Special Operations: Turkish Commandos Go Long

May 26, 2008: Turkey is removing conscripts and reserve officers from its 30,000 man commando force. The six Commando Brigades are similar to the U.S. Ranger Regiment. The troops are carefully selected and intensively trained. But conscripts only serve fifteen months, so the commandos lose their young troops just as they have become effective. Currently, 80 percent of the commando troops are conscripts and reserve officers (college grads who took military training along with their academic subjects, and are only on active duty for a year). The other twenty percent are career NCOs and officers.

Getting in the commandos was always a big deal for conscripts, as it is a prestigious outfit. But from now on, conscripts will have to volunteer to serve two or three years before they can be a commando.

Turkey is making the change partly because the one year conscript service, which was implemented in 2003, left the commandos with too many troops in training, and not fully prepared for the kind of difficult operations commandos undertake. For example, the recent ground operations in northern Iraq are mainly carried out by small groups of commandos. Also, the Turks looked at similar organizations elsewhere (like the U.S. Rangers and the British Royal Marine Commandos), and noted that longer service was essential.

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