The Baltic Post, 19 June 2017
Särskilda Operationsgruppen (English: Special Operations Task Group, abbreviated (SOG) is a special forces unit within the Swedish Armed Forces which has been active since 2011. The unit is headquartered at Karlsborg Fortress in Karlsborg, Västra Götaland County.
Särskilda operationsgruppen was formed in 2011 by merging the Special Protection Group (SSG) and the Special Reconnaissance Group (SIG).
The Special Operations Task Group (SOG) answers directly to the Supreme Commander and the Director Special Forces. The unit, combined with the Special Forces Command, comprises the Swedish Armed Forces Special Forces (FM SF). In addition to this, there are several special forces support units (FM SOF). The personnel are specially selected, trained and equipped units for air, sea and land transportation, technical, logistical and medical support. For example: Special Maritime Transportation unit (STE), Special Signals Group (SSE) and the Section for Special Operative Technology (SOT).
SOG consists of two so-called response units (IE). IE1 focuses on combat tasks (Direct Action) and IE2 focuses on intelligence gathering (Special Reconnaissance). The requirements to IE2 are slightly lower than for IE1. In IE2 there are also female intelligence operators.
What most people see of the operators is when they are employed as personal protection for the Supreme Commander or other high-ranking officers of the Swedish Armed Forces when they visit Swedish areas of operation. However, their most frequent usage is during multi-national special operations such as Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance and Military Assistance.
SOG combat operations are of great strategic importance that cannot be accomplished by conventional forces or weapon systems. Combat missions can be to eliminate high-value targets or objects of great importance to the enemy, to conduct complex rescue operations of Swedish personnel held captive or hostage, or to gather time-critical intelligence through action.
Special reconnaissance and intelligence gathering is intended to gather information of great tactical importance about the enemy´s activities, enemy personnel or other bits of information of operational significance.
Special Forces can also be tasked with advising and training foreign military units as part of an international peace-keeping military operation.
The unit maintains a high degree of readiness and can be deployed on short notice within a 6000 km radius of Stockholm and can operate in any environment, for example jungle, desert, mountain/alpine, sub-arctic and urban. The unit is deployed on request by the UN, EU or NATO but must then be sanctioned on a political level.
The unit is lightly equipped for greater mobility, both tactically and strategically. SOG strive for simplicity in planning and execution, and unpredictability through unconventional and flexible methods.
Due to operational security, the unit’s capabilities, equipment, operational methods, previous or on-going operations and the identities of their personnel are classified.
The SOG’s predecessors, the SSG and SIG, participated in operations in the Balkans, Congo, Tchad and the Central African Republic. Swedish special forces has also been continuously deployed in Afghanistan from the beginning of the conflict up until the withdrawal of ISAF forces in 2014. From 2015 a contingent of around 30 operators from the SOG along with its support units has been participating in Operation Inherent Resolve, acting as trainers for Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
Each operator has a broader skill base than regular soldiers and one or two patrol skills at which he or she is exceptionally skilled. A typical SOG team consists of four operators: A team leader, a demolitions expert, a radio operator and a combat medic. Each patrol can be augmented with, EOD technicians, JTAC-specialists or snipers.
Selection is open for Armed Forces members of both sexes who are at least eligible for specialist officer’s training and can only be attempted once unless mitigating circumstances caused the candidate to fail on the first attempt.
The candidates are advised to prepare themselves at least six months prior to the selection course and are invited to attend a pre-selection weekend where they will be tested and advised on their likelihood of success or failure and also where they need to improve.
The selection process takes two weeks and is held once a year. Historically, candidates for SOG´s predecessor, the SSG were sought out by the unit and invited to attempt selection. Selection for SOG however, is advertised on the Armed Forces website and is open for anyone who meets the basic requirements. The part of selection consists of an extremely grueling field exercise, stretching over more than a week, where the candidates are tested on their fitness, field craft and land navigation and the tests are conducted during great stress. The second week consists of psychological tests, similar to those undertaken by fighter pilots. They are also tested for their predisposition for phobias, such as heights and confined spaces. If the candidate is successful, he will begin the basic operator course which lasts for 12 months and is divided into three blocks:
- Basic combat skills
- Patrol skills
- Special skills course
Once completed, the operator will be put in an operational team and can be deployed with the unit.
Personnel applying to join the unit as EOD or JTAC operators undergo the same selection process as the normal operators, but do a shorter 8 month basic operator course, after which they continue with specialist training in the EOD or JTAC function.
Operators train at their own compound at a secret location near Karlsborg, which, among shooting ranges, also features a large multi-story CQB-building, with bullet-absorbing lining in its walls. The building also facilitates helicopter insertions on its roof.
The SOG coat of arms is blazoned thusly: Upon a black shield is a six-pointed star in silver in the upper left corner. It was developed by the Armed Forces Board of Traditions and symbolizes the unit´s ability of un-conventional problem solving, effectiveness of duty and clandestine operations, and the asymmetrically positioned star symbolises asymmetric warfare.
The unit insignia, worn by each operator on the combat uniform consists of a winged Norse dagger (Seax) with an asymmetrically positioned six-pointed star.
Personnel within the Swedish Special Operations Forces, SOG and its support units also wear an olive green beret with a black, embroidered cap badge, the only non-metal cap badge within the Swedish Armed Forces.