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UP THE RANGERS; That's the Irish Army Rangers, officially ranked 3rd best in the world after special forces war games.

Byline: PAT FLANAGAN

ELITE Army Rangers are among the best soldiers in the world after coming third in a competition for special forces.

The secretive unit won the bronze medal in the 42-team contest for crack soldiers in Germany.

The troops were celebrating yesterday after the four-day Combat Team Conference in Bonn, which featured teams from 22 countries.

The competition involved 10 tough tests including physical, mental and tactical and marksmanship challenges.

The soldiers had to rescue hostages and break into a house protected by savage guard dogs.

An army source said the six-man team beat some of the best special force units in the world.

He added: "We are very proud of the lads. They went through hell to finish in third.

"They risked being savaged by dogs and went into a tunnel that was the scene of a bloody battle in World War II, in total darkness, to rescue hostages."

Their success on Friday was all the more surprising because it was only the second year that the Rangers had taken part in the contest.

Only the Austrian "Cobra" police unit and the Italian NOCS force finished ahead of the Irish team.

The Rangers took their inspiration from legendary warriors Na Fianna.

Their motto, which translates from the Gaelic as "The cleanliness of our hearts, the strength of our limbs and our commitment to our promise", is taken from an old Fianna poem.

Very few soldiers make it into the elite unit which has just 100 soldiers organised into two assault platoons and a support platoon with medical and aviation back-up.

Each of the assault platoons has five assault teams of 3-4 men each.

The men are volunteers, selected from other Army units. The tough training includes at least three days and one night on the firing range.

They are also taught advanced tactics in parachuting, combat diving, boat handling and mountaineering.

The Rangers have received additional training from the Royal Dutch Marines and the US Army's Delta Force.

The army source added: "We were surprised the British SAS decided not to take part. But it has been the case they only come when they think they'll win. We are particularly proud because some of the teams we beat are real hot.

"The Spanish guys, for instance, have seen plenty of action against terrorist group ETA." The Rangers are sworn to secrecy and they can't talk about training or operations and can't even admit they are members.

Army top brass refuse to allow photographs to be taken of soldiers and will not comment on their operations.

However, it is known that they are always on standby in case there is a national emergency, a hijacking or hostage situation.

And they have a vast arsenal of personal weapons at their disposal including Sig P-226 pistols, Heckler and Koch MP-5 Series submachine guns, Remington 870 combat shotguns, Heckler and Koch SG1 rifles as well as Accuracy International A1 96 sniper rifles.

CAPTION(S):

SHOOTING STARS: The Irish Rangers elite soldiers won bronze medals in the gruelling Combat Team Conference in Bonn
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 9, 2003
Words:511
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