The Jegertroppen, or Hunter Troop, is the first all-female military special forces unit in the world. It is part of the Special Operations Commando (FSK) and it falls under the Norwegian Special Operation Forces (NORSOF).
The Hunter Troop specialises in reconnaissance and surveillance in urban areas.
History of the Jegertroppen
In the 1980s, the Norwegian Parliament, under the leadership of Gro Harlem Brundtland, the first Norwegian Prime Minister, applied the Equal Opportunity Act to the military. Norway became the first NATO country to allow women to conscript.
However, the Norwegian army raised the need for an all-female unit only in 2013. In the same years, Norway contributed to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). ISAF was a programme led by NATO with the primary aim to help and support the Afghan government to provide security in the whole country.
This opportunity arose because the Norwegian male troops did not have permission to interact with the Afghan female population. The impossibility to talk to this fundamental part of the population was hindering the Norwegian effort in the country.
According to Col. Frode Kristoffersen, commander of the Norwegian special forces, “When deployed to Afghanistan we saw that we need female soldiers. Both as female advisers for the Afghan special police unit that we mentored, but also when we did an arrest.”
Before Norway’s intervention in Afghanistan, women could apply for the Norwegian Special Forces Unit. However, due to the physical requirements, the same for men, none was successful.
Reason why, in 2014, the Kristoffersen brothers created the Jegertroppen, an all-female unit. By June 2014, 317 applicants to the new unit started their training. What was happening in Afghanistan was not the only reason for the creation of this unit. Another goal was to diversify and improve the capabilities of the army.
Before 2014, all the women that applied for the Norwegian special forces did not pass the selection process for any of the units: Spesialjeger (the special hunters), Marinejeger (the marine hunters), or Fallskjermjeger (the paratroopers).
In October 2014, the Norwegian parliament extended the conscription to women, and this new law came into effect in January 2015.
Structure of the Jegertroppen
“Tundra”, the plan for the creation of Jegertroppen, started in March 2013. It was led by the two brothers Eirik and Frode Arnfinn Kristoffersen.
In 2014, when the classes began, only 88 women passed the first selection, out of 317 applicants. 20 women completed the 10-month training program and only 13 reached the final step and formed the unit.
The year after, 196 women applied for being part of the unit, but only 14 made it to the end.
The candidate has to meet various minimum physical requirements before the selection process.
These requirements are:
- 35 sit-ups in 2 minutes
- 10 meters underwater
- 2 body lifts
- 20 arm raises
- 20 rygghev
Moreover, the candidate has to be able to run 7km with a bag of 22kg in less than 54 minutes.
The second step is the “Hell Week”. It is a selection process that lasts three weeks and it consists of various challenges aimed to test both the mental and physical limits of the candidates. These tests are for example marches, with minimum amounts of rest, water, and food.
- 6 pull-ups
- 50 sit-ups in two minutes
- 40 push-ups
- 25 rygghev
- 3000m in 13 minutes
- 400m swim, with the first 25m underwater in a maximum of 11 minutes
Finally, there is a 9-miles march in full gear (22kg) through the forest near Rena, close to Rena army camp. The candidate, in order to accomplish this, has to be able to complete the march in less than two hours and 15 minutes.
Jegertroppen: The Equipment
The all-female special forces unit is equipped as its male counterpart.
As the Norwegian Army, the most used assault rifle within the unit is the German Heckler & Koch HK416. Previously to this rifle, the weapon used by the special forces was the Heckler & Koch G3, but it received many complaints due to its heaviness.
The unit is also equipped with a sniper rifle. Since 2015, the Unit has been using the Barrett MRAD with the calibre .338 Lapua Magnum. This type of calibre was developed in the 1980s and was highly used in the war in Iraq between 2003 and 2011.
As previously mentioned, the war in Afghanistan helped understand the need for an all-female unit for the Norwegian special forces.
Having only an all-men unit was an operational limitation due to the local religion and customs. Part of the Norwegian operation in Afghanistan was to forge connections with the locals. This was not possible because women did not have permission to interact with a man, and consequently, it was also difficult to speak to the children. Moreover, the impossibility of interfacing with the female population obstructed the process of intelligence gathering.
A similar problem, like the one in Afghanistan, arose during counter-piracy operations off the Somali coasts.
The Jegertroppen unit has not been deployed yet on a special operation abroad. Even though it could seem useless to have such a unit, in case of need, the female unit is ready and trained to be deployed on short-term notice.
The creation of an all-female unit helped break down stereotypes linked to gender, especially in the Norwegian army itself. If on the one hand there are countries that are still sceptical in relation to women presence in special forces, such as the United States. On the other hand, countries like Norway are supporting the female role in the Armed forces, proving that women can have the same skills and mental strength as men.