March 23, 2005
Some interesting commando developments in the Balkans, where Special Operations was always a popular branch of the military. Most Balkan nations are cutting back on traditional (armor heavy) military forces and reorganizing many of their troops for peacekeeping and special operations. The UN pays well for peacekeepers, and the demand just keeps growing. But there is also strong interest in building larger, and more capable, Special Operations Forces (SOF). Serbia, for example, has a force of 60,000 SOF personnel, on paper at least. Some 55 percent of these are officers, or career NCOs, the balance being 9-month conscripts, backed up by some 190,000 reservists and 16,000 civilian paramilitary troops. All are officially rated as SOF, but there isnt enough money to train all of them, especially the conscripts and reservists, to SOF standards. Actual world class "operators" amounts to a Commando "brigade" of about 500 troops, plus a Ranger-type brigade of some 1,500, plus eight SOF battalions, composed of the conscripts plus regular cadres. There are also about two battalions of Interior Ministry SOF forces. What the Serbs have going for them is an SOF attitude, which enables them to get the conscripts and reservists trained to a pretty high level, given the time and money constraints.
Romania is taking a different approach. They're planning to raise one battalion (about 500 troops) of SOF, possibly specialized for mountain operations, with small supporting naval and air SOF detachments. They've decided to adopt the US SOF model, rather than a French or Russian model, which implies a decision by the Romanians to grow closer to Uncle Sam than their more traditional major power friends, Russia or France. This also means American trainers and methods, making it easier for Romanian SOF to work their American counterparts.