Kommando Spezialkrafte (Special Forces Command, or KSK) is a Special Operations unit of German soldiers handpicked from the Bundeswehr (Army) to conduct missions around the globe. More recently, like their Polish counterpart GROM, KSK have been deeply involved in the Global War on Terror in Afghanistan, and have sent over a hundred operators to the country.
KSK formed in 1996 to provide a dedicated Special Forces unit for Germany. Ironically, it was only after the Cold War ended that such a unit came to be. Roles for a solitary elite unit had been delegated to different departments. Counter terrorism, for example had been assigned to the police unit GSG-9. Reconnaissance to the Army’s Ferspaher (Long Range Reconnaissance), maritime duties to the Navy’s Kampfschwimmers (Combat Swimmers), and direct action to the Sonderwaffenbegleitkompanien (Special Weapons Escort Companies).
Upon its official activation on April 1, 1997, all such roles were incorporated into the KSK.
Entry requirements into the KSK are open to all ranks and are unique in the fact that civilians may attempt to join, provided they pass an 18 month Long Range Surveillance training cycle before selection for the unit begins.
All Candidates must be airborne qualified and Army officers under thirty and Sergeants and enlisted under 32.
Selection starts with a two-phase course. The first starts with three weeks of physical and psychological training, then enters into the second which involves a three-month endurance phase conducted in the Black Forest, which involves a SERE course with 100 kilometer march with heavy load, and a 90 hour cross country run, among other formidable tests. About 8-10% of the candidates pass, then move to a three-week international Combat Survival Course.
Completion of these phases sends the candidates off to a two to three year cycle of nearly 20 courses at 17 schools worldwide, for desert, jungle, urban amphibious, arctic, mountain and counter-terrorism training.
Once completed, personnel are assigned to four commando companies, each about 100 men, with five platoons specializing in a certain field.
- 1st Platoon conducts land insertions
- 2nd Platoon gathers intelligence and performs airborne operations (HALO/HAHO capable)
- 3rd Platoon conducts amphibious operations
- 4th Platoon conducts operations in polar or mountain regions
- 5th Platoon conducts reconnaissance and sniper/counter sniper operations.
Every Platoon has four squads of four members handpicked and placed in the platoon whose field they perform best at. These include weapons experts, communications, combat engineer and medics. Language or heavy weapons experts may also belong to the squad if necessary.
There is also a support company which consists of a Medical Platoon, Training Platoon, Parachute Equipment Platoon, Maintenance Platoon and Logistics Platoon.
KSK members sign on for six years minimum service, and wear a maroon beret with a metal badge consisting of a sword surrounded by oak leaves, with the colors of Germany on the bottom.
The units motto is Facit Omnia Voluntas (The will is decisive).
Current size of the KSK is estimated at 1,100 personnel.