Army Ranger Wing

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Irish Army Ranger Wing
Irish: Sciathán Fiannóglaigh an Airm
ARW shoulder flash.gif
ARW unit insignia.gif
Shoulder flash and insignia of the Army Ranger Wing
Active 16 March 1980 (1980-03-16) – present[1]
Country  Ireland
Branch Army
Type Special forces
Role Special operations
Counter-terrorism
Size Classified
~ 150 operators[2][3]
Part of Badge of the Irish Defence Forces.svg Defence Forces
Garrison/HQ DFTC, Curragh Camp, County Kildare[4]
Nickname(s) "Fiannóglaigh/Fianóglach"[5]
"Devils of Kildare"[6]
Motto(s) Glaine ár gcroí, Neart ár ngéag, Agus beart de réir ár mbriathar[7]
("The cleanliness of our hearts, The strength of our limbs, And our commitment to our promise")[7]
Colors Black, Red and Gold[8]
Engagements UNOSOM II
INTERFET
UNPROFOR
UNFICYP
UNIFIL
MINURSO
UNMIL
MINURCAT
Insignia
Green Beret ARW bottle green beret.gif
Abbreviation ARW

The Army Ranger Wing (ARW) (Irish: Sciathán Fiannóglaigh an Airm, "SFA") is the special operations force of the Irish Defence Forces, the military of Ireland. A branch of the Irish Army, it also recruits personnel from the Naval Service and Air Corps. It serves at the behest of the Defence Forces and Government of Ireland, operating internally and overseas, and reports directly to the Chief of Staff. The ARW was established in 1980 with the primary role of counter terrorism and evolved to both special operations and counter terrorism roles from 2000 after the end of conflict in Northern Ireland.[8][9] The unit is based in the Curragh Camp, County Kildare. The 2015 White Paper on Defence announced that the strength of the Wing would be considerably increased.[10]

Rangers have served abroad in a number of international peacekeeping missions, including in Somalia, East Timor, Liberia, and Chad.[8] The ARW trains with special forces units around the world, particularly in Europe.[11] The ARW in its domestic counter terrorism role trains with the Garda Síochána (national police) specialist armed intervention unit, the Emergency Response Unit (ERU).[12]

Roles[edit]

Rangers on a maritime counter terrorism exercise in 2011
Rangers on a counter terrorism exercise in 2010

The Army Ranger Wing roles are divided between wartime special operations ("Green Role") and anti-terrorism ("Black Role"), the latter known formally as military Aid to the Civil Power (ATCP):-[13]

Military tasks (Green Role)[edit]

Offensive operations behind enemy lines

Defensive operations

Aid to the civil power tasks (Black Role)[edit]

  • anti-hijack operations
  • hostage rescue operations
  • airborne and seaborne interventions
  • search operations - specialist tasks on land or sea
  • pursuit operations
  • recapture of terrorist-held objectives
  • VIP security operations/close protection of VIPs
  • contingency planning to counter terrorist/subversive threats

History[edit]

In the late 1960s, the Defence Forces established Special Assault Groups (SAG) in the Army to meet security challenges on the border with Northern Ireland.[14] A number of Army officers attended the United States Army Ranger School in Fort Benning, Georgia who returned to conduct Army Ranger courses in Ireland with the first held in 1969.[14] Among its founding officers was later-to-be Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Dermot Earley.[15] Special Assaults Group were formed comprising 40 Rangers trained in all arms, engineering and ordnance techniques.[14] By the mid 1970s, the Defence Forces had over 300 Rangers who conducted support operations on the request of the Garda Síochána.[14] Students on these courses were selected from among all ranks and units of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps.[16] The courses improved standards of physical endurance, marksmanship, individual military skills and small unit tactics.[16] In December 1977, the Garda Síochána formed a counter terrorist unit named the Special Task Force (STF) to operate in border regions that was later to become the Emergency Response Unit.[17] In 1978, following an assessment of the SAG, it was decided to consolidate the Rangers into a new special forces unit with a counter terrorist capability following an increase in international and national terrorism.[1][8][14][18] The Army Ranger Wing (ARW) was formally established, in accordance with the Defence Act, by Government order on 16 March 1980.[1][16][19] The ARW received its colours in 1981; Black, Red and Gold, signifying Secrecy, Risk and Excellence.[8] In 1991, the ARW was granted permission to wear the Green beret.[8]

Name and motto[edit]

The unit's official name is Sciathán Fiannóglaigh an Airm,[20] which is translated from the Irish language into English as "Army Ranger Wing". Fiannóglaigh (representing "Rangers") is an amalgamation of two words. Fiann is closest to the English word "warrior", 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.[21] 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 is taken from an old Fianna poem, in Irish it is: "Glaine ár gcroí, Neart ár ngéag, Agus beart de réir ár mbriathar", which translates as: "The purity of our hearts, the strength of our limbs and our commitment to our promise" in English.[7]

Structure[edit]

The Officer Commanding 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 (DFHQ).[22] Information on the numerical strength of the unit and the identity of its personnel is restricted.[23][24][25] Estimates variously put the strength at "well over a hundred" or between 140 to 150 personnel.[2][3][12] In 2015, the Defence White Paper announced an increase in strength with reports of the Wing doubling in size.[3][10][26] The Wing is divided into operational task units each comprising several assault teams relative to each operator's area of speciality.[27][28][29][1] After serving one year in an assault team an operator can apply to join a specialist team such as combat diving team, free fall parachuting team and sniping team.[30][31] An example of an operational task unit is the Special Operations Maritime Task Unit (SOMTU).[31][32] Support platoons provide expertise in bomb disposal, medical treatment, maritime and aviation operations.[citation needed] The Army Ranger Wing is headquartered at the Defence Forces Training Centre (DFTC) in the Curragh Camp, with Rangers required to live within a defined radius.[2] Training is carried out nationwide at a number of Department of Defence properties, including Lynch Camp in Kilworth, County Cork.[33]

The ARW is on immediate call 24/7, 365 days a year for operations throughout the state and abroad. The ARW is on five days notice to deploy overseas on special operations.[9] The ARW is on a 2 hour alert for anti-terrorist operations to deploy anywhere on land in the Republic of Ireland using Air Corps aircraft and up to 200 miles out to sea via the Naval Service vessels.[34] 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.[citation needed] The Wing has on occasion been tasked for search and rescue (SAR) operations, as the ARW have trained Arctic survival specialists.[35]

Besides sanctioned international military missions, the unit may be deployed overseas to protect Irish diplomatic missions and diplomats (particularly in times of war or civil unrest in host countries),[36] to provide close protection to members of the Irish government travelling overseas,[37][38] to rescue kidnapped Irish citizens[28][39] or to conduct intelligence operations[citation needed].

The ARW is equipped with SINCGAR ITT, Harris and Racal communications equipment, which have an inbuilt encryption and frequency-hopping systems.[22] It is also equipped with satellite communications, through the ARW C3 (Command, Control & Communications) function and in cooperation with the Communications and Information Services Corps (CIS).[22] This means ARW teams can communicate with their GHQ from anywhere in the world. The Army Ranger Wing Intelligence Section has the ability to remotely intercept electronic and telephonic communications,[40] working with the Directorate of Military Intelligence (G2)[41] and Army CIS Corps.[42]

Selection and training[edit]

ARW sniper course in 2013
Rangers fast rope from an AW139 helicopter in a maritime counter terrorism exercise on the Irish Sea in 2011

Candidates must be serving members of the Permanent Defence Forces (PDF) from any of the three branches (Army, Air Corps or Naval Service).[1][43] The candidate must be medically fit and have attained the rank of at least 3 Star Private (or equivalent).[43] There is no age limit to attempt selection.[44] Selection has been open to females since 1984, however, none have been successful.[2][45][46] Usually 40 to 80 candidates attempt selection annually.[44]

The ARW recently revised its selection and assessment procedures combining the previous Selection course & Basic Skills course into a new single course named the Special Operations Force Qualification Course (SOFQ).[12][27] The SOFQ is conducted over 10 months (40 weeks).[47] The Selection Course had been conducted over 3 weeks after being reduced in 2006 from 4 weeks.[44][48][49] The Basic Skills course had been conducted over 5 months.[44][48][50]

The SOFQ is divided into 5 distinct modules:-[27]

  1. Assessment & Evaluation
  2. Skills & Leadership
  3. SOF Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures TTPs
  4. Counter-Terrorism Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures TTPs
  5. Continuation training

Module 1 assesses a candidate's level of physical fitness, motivation and suitability to progress on towards further modules (2-5) of the SOFQ course similar to the previous selection course.[27] Candidates must pass a series of fitness assessments, map reading and individual navigation assessments, claustrophobia, water confidence, and psychometric testing.[27] The final phase of Module 1 includes individual navigation exercises with set weights over unknown distances and completion times which can be over 250 km, culminating in an additional 65 km cross-country march carrying a 65 lb combat load in the Dublin & Wicklow mountain range.[27][47] On average candidates get between four to five hours sleep per a night.[44] Officer and senior NCO candidates are subjected to separate, rigorous scrutiny of their planning and decision-making skills to determine the suitability.[27] The length of Module 1 is 3 weeks similar to the previous selection course length.[47] Typically 85% of candidates fail Module 1.[47] Between 2000 and 2005, approximately 240 attempted selection, including a female, with 50 successful.[25]

Modules 2 to 4 consist of assessment and training in weapons and marksmanship, live-fire tactical training, special operations tactics, techniques, and procedures (green role) and counter terrorism tactics, techniques, and procedures (black role), combat water survival, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Extraction (SERE), communications and medical training.[27] Upon successful completion of Module 3, candidates are awarded the Fianóglach shoulder tab and are provisionally assigned to the unit. Upon successful completion of Module 4, candidates are awarded the distinctive ARW green beret.[27]

Module 5 Continuation training is the conclusion of the SOFQ course, and candidates are posted to an operational ARW task unit as an assault team operator.[27] 3 Star Privates (and equivalents) who are successful in completing the SOFQ course pass out at the rank of Acting Corporal, and the lowest commissioned rank in the unit is that of Captain.[32] All candidates must successfully complete the basic parachute course of five (5) static line jumps from 3,000 feet using T10 round canopies.[51][30]

As of 2012, it was reported that since the units inception less than 400 had completed training to become a Ranger.[52]

Further specialist training courses for Rangers include advanced combat medical skills, military freefall, combat diving (taught by the specialist Naval Service Diving Section) and boat handling, close protection and handling of advanced weapons.[27][30]

Prior to 2000 with the The Troubles, approximately 85% of Ranger training had been dedicated to counter-terrorism.[53] The average age of a Ranger is 31 years old with the eldest 44 years old.[44] On average, a member of the ARW spends between 5 and 10 years serving with the unit before being returned to their home unit bringing their skills with them, but it is not uncommon for some to spend 15 years in the unit.[30]

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.[54] Other ranges are located in County Wicklow. These facilities are also made available to the ERU.[55]

The ARW trains with other military and law enforcement special operations forces, including;

The ARW and ERU train specifically for marauding terrorist firearms/explosive attacks.[61][62]

In 2015, the Irish Defence Forces signed agreements with their British counterparts to deepen joint special forces peacekeeping co-operation,[63] extending from previous deployments with British special forces in a number of combat zones.[64]

Notable missions[edit]

Rangers 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 policy of military neutrality). Individual deployments include Lebanon, Bosnia, Cyprus, Iraq and Western Sahara.[57]

Somalia[edit]

The ARW's first deployment overseas was in Somalia in 1993 as part of UNOSOM II where a number of teams joined the United States led peacekeeping coalition tasked with imposing a ceasefire in the Baidoa region.[65][66] Over 100 Irish troops took part in the mission, during which the ARW wore US military uniforms to blend in with American troops.[67] The ARW mission in Somalia ended without loss of life to the unit.

East Timor[edit]

Rangers on a reconnaissance patrol in East Timor

In October 1999, No 1 IRCON (Irish Contingent), an ARW platoon of 30 Rangers deployed to East Timor as part of the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) to restore peace and security following the independence referendum in August.[68][69][70][71] The Australian led mission had begun nearly a month earlier with an allied special forces coalition of Australian Special Air Service, New Zealand Special Air Service and British Special Boat Service (SBS) named Response Force.

No 1 IRCON was embedded in the reconnaissance company in the 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Regiment (1 RNZIR) Battalion Group together with an infantry company from the Canadian 3rd Battalion, Royal 22 Regiment bringing the battalion to full strength.[71] The Battalion Group based in Suai was responsible for securing the south west of the country from pro-Indonesian militia and Indonesian military (TNI) that included a long section of the border between East and Indonesian controlled West Timor.[72]

No 1 IRCON completed a four month deployment followed by No 2 IRCON. In February 2000, INTERFET handed over command of military operations to the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). No 2 IRCON completed its four month deployment in June 2000 with subsequent rotations from infantry platoons.[70] The Battalion Group had several contacts (fire fights) and a number of incidents with threat forces sustaining no casualties.[73]

Liberia[edit]

The ARW was deployed in Liberia in the aftermath of the Second Liberian Civil War as part of a peacekeeping contingent of more than 400 troops from the Irish Army, 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.[74] Acting on intelligence, a team of twenty heavily-armed Rangers were dropped via helicopters at the town of "Gbapa".[74] To avoid casualties among the hostages, the ARW implemented a policy of less-lethal intervention and, after surrounding a 40-foot container holding 35 hostages, rescued the innocent civilians and captured the rebel forces, including their commander.[74][75] The incident, which resulted in no Irish casualties, drew praise from the international community and boosted the reputation of the ARW worldwide.[76]

Ranger Sergeant Derec Mooney (33) of Dublin, was killed when his vehicle was involved in a motor vehicle accident during a transport convoy.[77]

Chad[edit]

ARW vehicle patrol in Ford F-350 SRV in Chad in 2008

In February 2008, a Special Forces Task Group of 53 Rangers deployed to Abéché in Chad as part of the European Union Force Chad/CAR based at Camp Croci.[78] The ARW was an Initial Entry Force together with other EUFOR special forces that conducted special reconnaissance within the Irish assigned south eastern Chad area of operations.[79][80] The ARW was later based at Multi-National Base-South at Goz Beïda known as Camp Ciara in the area of operations proving security during the construction of the base. The ARW conducted vehicle patrols along the Chad / Sudan border in their Ford F-350 Special Reconnaissance Vehicles.[28][81][82] The ARW mission ended in June 2008 with the arrival of the 97th Infantry Battalion.[83]

Other overseas missions[edit]

In October 2005, Rangers and Arabic-speaking intelligence officers from Military Intelligence were deployed to Baghdad, Iraq,[39][84] following the abduction of Irish journalist Rory Carroll by al-Qaeda militants.[85] Following negotiations with Irish, British and American governments, Rory Carroll was released unharmed days later and returned safely to Ireland.[86]

From 2006 to 2014, it has been reported that operatives from the ARW Intelligence Section and Military Intelligence Directorate were on the ground in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of various international missions.[87]

In 2012, it was reported that the ARW could deploy 30 Rangers in the Gulf of Aden, subject to Government, Dáil and UN approval ("triple-lock"), to protect international shipping lanes against Somali pirates as part of the EU's Operation Atalanta.[88]

As of 2014, Rangers were 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).[12]

Reported domestic missions[edit]

ARW maritime counter terrorism exercise on the Irish Sea in 2011

In November 1987, the ARW was tasked with setting up a checkpoint in Urlingford, County Kilkenny to assist Gardaí in catching suspects linked to the kidnapping of a dentist and his family by the IRA, in an ordeal during which the dentist had two of his fingers cut off by the gang and a Garda officer suffered serious gunshot wounds. Acting on information, Gardaí were expecting a green BMW car with two of the gangs suspects. As the car approached, snipers from the ARW opened fire more than a dozen times killing one suspect and seriously injuring another. The surviving IRA terrorist had been linked to 26 murders and was jailed for 40 years by the Special Criminal Court.[89]

In January 1997, two teams of 12 from the ARW were sent to Mountjoy Prison in central Dublin where three prisoners armed with knives had taken two prison officers hostage and barricaded themselves inside the Medical Unit where they were threatening to kill the prison officers. The ARW took up positions ready to blow down the steel door to the unit and eliminate the threat posed by the hostage-takers. The siege ended within a few hours of the ARW being called in, after the hostage takers were made aware of their presence during negotiations and surrendered.[90]

In May 2011, the unit had a major role in protecting Queen Elizabeth II on her state visit to Ireland,[91] where "viable" assassination attempts by dissident republican terrorists were prevented.[92][93] 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.[91]

Also in May 2011, President of the United States Barack Obama received protection from the ARW on his visit to Ireland just days after the visit of the Queen.[91][94] The two visits were the largest civil security operations ever undertaken in the Republic of Ireland,[95][96] both ultimately successful.

From January to July 2013, the wing formed part of the security apparatus for the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, held by Ireland for six months, which included supplying sniper and spotter teams. Also in June 2013, they helped secure the Republic of Ireland–United Kingdom border on land and at sea as part of the security operation for the 39th G8 summit in Northern Ireland.[97]

Casualties[edit]

Three Rangers are known to have died while serving in the unit since its foundation in 1980, one of them overseas. 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, 40 km south of Monrovia, Liberia on 27 November 2003.[98] Sgt Kevin Mayne (1987) and RQMS Patsy Quirke (1998) also lost their lives while serving in the unit,[99] however no details regarding the cause of their deaths are publicly available. No other losses have been publicly disclosed.

Equipment[edit]

Weapons[edit]

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

Personal weapons[edit]

Name Origin Type Caliber Photo Notes
Pistols
SIG Sauer P226  Germany
  Switzerland
Semi-automatic pistol 9×19mm Parabellum SIG Sauer P226 neu.jpg [59][100]
SIG Sauer P228  Germany
  Switzerland
Semi-automatic pistol 9×19mm Parabellum SIG-P228-p1030033.jpg [2][59]
Heckler & Koch USP  Germany Semi-automatic pistol 9×19mm Parabellum HK USP 9mm Pragl.jpg Suppressed[59]
Submachine guns
Heckler & Koch MP5  Germany Submachine gun 9×19mm Parabellum Heckler Koch MP5.jpg Including MP5A3, MP5SD6, MP5F and MP5K variants[59][100]
FN P90  Belgium Personal defense weapon FN 5.7×28mm FN-P90 2.jpg [59][101][102]
Combat shotguns
Benelli M3T (Tactical)  Italy Semi-automatic shotgun 12 gauge Benelli M3 Super 90.jpg [59]
Benelli M4 Super 90  Italy Semi-automatic shotgun 12 gauge Benelli m4 2.jpg [59]
Franchi SPAS-12  Italy Combat shotgun 12 gauge SPAS-12 stock folded.jpg [59]
Remington Model 870  United States Pump action 12 gauge Flickr - ~Steve Z~ - 870.jpg [59][100]
Assault rifles/Carbines
Heckler & Koch HK416  Germany Assault rifle 5.56×45mm NATO HK416.jpg Suppressed[59]
Steyr AUG A1  Austria Bullpup assault rifle 5.56×45mm NATO AUG A1 508mm 04.jpg [59]
Steyr AUG A3  Austria Bullpup assault rifle 5.56×45mm NATO Steyr AUG A3.jpg [59]
Sniper rifles
Heckler & Koch HK417  Germany Battle rifle 7.62×51mm NATO ARW 30th Anniversary - 4478683088.jpg Suppressed[59]
Accuracy International Arctic Warfare Magnum  United Kingdom Bolt action sniper rifle .338 Lapua Magnum L115A3 sniper rifle.jpg [30][59][103]
Accuracy International AW50  United Kingdom Bolt action sniper rifle 12.7×99mm NATO [104][105] [30][59][103]
Light machine guns
FN Minimi  Belgium Light machine gun 5.56×45mm NATO M249 FN MINIMI DA-SC-85-11586 c1.jpg Para[2][59]

Support weapons[edit]

ACMAT VLRA used by the ARW as a 'mothership' to resupply Ford F-350 SRV
Ranger parachuting for ARW 30th Anniversary in 2010

Vehicle-mounted weapons[edit]

Specialised equipment[edit]

Terrain vehicles

Watercraft

Parachuting

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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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