‘Hunter Troop’ Is The World’s First All-Female Special Operations Unit

popular
Shoot training for hunter squad at the Norwegian Army Special Operation Command
Photo courtesy of Norwegian Armed Forces

Beginning in 2001, Norway’s top special operations unit, the Forsvarets Spesialkommando, or FSK, played a tip-of-the-spear role in Operation Enduring Freedom, often working alongside Delta Force and Navy SEAL operatives. However, the FSK, like many all-male Western military units operating in predominantly Muslim countries, found itself disadvantaged when it came to one pretty major aspect of counterinsurgency: dealing with the local female population.  


“In Afghanistan, one of our biggest challenges was that we would enter houses and not be able to speak to the women,” Capt Ole Vidar Krogsaeter, an officer with the Norwegian Special Operations Forces, said in an interview with Foreign Affairs. “In urban warfare, you have to be able to interact with women as well. Adding female soldiers was an operational need.”

Shoot training for hunter squad at the Norwegian Army Special Operation CommandPhoto courtesy of Norwegian Armed Forces

Enter the Jegertroppen, or “Hunter Troop” — the world’s first and only all-female special operations unit.

Since its establishment in 2014, Jegertroppen has earned a reputation for its rigorous instruction and low acceptance rates. Its yearlong training program includes a series of grueling challenges, and candidates must complete modules in Arctic survival, counterterrorism, urban warfare, long-range patrols, and airborne operations. According to the Norwegian Special Operations Forces Command, only 13 of the unit’s 317 candidates made it through the Jegertroppen course in 2014 — a 96% attrition rate that is similar to the Forsvarets Spesialkommando’s. 2015 posted similar numbers.   

Colonel Frode Kristoffersen, the head of Norway’s Special Forces, told Foreign Affairs that the Hunter Troop will have a huge impact on Norway’s military capabilities. For one, the Jegertroppen’s presence on the ground could open up critical interactions and information channels with indigenous female populations in future conflicts, especially in the Middle East. Kristoffersen also explained that the unit’s members have displayed superior shooting and observation skills.  

Shoot training for hunter squad at the Norwegian Army Special Operation CommandPhoto courtesy of Norwegian Armed Forces

The creation of an elite all-female unit highlights a trend in Norway’s increasingly diverse armed forces. In 2002, women comprised only 0.7% of its military. That number is now at 10% and steadily growing, with most projections suggesting that the Norwegian military will be 20% women by 2020. In 2015, Norway became the first NATO country to introduce universal conscription. Norwegian officials maintain the changing military landscape does not affect the selection criteria. Physical standards for women are almost the same as they are for men, with only a few exceptions— for example, Jegertroppen soldiers carry 60-pound rucksacks instead of the heavier 88-pound packs their male counterparts carry.

It’s still too early to say whether this will spell mixed-gender combat deployments for Norwegian special forces, because the “Hunter Troop” is still considered a “test project” and hasn’t rotated overseas yet. And of course, a lot will need to be done to ensure these all-female units aren’t regarded as second-tier outfits if and when they deploy. But if the Jegertroppen continue to grow their applicant pool and raise the bar for future classes—the applicants for its second class scored higher than the first— it seems likely that they’ll be fighting alongside their male counterparts in future conflicts.

U.S. Air Force airmen from the 405th Expeditionary Support Squadron work together to clear debris inside the passenger terminal the day after a Taliban-led attack at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 12, 2019. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Brandon Cribelar)

Blasts from Taliban car bombs outside of Bagram Airfield on Wednesday caused extensive damage to the base's passenger terminal, new pictures released by the 45th Expeditionary Wing show.

The pictures, which are part of a photo essay called "Bagram stands fast," were posted on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service's website on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, June 17, 2017 (U.S. Navy photo)

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Shortly after seven sailors died aboard USS Fitzgerald when she collided with a merchant ship off Japan in 2017, I wrote that the Fitzgerald's watch team could have been mine. My ship had once had a close call with me on watch, and I had attempted to explain how such a thing could happen. "Operating ships at sea is hard, and dangerous. Stand enough watches, and you'll have close calls," I wrote at the time. "When the Fitzgerald's investigation comes out, I, for one, will likely be forgiving."

The investigations, both public and private, are out, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report assessing the changes to training implemented since the collisions.

So, am I forgiving? Yes — for some.

Read More Show Less
Belgian nurse Augusta Chiwy, left, talks with author and military historian Martin King moments before receiving an award for valor from the U.S. Army, in Brussels, Dec. 12, 2011. (Associated Press/Yves Logghe)

Editor's note: a version of this story first appeared in 2015.

Most people haven't heard of an elderly Belgian-Congolese nurse named Augusta Chiwy. But students of history know that adversity and dread can turn on a dime into freedom and change, and it's often the most humble and little-known individuals who are the drivers of it.

During the very darkest days of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, Chiwy was such a catalyst, and hundreds of Americans lived because of her. She died quietly on Aug. 23, 2015, at the age of 94 at her home in Brussels, Belgium, and had it not been for the efforts of my friend — British military historian Martin King — the world may never have heard her astonishing story.

Read More Show Less
A Ukrainian serviceman watches from his position at the new line of contact in Zolote, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine Nov. 2, 2019 (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

More than $20 million of the Pentagon aid at the center of the impeachment fight still hasn't reached Ukraine.

The continued delay undermines a key argument against impeachment from President Trump's Republican allies and a new legal memo from the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Read More Show Less
(Glow Images via Associated Press_

Average pay, housing and subsistence allowances will increase for members of the military in 2020, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

Read More Show Less