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Special Forces Support Group
Special Forces Support Group.jpg
Shoulder Flash of the SFSG
Active 3 April 2006 - Present
Country United Kingdom
Branch UKSF
Type Special Operations Light Infantry
Role Special Forces Support/Counter-Terrorism
Size One battalion
Part of UK Special Forces
Garrison/HQ MOD St Athan

The Special Forces Support Group (SFSG) is a special operations unit of the British Armed Forces. A tri-service formation, based around the 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (1 Para), which was transferred from the line infantry. Initially composed of personnel from the British Army's Parachute Regiment, the Royal Marines and the RAF Regiment, the unit's selection process is now open to all infantry-trained personnel in the UK Armed Forces.

The SFSG was formed officially on 3 April 2006 to augment other special forces units on large-scale missions, and is part of the United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) along with the Special Air Service, Special Boat Service and Special Reconnaissance Regiment.

Since the Parachute Regiment's Lead Airborne Task Force was stood down in late 2007 the SFSG has been the UK's main parachute trained rapid deployment force[1].

Contents

History

The unit's creation stems from the need to provide infantry support to the special forces, which became evident after the Battle of Tora Bora during which two SAS sabre squadrons assaulted the al-Qaeda cave complex.[2]. Previously, this support was carried out on an ad hoc basis, with infantry units assisting special forces teams when needed. During Operation Barras in Sierra Leone, soldiers from 1 Para were deployed alongside troops from the SBS and D Squadron SAS. This was successful, as the SAS soldiers attacked the encampment containing the hostages while the soldiers from 1 Para attacked a second encampment.[3]

In December 2004, it was announced that a unit would be formalised for this role as part of the wider restructuring. It was initially conceived as a battalion of "Rangers", similar to the United States Army Rangers.[4]

The SFSG's formation was announced officially by the then Secretary of State for Defence John Reid in Parliament on 20 April 2006. [5] Following the announcement, it was reported that a company of SFSG soldiers was operating in Iraq as part of the US-led Task Force 145.[6][7][8]

As of late 2008 SFSG personnel have received two Military Crosses, one Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service, two Mentions in Despatches and 12 Joint Commander's Commendations[1]. In August 2009, three soldiers from the SFSG were killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol near Lashkar Gar, Southern Afghanistan. A fourth soldier from the same patrol was injured in the explosion[9]. In December 2009, an SFSG soldier was killed as a result of a suspected improvised explosive device in Sangin, Afghanistan[10]

Formation and selection

The SFSG was established to support UKSF units in battle overseas and on domestic counter-terrorist operations. For this, it may encompass such roles as providing diversionary attacks, cordons, fire support, force protection, and supporting training tasks.[3]

Most unit personnel are Parachute Regiment soldiers, Royal Marine commandos or RAF Regiment gunners. All those selected for the SFSG have passed either the Airborne Forces Selection course run by The Parachute Regiment, the Royal Marines Commando course or the RAF Pre-Parachute Selection course[1]. For Army personnel, a tour with SFSG is regarded officially as an attachment to the Parachute Regiment[citation needed]. Army personnel can apply to join straight from P Company irrespective of regimental affiliation; prospective recruits from the Royal Marines undergo a selection process run by the Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines[1].

Members continue to wear their own cap badge. In addition, they wear a new shoulder emblem that depicts a silver dagger on a green background, with a red-lined black flash of lightning running through it.[3]

Organisation

The SFSG comprises four strike companies: 3 of these being primarily from 1 Para (with the RAF Regiment providing a platoon in one of these companies) and F Company from the Royal Marines. The RAF Regiment also provides Tactical Air Control Parties. There is also a support company comprising mortar, sniper and patrol platoons[1]. The Patrol platoon operates vehicles including the Jackal and includes Fire Support Groups which include Parachute Regiment, Royal Artillery and RAF Regiment personnel.

There is also a CBRN unit assigned to the SFSG to provide specialised knowledge and capability to military and civilian agencies in detection and handling of chemical, biological and radiological/nuclear weapons and materials.[1]

It is based at MOD St Athan near Cardiff, south Wales.[3] News reports of its strength have varied between 450-1,200 personnel.[1][4][11]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Tim Ripley (25 February 2009). "Special Effects:UK SF unit comes into its own". Janes Defence Weekly, Vol. 46, Issue 8: 24. 
  2. ^ "Scores killed by SAS in Afghanistan". The Guardian (Guardian News and Media Limited). 2002-07-05. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/jul/05/september11.afghanistan. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Special Forces Support Group forms in Wales". Ministry of Defence. 2006-04-20. http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/MilitaryOperations/SpecialForcesSupportGroupFormsInWales.htm. 
  4. ^ a b "Britain to double commitment to the war on terror with 'SAS Lite'". The Daily Telegraph 17 April 2005.
  5. ^ "Written Ministerial Statements" Hansard 20 April 2006.
  6. ^ "The Men in the Shadows - Hunting al-Zarqawi" ABC News 24 April 2006.
  7. ^ "US calls in Paras for Baghdad secret war". The Daily Telegraph 24 April 2006.
  8. ^ "SpecOps unit nearly nabs Zarqawi" Army Times 28 April 2006.
  9. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/aug/07/three-british-soldiers-killed-afghanistan
  10. ^ Soldier killed in Afghan blast named by MoD - BBC News 24th December 2009
  11. ^ "SAS support unit uses badge with baggage". The Times 16 April 2006.

Coordinates: 51°24.331′N 3°27.123′W / 51.405517°N 3.45205°W / 51.405517; -3.45205

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