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Big guns turn up for elite unit's 40th

Ireland's elite Army special forces unit are celebrating their 40th anniversary.

The Army Ranger Wing (ARW) put on an impressive display of military hardware at their base in the Curragh Camp to mark the occasion.

The Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Lt Gen Dermot Earley, is the last member still serving from the first Ranger Selection Course held 40 years ago.

The course was the precursor to the current ARW selection course and consisted of 12 students, who later went on to become chiefs of staff and UN force commanders.


Members of that first ranger course today got a chance to see how far special forces equipment has advanced in the last four decades.

The equipment on show included Ford F-350 Special Reconnaissance Vehicles, armed with 12.7mm heavy machine guns and 40mm automatic grenade launchers, used by the ARW in scouting the Irish area in Chad before the deployment of the first Irish battalion there.

The Rangers showed off their off-road motorbikes, canoes, combat raiding craft, and modified Range Rovers used for counter-terrorist duties.

Ranger underwater divers use special breathing equipment, which does not give away tell-tale air bubbles, and rigid-hulled inflatable boats.

While those on the first course made do with then-standard FN rifles and Gustaf sub-machine guns, Rangers now use an array of sophisticated small arms, including Steyr AUG A3 assault rifles, FN Minimi Para machine guns and SiG P-228 9mm pistols.

The Rangers, Ireland's premier hostage rescue unit, train with special operations units worldwide, including the US Army Rangers, US Marine Corps Force Recon, Delta Force and Navy SEALS, well as German's GSG9, France's GIGN, and Swedish SSG.


The first Irish Army Rangers attended the US Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, in the late 1960s and the first course was conducted in the Military College in the Curragh Camp in 1969.

The ARW numbers around 100 men -- no female soldier has yet passed the tough selection course -- and all who complete the Ranger course wear the Fianoglach shoulder flash.

The unit has seen active service in Chad, Liberia, East Timor, Somalia and Lebanon as well as operations at home.