As published in the July/August 2019 issue of An Cosantóir Magazine
Report by Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald
The Defence Forces Special Forces unit is officially titled as ‘Sciathán Fianóglach an Airm’ and translates as ‘The Army Ranger Wing’ (ARW) – as there is no direct English translation of the term ‘Fianóglach’ so the internationally recognised designation of ‘Ranger’ is used. The word ‘Fianóglach’ links the traditions of the ARW to ‘Na Fianna’, the legendary Irish warriors, with the present-day Óglaigh na hÉireann or Irish Defence Forces. In order to be eligible to undergo the selection process, you must be a serving member of the Defence Forces.
“Glaine ár gCroí, Neart ár nGéag, Agus beart de réir ár mbriathar” (“The cleanliness of our hearts, The strength of our limbs, And our commitment to our promise”) – The ARW motto is taken from an old Fianna poem and continues the link with Na Fianna.
The ARW’s roles are divided into conventional warfare offensive operations behind enemy lines, like long-range patrols (LRP), raids, ambushes, sabotage plus other tasks, and specialist aid to the civil power (ATCP) in anti-terrorist taskings including anti-hijack, hostage rescue, airborne and seaborne interventions amongst others. The ARW has also an established role in the advancement of standards within the DF, including testing and evaluation of equipment, organising and participating in training exercises to name a few.
The ARW has significantly revised its selection and assessment procedures for prospective unit members and their selection and basic skills courses have both been combined into a single 36-week Special Operations Force Qualification (SOFQ) Course. SOFQ requires a high level of physical fitness, navigation skills, personal motivation and the aspiration to serve in the ARW. The SOFQ syllabus is designed to test and assess all aspects of the candidate’s character, military skills, ability and general suitability to become a member of the ARW and on successful completion provides the potential unit member with all the skills and knowledge necessary to function in the role of a Special Operations Force (SOF) Assault Team Operator.
The SOFQ course is divided into five distinct modules: The aim of Module One is to assess the candidate’s levels of physical fitness, motivation and suitability to progress onwards. During this phase, all candidates must pass a series of fitness assessments, map reading and individual navigation assessments, claustrophobia, water confidence and psychometric testing in order to progress. The candidate is then assessed further by a series of individual navigation exercises with set weights, but unknown distances and completion times. This culminates in a 60km cross-country march carrying a 65lb combat load. Officer candidates are also subjected to rigorous assessment of their planning and decision-making skills, to assess suitability to achieve a command appointment in the ARW.
Modules Two to Five consists of further training and assessment in areas such as SOF weapons and marksmanship, live-fire tactical training, SOF conventional and Counter-Terrorism TTPS, combat water survival, SERE, communications and medical training. Candidates are awarded the ‘Fianóglach’ tab on successful completion of Module Three and are assigned to the unit. On completion of Module Four, they are awarded the distinctive ARW green beret. On conclusion of the SOFQ course candidates are posted to an operational ARW task unit as an Assault Team Operator and can expect to undertake numerous further training in areas such as advanced medical skills, military freefall, combat diving and boat handling, close protection and advanced weapons skills.
This training would not be well known or publicly advertised, nor would the ARW operatives, who remain in the background in order to protect their identities and that of the unit. Thus, the unit and its members are shrouded in secrecy both within the Defence Forces and to the public.
Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.
To read more about the Army Ranger Wing, get Shadow Warriors, the real story behind the Army Ranger Wing published by Mercier Press in April 2020.
“In the spring of 1980, the Irish Department of Defence sanctioned the establishment of a new unit within the Irish Defence Forces and the Irish Army Ranger Wing (ARW) came into being. In the decades that followed, its soldiers have been deployed on active service at home and abroad, generally without the knowledge of the wider public. The ARW is made up of seasoned men from across the island, who are selected through tough competition. Only the best of the best make it through and are trained in an extraordinary range of specialist skills. Being one of these elite operators takes more than simply being a skilled soldier – it means believing you are the best.”
Shadow Warriors tells the story behind the creation of the ARW, from its origins in specialist counter-terrorism training in the late 1960s and the preparation of small unconventional units in the 1970s to the formation of the ARW itself in 1980 and its subsequent history. The first and only authoritative account in the public domain of this specialist unit, authors Paul O’Brien and Sergeant Wayne Fitzgerald have been granted access to the closed and clandestine world of Ireland’s Special Forces, who train hard, fight harder and face unconventional types of warfare, yet prefer to stay out of the limelight.
ISBN: 978-1-78117-762-4 – Price: €12.99 – Also available on Amazon, Book Depository, Waterstones and Easons.com and can be ordered in all book stores.
The Kindle ebook version is available on amazon for €4.20 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadow-Warriors-Paul-OBrien-ebook/dp/B085VW2P4H