Ranger School in Fort Benning, Georgia.[11] On their return, these personnel organised similar courses with the goal of bringing the standards of training throughout the Defence Forces into line with accepted international standards, aspiring to reach the bar set by NATO. The first course was conducted at the Military College in the Curragh Camp, County Kildare in 1969 with a dozen officer students. Students on these courses were selected from among all ranks and units of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service, which covered physical endurance, marksmanship, individual military skills and small unit tactics.[4][12] Formalising these standards and the creation of the Army Ranger Wing resulted from the increase in international terrorism in the 1970s and early 1980s,[13] such as the 1972 Munich massacre in Germany (then West Germany) and a spate of hostage takings by the Provisional IRA at home.[14][15] The increased skills and endurance training of ranger personnel provided the basis for the creation of a new specialist unit to counter these threats, as well as to provide better operational support to deployed Irish troops globally.[13] The Army Ranger Wing (ARW) was formally established, in accordance with the Defence Act, by Government order on 16 March 1980.[1][12] The first official mission of the ARW was to be deployed in Somalia (see UNOSOM II), 1993, under the umbrella of the United Nations (UN).[3]

Name and motto[edit]

The unit's official name is Sciathán Fiannóglaigh an Airm,[16] which is translated from Irish into English as "Army Ranger Wing". Fiannóglaigh (representing "Rangers") is an amalgamation of two words. Fiann is closest to the English word "warriors", and refers to the ancient band of warriors known as Na Fianna in Irish mythology. Óglaigh literally means "young soldiers", and is often translated as '"volunteers". Use in this context refers to the name of the Defence Forces in Irish: Óglaigh na hÉireann ("Irish Volunteers").[7] Na Fianna were purportedly expert warriors, so the addition of the word Fiann before Óglaigh denotes an elite element to the unit. The shoulder flash insignia of the unit uses Fianóglach, which is the singular version of the word Fiannóglaigh.

The motto of the Army Ranger Wing in Irish is: "Glaine ár gcroí, Neart ár ngéag, Agus beart de réir ár mbriathar", which roughly translates as "The purity of our hearts, the strength of our limbs and the commitment to our promise" in English.[7]

Command, control and communications[edit]

The Officer Commanding of the Army Ranger Wing is responsible for the administrative, disciplinary and operational control of the unit, and is in turn directly under the command of the Chief of Staff at Defence Forces Headquarters and the Minister for Defence at the Department of Defence.[17] The identity of the members in the unit is top secret, estimates put the strength of the organisation at approximately 150 operational members.[2] The Army Ranger Wing is headquartered in the Curragh Camp, and also has a presence at McKee Barracks, Dublin.[18] Training is carried out nationwide at a number of Department of Defence properties, including Lynch Camp in Kilworth, County Cork.[19] The ARW is on immediate call 24/7, 365 days a year for operations throughout the state, and may be deployed anywhere on land in the Republic of Ireland within two hours[20] using Air Corps aircraft and up to 200 miles out to sea via the Naval Service patrol ships and/or Air Corps aircraft within a matter of hours. In the event of a major terrorist, hijacking or hostage incident, the ARW may be called to aid the Garda ERU, and in the past they have been put on standby to assist the Irish Prison Service during major prison riots. The ARW have also provided security at Ireland's maximum-security Portlaoise Prison. Besides sanctioned international military missions, the unit may be deployed overseas to protect Irish diplomatic missions and diplomats (particularly in times of war or unrest in host countries), to provide close protection to members of the Irish government travelling overseas,[21][22] to rescue kidnapped Irish citizens[23] or to conduct intelligence operations. The unit also trains foreign military personnel.[17]

The ARW is equipped with SINCGAR ITT, Harris and Racal communications equipment, which have an inbuilt encryption and frequency-hopping systems. It is also equipped with satellite communications, through the ARW C3 (Command, Control & Communications) function and in cooperation with the Communication and Information Services Corps (CIS) of the Defence Forces. This means ARW teams can communicate with their GHQ from anywhere in the world. The Army Ranger Wing Intelligence Section also has the ability to carry out remote signals, communications and electronic espionage working with the G2.[17][24]

Training and recruitment[edit]

A sniper training exercise involving Irish Army Rangers

The Irish ARW trains and operates with other military and law enforcement special operations forces worldwide, including the 75th Ranger Regiment and Delta Force of the United States,[8][25] JTF2 and CSOR of Canada,[25] SAS of the United Kingdom,[26] GIGN of France,[27] GSG 9 of Germany,[8] JW GROM of Poland,[27] GIS and COMSUBIN of Italy,[8][27] UIM of the Netherlands,[8] SOG and FJS of Sweden,[27][28] SASR of Australia,[4] and NZSAS of New Zealand,[4] among others. Exchanges of personnel between units occur regularly.[8]

Selection and training for the Army Ranger Wing lasts 34 weeks,[29] where skills such as special reconnaissance, combat diving and parachuting are taught. Selection takes place annually, usually beginning in October, with a preliminary 4 week course.[29] Candidates must be serving members of the Defence Forces,[29] from any of the three branches (Army, Air Corps or Naval Service).[30] They are not subject to an age limit and there is no rank in the selection process.[31] Selection is open to females, although none have passed the initial training course.[32][3]

The preliminary 4 week selection course is organised into a number of distinct phases. 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, assault courses, individual navigation tests as well as a 10 km combat run.[31] In the second phase, candidates are taught special forces tactics such as surveillance, reconnaissance, combat intelligence gathering, search tactics, and ambush organisation.[29] The course culminates in a 45 km group march which must be completed in a set time. During selection, potential recruits get an average of just 4 or 5 hours of sleep within a 24‑hour period. If a candidate fails more than 3 out of 9 basic tests they are returned to their home unit.[31] A selection course may only be attempted three times by any candidate.[31]

In all, candidates must complete assessment in the following areas:[25]

  • Abseiling – Assesses a student's confidence when working at height.
  • Bridge jump – Tests confidence in 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.
  • Combat run – Tests cardiovascular endurance over a set distance (10 km) and time.
  • Mountain march – 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 of 20 kg, marching 25 km which must be finished within 6 ½ hours.
  • 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 and 40 km (march speed is 4 km/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 candidates that start the annual Ranger Wing selection course (average is 40 to 80 soldiers), 85% do not make it past the first 4 weeks.[31] Since its inception, 11,000 soldiers have attempted selection, but only 400 have completed training.[33] All candidates who successfully complete the "Ranger Course" are presented with the Fianóglach shoulder flash.[31]

If a student passes selection at this stage, they are sent on a further six month special forces skills course. This course includes survival training, long-range penetration, mountaineering, counter-terrorism, urban warfare, CBRNe defence, advanced combat shooting (handling of all weapons used by the ARW), sharpshooting, close quarters combat, unarmed combat, riot control, close protection, advanced driving, advanced navigation, advanced first aid (taught by the Defence Forces Medical School), explosives intervention (taught by the Army Ordnance Corps), boat handling, combat diving, (taught by the Naval Service Combat Diving Section),[34] fast-roping and skydiving (taught by Air Corps crews).[31] Upon passing this selection course and a further probationary period, they then earn the right to wear the highly prestigious green beret and are officially recruited into the ARW.[25] On average, a member of the ARW spends less than 5 years serving with the unit. The average age of an ARW member is above 30 years old.

There are a number of platoons within the Ranger Wing, comprising five assault teams each, specialising in areas such as urban combat, explosives demolition, scuba diving and parachuting. A support platoon provides expertise in bomb disposal, medical treatment, maritime and aviation operations. Parachutists are qualified after 5 jumps (day and night, over land and sea), and must jump at least 5 times a year to retain their qualification ("wings"). Team members also undergo precision firing, bus/train/ferry/oil platform and aircraft assault training (anti-terror) as well as spying and observation techniques. The ARW has its own purpose built tactical training facilities, including shooting ranges, kill houses and various urban and rural settings. The main facility is known as "Tac Town", based in the Curragh. These facilities are also made available to the ERU.[35]

Notable missions[edit]

Personnel from the Army Ranger Wing have seen active service in a number of peacekeeping missions around the world with the United Nations, European Union (EU) and Partnership for Peace (PfP) of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (the Republic of Ireland is not a full member of NATO, due to its military neutrality).

Somalia[edit]

The ARW's first official mission overseas was in Somalia in 1993,[3] as part of UNOSOM II,[36] where a number of teams joined the United States led peacekeeping coalition designed to impose a cease-fire in the Baidoa region.[37] Over 100 Irish troops took part in the mission, during which the ARW wore US military uniforms to blend in with American troops.[38] The ARW mission in Somalia ended without loss of life.

East Timor[edit]

In 1999, Dáil Éireann (Irish parliament) voted to send the ARW to serve with the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET).[39] Mandated under a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution, INTERFET was a peacekeeping force deployed to restore security in the region, support and protect the UN Mission in East Timor, and to facilitate humanitarian assistance operations. The detachment of 40 ARW personnel was involved in peacekeeping duties with Canadian and New Zealand special forces near the West Timor border. There were no ARW casualties in East Timor, with Ireland's contribution to the mission ending in May 2004.[39][40]

Liberia[edit]

The ARW was deployed in Liberia following the Second Liberian Civil War as part of a peacekeeping contingent of more than 400 troops from the Defence Forces, in turn part of the mixed Irish-Swedish Force Reserve Battalion of the United Nations mission in the country, UNMIL (2003). One of their most successful missions during this deployment was the rescue of a large group of civilians captured by gunmen from renegade Liberian forces.[41] Acting on intelligence, a team of twenty heavily-armed Army Rangers were dropped via helicopters at the town of "Gbapa".[41] To avoid casualties among the hostages, the Ranger Wing implemented a policy of less-lethal intervention and, after surrounding a 40 foot container holding 35 hostages, rescued them and captured the rebel forces, including their commander.[41][42] The incident, which resulted in no Irish casualties, drew praise from the international community and boosted the reputation of Irish special forces.[43]

One member of the ARW, Sergeant Derec Mooney (33) of Dublin, was killed when his vehicle was involved in a motor vehicle accident during a convoy.[44]

Chad[edit]

ARW Special Reconnaissance Vehicle in Chad in 2007

An ARW force of more than 50 was deployed in 2008 to Abéché, Chad[45][3] as part of the peacekeeping European Union Force Chad/CAR mission. The ARW arrived in February 2008 and successfully completed reconnaissance missions to select a mission base for the Irish Defence Force and Dutch deployment (later named "Camp Ciara"). The ARW also identified threats on the ground to EU forces, and secured areas of the Chad-Darfur border.[46]

Other overseas missions[edit]

In October 2005, members of the Army Ranger Wing and Arabic-speaking intelligence officers from G2 traveled with an Irish Government party to Baghdad, Iraq,[23][47] following the abduction of Irish journalist Rory Carroll by al-Qaeda militants.[48] Following negotiations with Irish, British and American governments, Rory Carroll was released unharmed days later and returned safely to Ireland.[49] From 2006 to 2014, it has been reported that operatives from the ARW Intelligence Section and G2 were on the ground in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of various international missions.[50] As of 2014, members of the Army Ranger Wing are serving missions on three continents, including training foreign forces in Africa and the Balkans, protection duties in Lebanon for the United Nations mission and security and intelligence operations on the Israeli-Syrian border (Golan Heights).[3] It has been reported that the ARW could deploy 30 men in the Gulf of Aden in 2014 or 2015, subject to Government, Dáil and Presidential approval ("triple-lock"), to protect international shipping lanes against Somali pirates as part of the EU's Operation Atalanta.[51]

Domestic missions[edit]

The ARW has been involved in a number of domestic affairs in Ireland, in a security and intelligence capacity. Several international events in Dublin City have seen the ARW deployed in a supplementary role to the Garda Special Detective Unit (SDU) and ERU. These are done under the ATCP agreements. The unit had a significant role in protecting Queen Elizabeth II on her historic visit to the Republic of Ireland in mid 2011,[52] where "viable" assassination attempts by dissident republican terrorists were prevented.[53][54] The ARW had airborne sniper teams in three AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters, counter assault teams in the motorcade and a number of ground teams, including 20 close protection officers.[52] President of the United States Barack Obama also received protection from the ARW on his visit to Ireland just days after the visit of the Queen.[55][52] The two visits were the largest security operations ever undertaken on the island of Ireland,[56][57] both ultimately successful. The wing also formed part of the security apparatus for the 2013 Presidency of the Council of the European Union, held by Ireland for six months, and the 39th G8 summit (2013) in Northern Ireland.[58]

Casualties[edit]

Three members of the Irish Army Ranger Wing are known to have died while serving in the unit since its foundation in 1980, with one overseas.[59] Sergeant Derec Mooney, aged 33, of Blackrock, Dublin, died after the Land Rover Defender he was driving in a convoy overturned due to poor road conditions, 40km south of Monrovia, Liberia on 27 November 2003. His death was the only one to be publicly reported.[60]

Equipment[edit]

An Army Ranger Wing fast-rope exercise

Weapons[edit]

In addition to standard weapons of the Irish Defence Forces, weapons used by the ARW include;

Personnel weapons[edit]

Pistols

Combat shotguns

Assault rifles/Carbines

Submachine guns

Sniper rifles

Light machine guns

Support weapons[edit]

Vehicle-mounted weapons[edit]

Specialised equipment[edit]

ARW members in a Ford model special reconnaissance vehicle (parade in Dublin, 2006)

Terrain vehicles

Watercraft

Parachuting

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Unofficial Army Ranger Wing Motto Page". Archived from the original on 18 October 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Lavery, Michael. "The Rangers at 30". The Herald Newspaper. Retrieved 3 May 2014. 
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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°08′50.8″N 6°49′47.4″W / 53.147444°N 6.829833°W / 53.147444; -6.829833