Unidad de Operaciones Especiales
Spain has a long history of raising specialized units, elite, and unconventional units to wage warfare against its enemies. Today a small, but highly trained and specially selected group of troops carries on this tradition within the it's Infanteria de Marina, the Spanish Marine Corps. The unit is known as the Unidad de Operaciones Especiales, or UOE. UOE is an integral part of the Infanteria de Marina's Tercio de Armada (TEAR), the Spanish Marines equivalent to the USMC's Fleet Marine Force (FMF), it operates under the direct control of the Spanish admiralty. UOE's stated mission is " To carry out in depth special reconnaissance and offensive direct actions against highly strategic, and heavily defended, objectives". Some of the many missions the unit is capable of conducting are:
After conducting a study of similar NATO units, the Spanish Navy decided to expanded the units operational capabilities and produce a unit capable of conducting a wide variety of conventional and special warfare missions. So in 1967, Using the US Navy SEAls, and British Special Boat Section (SBS) as its guides, the unit was issued a new mandate that included underwater demolition, airborne insertions, and direct action sabotage strikes. The officer tasked with executing this mission was a young lieutenant named Yanez, from Tercio North.
The units first operational deployment
occurred in 1969 when they spearheaded evacuation of Spanish citizens form the former Spanish Colony of Equatorial Guinea. In 1985 the unit was
redesignated the Comando Anfibio Especial (COMANFES) in 1985, but it reverted back to its original designation in the early 1990's.
UOE has seen extensive action against Basque ETA terrorists operating inside Spain. They have also been deployed to the former Yugoslavia as part of the Spanish contingent of IFOR and SFOR. Providing invaluable assistance to both Spanish and allied commanders.
Based in San Fernando, Spain, the unit is currently composed of 169 men and is commanded by a Lieutenant Col., with a Major acting as his deputy commander. The unit is composed of a small Headquarters section, a Command and Services Stol (Platoon), two Special Operations Stols and a combat diver Stol, each of which is commanded by a Captain. The Command and Services Stol is responsible for the units day to day operations, logistical and medical support, communications needs, etc. It is also responsible for operating the selection and training course for new unit intakes. The Special Operations Stol's are made up of 34-men, who are subdivided into two 16-man Special Operations divisions, and 2-man command element. The special operations divisions are divided into 4-four man teams. They are tasked with executing airborne, direct action (DA), and reconnaissance missions. The combat diver Stol contains the units combat diver trained personnel and specializes in Scuba, small crafts, and amphibious reconnaissance missions.
Prospective unit operators are drawn from the ranks of experienced TEAR personnel. Volunteers must have served at least one year in a TEAR operational unit before being allowed to submit themselves for selection. Selection is harsh, and is designed to weed out those who do not meet the units exacting standards. Candidates are exposed to a number of exercises designed to test their physical and mental stamina. During selection the candidates are push to, and beyond their perceived physical limits. UOE's training cadre evaluates how the trainees perform under fire, using verbal abuse, intensive physical exercise, and long distance endurance marches with heavy ruck sacks, to gauge their responses. Live fire training exercises are conducted to see if they will panic, or hesitate at a crucial moment during combat. During the most intensive phase of selection, students are taken led on a three long survival exercise that accounts for approximately half the selection course failures.
Upon successful completion of selection the surviving students being their operational training. Students are sent to the School of Parachuting, and receive training in basic parachute operations. Upon their return to the unit they are provided instruction in conducting sea water parachute jumps, during which students must conduct several parachute jumps into the open ocean. Students then advance on to learning basic commando skills such as infiltration tactics and beaching, raids, ambushes, small boat handling and amphibious operations, unarmed combat and cold killing, map reading and land navigation, water survival, combat medicine, helicopter and airmobile operations, fast roping, rappelling, and pathfinding. Students are also provide instruction on infiltration form Spanish Navy submarines.
Those who successfully complete this phase advance to more specialized skills
training. Student are instructed in hydorgraphic survey techniques, laser target designation, forward artillery control, rock climbing and mountaineering,
cliff assault, and even basic hostage rescue skills.
During this phase students will begin to specialize in a specific skill such as HALO/HALO operations, combat diving, demolitions, and sniping. In addition to their initial training, Officers and NCOs must also undertake training at the Army's Special Operations Unit Command Course.
In addition to conducting operations with other TEAR and Spanish counter terrorist and special operations units, such as the National Police GEO, the national Guard's UEI and GAR counter terrorist units. They have also trained with or operated with the Navy's UEBC, the Air Force's EZAPAC, and the Army's PRP. UOE conducts regular training exercises with foreign units such as the USMC's Force Reconnaissance Companies, US Navy SEALs, Portugal's DAE, Italy's COM.SUB.IN and the Esploratore Anfibio unit of the Army's Lagunari Regiment, The French Navy's "Commandos Marine" assault units and the Commando Hubert combat diver unit
The unit is outfitted with a wide range of equipment to help it execute its wide range of missions. In addition to having access to Spanish military ships, aircraft, and submarines unit maintains a small number of Zodiac inflatable boats and Klepper two-man kayaks. Radio communications are provided through the use of UHF, VHF, and burst transmission radios. The unit has also acquired a large number of Magellan, and Slugger GPS units. Unit divers are equipped with both standard wet and dry diving suits. The unit is also equipped with laser target designators to mark targets for Spanish naval aircraft.
The UOE armory is well stocked with a variety of locally produced and foreign manufactured weapons. Pistols are known to include Llama 82B 9mm with laser aiming devices and sound suppressers. Rifles include the CETME Model L 5.56mm assault rifle, but it will soon be replaced by the HK G-36 5.56mm rifle. Submachine-guns consist of the sound suppressed 9mm Patchett/Sterling Mk. 5 which is usually modified to accept a laser aiming device. Sniper rifles consist of the Mauser SP 66 7.62 mm rifle. Machine-guns consist of the locally produced Ameli 5.56mm light machine gun. and the US M-60 7.62mm GPMG. the unit has also contracted a local company to produced a specially designed "commando" dagger to meet its many needs.