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Published on 13 Dec 2014 | over 3 years ago

What do Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone, Charlie Sheen, Demi Moore and Steven Seagal all have in common? At one time or another they have all portrayed special forces soldiers on the big screen and satiated the public’s love of action movies that involve elite military forces. In the world of the military, perhaps no one group fascinates us or takes hold of our imagination more than the special-forces.

On top of the ‘regular’ military forces, most nations have an elite group of service personnel who are held to a higher standard of requirements and training. Some of these groups are well publicized and have been covered in the media recently. Others aren’t as well-known with only allegations or myths surfacing over the years to provide any clue of their existence.

10. GIGN – France

Starting off our list are the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN) from France. The GIGN, like many European special-forces, trace their origins back to the hostage massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The French had also experienced a prison mutiny the year before in which hostages had been taken and murdered.

The result of these experiences contributed to the creation of a force which today stands at around 400 members. Specializing in anti-terrorist and hostage rescue, the GIGN have seen their share of action. Past operations have included rescuing 30 school children held hostage in Djibouti, capturing war criminals in Bosnia, battling Somali pirates and, of course, the dramatic assault and hostage rescue of passengers aboard Air France flight 8969 in Marseille in 1994.

9. SSG – Pakistan

In 1956, the Pakistani Army created its own special forces known as the Special Services Group (SSG). This force was modelled on the British SAS and US special-forces and its size remains highly classified. Selection for this force is rigorous and only 1 in 4 recruits end up making it through the nine-month training, airborne school and extensive hand-to-hand combat and physical conditioning elements. The SSG is trained for a variety of environments including mountain, desert, jungle and underwater.

During the early Cold War, SSG forces trained and served alongside US special-forces. It is alleged some of these forces served in Afghanistan, fighting alongside the mujahedeen against the Soviets in the 1980s. India alleges that SSG forces have attacked their soldiers on more than one occasion in volatile border regions shared by the two nations. More recently, the SSG has focused on local anti-terrorist operations, taking part in ending the 2009 attacks on the Lahore police academy and rescuing the hostages of another 2009 attack on the Pakistan Military Headquarters.

8. Sayeret Matkal – Israel

This Israeli special-forces unit is focused on reconnaissance, anti-terrorism and hostage rescue outside of Israel. Sayeret Matkal was formed in 1957 to fill a void in Israel’s special-forces and is made up of candidates selected for their high physical and intellectual characteristics.

The most famous of these, Operation Entebbe/Thunderbolt, demonstrated the determination and reach of Sayeret Matkal to the world. The operation came to be after several Palestinian and pro-Palestinian terrorists had taken hostages onboard an airliner which was flown to Entebbe Airport in Uganda.

7. EKO-Cobra – Austria

As a result of the attack on the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Austria created the Einsatzkommando Cobra for anti-terrorist operations. The force is made up of 450 men who have served in the Austrian Federal Police Force. Training, like every special-force, involves several months of specialized courses focused on marksmanship, languages, hand-to-hand combat and tactical and assault training.

Of course, only those who pass strict psychological and physical testing qualify for the full training. In order to be as diverse as possible, extra specialized training often follows this ‘general’ training and focuses on things like explosives, diving and sniping. While EKO-Cobra hasn’t had any sorts of operations like the Sayeret Matkal, they have ended a hostage taking in Graz-Karlau prison in 1996 and are the only counter-terrorist team to end a hijacking while the plane was in mid-flight.

6. Delta Force – USA

The full name of this group is the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. In addition to counter-terrorism operations, Delta Force can also take part in hostage rescue, raids, reconnaissance and less covert direct action operations. The group was formed in 1977 as a result of an increasing number of high-profile terrorist operations. Since then it has been composed largely of soldiers who have served in US special-forces like the Green Berets or Rangers.

To be considered for training, potential candidates must be male, at least 21 years old, score highly on an aptitude test and be between the rank of corporal and master sergeant.
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