HERITAGE – THE SOLDIERS
A qualified Special Forces soldier is known as an Operator. This is a title that is much valued by the individual as it brings with it a recognition of achievement. The tradition to award a number to qualified soldiers was started in the early 80’s and continues to this day. By 1992 or 20 years later less than 600 had qualified and at the end of 2017 a full 45 years later just less than 1 200 soldiers had qualified as Operators.
These 1200 men resemble the diversity of the globe. It includes the smallest and biggest physically and they originate from all qualifications, colour, creed and gender. As with any conflict the soldiers come from those close to the conflict and in the early years there was a large contingent of soldiers of Portuguese and Angolan origin. These were superb soldiers with a passion for their country and much has been written about them. They were soon joined by the men from Namibia. With the end of the Rhodesian conflict in 1980 a wave of ex-SAS men joined.
Over the history of the conflict in Angola the work needed skilled medical support deep behind enemy lines. For this trained doctors were needed so a group of doctors did the full initial cycle. This allowed them to deploy as fully functional operators with the teams deep into enemy territory. In addition, there has been an all-female group that qualified.
The diverse mix of soldiers are brothers in arms and with a built-in respect for shared qualities. If you have the passion, if you have the guts, if you have strength of mind, if you can endure and excel under adverse conditions then you can be a Special Forces soldier.