Special Forces: The Myth & The Reality

Les Forces Spéciales : Le Mythe & La Réalité - Phil Team

Hasn't the commando myth grown too much?

"There have always been fashions in the Army. Today, the special forces are in fashion"

This quote is that of General Jean Louis Georgelin then Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces.

Thanks to numerous reports, the FS soldier appears as the elite combatant par excellence. The man with a steel mind who crosses and overcomes the tests thanks to his head and his muscles. These same shows and films often tell an identical scenario according to which young recruits, faced with their limits, must surpass themselves to achieve their goal.

The special forces today occupy an important and dominant place in the representation and idea that civilians have of the army in general.

special forces

the film special forces, by Stéphane Rybojad

The Origins of Special Forces

We have to go back to the origins and the creation of these commandos. We are in 1940, the British have just suffered major losses after the French campaign and the withdrawal from Dunkirk.

It is necessary to form new troops, but the English are short of people. Their recruits being reduced to small groups, the Army concentrates on the training of this small number of soldiers: the commandos are born.

Another point seems to have been left out concerning these men. Originally, they were recruited for their marginality. Sometimes judged even incapable of adapting to the standards of the conventional army. By way of example, we can notably cite the legendary Philippe Kieffer .

These soldiers "think differently", and that is why they were recruited: "to wage war differently".

Over time, the term Special Force - Commando has become popularized by dint of being used wrongly and through. The consequences were also without appeal for 'the rest' of the army. The other regiments have been relegated to the background, wrongly.


the original special forces

The Reality of Commando

In the imagination of the greatest number, the members of the FS are built like Rambo, shoot at everything that moves, and pass between the bullets.

Unfortunately, this reality is skewed. The image of the trigger-happy cowboy is not representative. In addition, the appearance of drones in war zones tends to make the role of the soldier secondary for certain missions.

delta force

here a member of the American delta forces in Bosnia

If the commandos were so big, they couldn't blend into the crowd. Even if some have the build of a fridge, it is only a minority. The specter of their mission requires them to be discreet as much as possible.

Their skills as hand-to-hand combatants are proven. These men are trained and able to kill with their bare hands. However, before "coming to blows", the fighters would have to run out of ammunition, knives, shovels and explosives... A situation which only very rarely arises.

Regarding the rest of their skills, yes the FS are trained on the same base. They master vast qualities, but that doesn't make them supermen who can fix their weapon with a rock. Each has its own specialty and masters the tasks that are assimilated to it.

Finally, the "good guys" don't always win unfortunately. For example, the special operation aimed at freeing the DGSE agent Denis Allex , which ended in failure. To read the corresponding article relating to this case, click here


image of the detainee taken by his captors in June 2010

To finish

It is important for everyone to keep in mind that fiction and reality are two very distinct worlds. Video games, movies, and shows are just a watered-down, scripted view of reality. The latter being much less tender, especially if one reads the figures announcing the number of soldiers who died in operation.


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