Portugal is a European country with a long history and a great military tradition, but young in the field of special operations.
On April 16, 1960, the Portuguese Army created the so-called Centro de Instrução de Operações Especiais (CIOE, Special Operations Instruction Center), based in Lamego, in the north of Portugal, and formed by from Infantry Regiment nº9, heir to the Terço Velho de Entre Douro e Minho, a unit formed in imitation of the Spanish Old Tercios during the Restoration War (1640-1668) by which Portugal separated from Spain.
Within the CIOE several Companhias de Caçadores Especiais (CCE, Companies of Special Hunters) were formed, commando-type units that were specialized in anti-guerrilla fighting, and also in combat. in mountains and in psychological warfare operations. The CCE acted in the conflicts that broke out in the Portuguese overseas territories (Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau) between 1961 and 1974, demonstrating high preparation and motivation.
The CIOE was mainly a training center until 1981, since then it became the command of the Portuguese Army for this type of operations. The CIOE was renamed in 2006 as Centro de Tropas de Operações Especiais (CTOE, Center of Special Operations Troops), since then integrated into the Rapid Reaction Brigade of the Portuguese Army.
The Força de Operações Especiais (FOE, Special Operations Force) was formed as the operational unit of the CTOE, being the equivalent of the Special Operations Groups (GOE) of the Spanish Army, of the Delta Force of the United States Army and the Special Air Service (SAS) of the British Army. Like its counterparts in other countries, the FOE is trained for special operations missions in the most varied environments, including underwater demolition, psychological warfare, counterterrorism, mountain operations and airborne operations, among others. The members of the FOE are popularly known as "Rangers" in the Portuguese Army.
FOE operators are usually among the participants of the EMMOE Special Operations Course in Spain, as well as specialized courses in the United States, the United Kingdom , Germany and other countries. The CTOE is responsible for training FOE operators in various capacities, such as assault, anti-terrorism, anti-insurgency, precision shooting, psychological operations, long-range reconnaissance, irregular operations and mountaineering.
The structure of the FOE consists of a General Staff, a Headquarters Company (which includes communications units, health care, precision shooting, aerostatic control, drones and support) and six units operational called SOTU(A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2).
To carry out its missions, the FOE uses various types of light weapons (Glock 17 and H&K P30 pistols; H&K MP5 submachine guns; H&K HK416, HK417 and G36 assault rifles; H&K MG4 machine guns, FN Mag and FN Minimi; Barrett M95 and M107 precision rifles, H&K G28 and Accuracy International AXMC, AWSM and Artic Warfare) and also heavy weapons (Browning M-2 machine guns and Carl Gustav grenade launchers), among others.
As for vehicles, the FOE uses the Uro VAMTAC ST-5 VMOE (the special operations version of this Spanish vehicle), the Land Rover Defender 110 and the Ranger Special Operations Vehicle (derived from the previous one) and several Polaris brand light vehicles (the MRZR D2 and D4 and the Sportsman MV850).
In terms of uniformity, FOE operators have a green beret as their distinctive garment, like similar special operations units in other countries. The members of the FOE wear the emblem of their unit on their berets, which includes a hunter's horn, a dagger and a laurel branch. Until a few years ago, FOE operators wore uniforms with a local version of the British DPM camouflage, called Padrão Floresta, also used by the rest of the soldiers of the Portuguese Army, in addition to accessories in Multicam camouflage . Starting in 2018, they began to incorporate the new M18 camouflage of the Portuguese Army, an original and very well achieved mix of the American Multicam pattern and the German Flecktarn.
FOE soldiers have participated in numerous international missions alongside allied nations and also in peacekeeping missions, in places such as Congo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, East Timor, Afghanistan, Somalia, Uganda, Mali, Iraq, Colombia, Lithuania and the Central African Republic.
Main photo: Exército Português. An FOE operator with an H&K HK416 assault rifle.
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