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Meet the Elite: The special unit in Vietnam’s special task force

The soldiers in Unit 12 of Vietnam’s Commando Brigade 113 usually refer themselves the ‘special unit of the special task force’ – an elite team of stand-out solider specifically trained to counter terrorist activities.

Unit 12 only accepts the best of the best and in order to make the cut, members are put through a rigorous process to ensure they are up to the challenge of defending the country from terrorists.

“To be recruited to the group, each of the soldiers had to undergo countless tests and examinations designed to assess their abilities, tactical knowledge, and physical endurance,” Lieutenant Tran Van Tung, one of the team members, stated.

Making it into the elite unit isn’t about seniority, it is about skill.  The three youngest members of Unit 12 were born in 1990 while the rest of the team were born in the 1980s, said Major Tran Duc Hoa, captain of the unit.

The oldest and most experience member is Major Hoa himself, who was born in 1979.

 “We are very proud to be able to stand among the nation’s counterterrorism forces,” said Lt. Tung.

Surpass Yourself

One of the more challenging exercises the group endures is the tactical rappel – a feat requiring strong will and extreme determination from the soldiers while they abseil down rock walls, brick walls, glass walls, and the side of a 35-meter tall building.

Many of the members had to overcome their own fear of height during their first

Once the team has mastered the rappel, it’s time for them to begin their training for bigger (and higher) things.  According to Hoa, this means parachute training and learning the accompanying, often complicated, assessments and calculations that accompany jumping from planes.

Parachute training sessions are organized in accordance with the schedule of the General Staff of the Vietnam People’s Army.

Members of the unit spend 10 days to practicing their landing techniques by jumping from a platform about 2.8 to three meters high, says Hoa.  Soldiers often sprain their ankles, dislocate their knee, or injure their back joint, but it is necessary in order to prepare for field training.

“During field training, we jumped from an altitude of between 1,000 and 1,200 meters. It was difficult to maneuver our parachutes due to the strong wind,” he said.

Fast-roping, the technique for descending a thick rope from a helicopter was also considered a tough practice amongst several commandos, Lieutenant Nguyen Bien Cuong, the political commissar of Unit 12, assessed.

“It was mainly mind over matter.  The rope will not stop swinging due to strong turbulence created by the chopper but soldiers need to make sure they descend quickly and safely,” Lt. Cuong elaborated.

“Once the soldiers overcome their fear, they are much more confident in the technique,” he added.

Around the clock training

An essential part of the unit’s preparation is grip training and commandoes focus a number of exercises that help arm muscle on a daily basis to ensure their strength is up to par.

Some of the exercises include holding rocks in both hands and keeping them stable for two to three minutes before taking a short break, repeating the exercise again in several hours, followed by 10 meter rope climbs, according to Lt. Cuong.

“Their arms have to be strong enough to support the weight of their whole body,” the political commissar elaborated.

The commandoes are also required to be equipped with adept gun skills, he continued, adding that they must be swift and accurate under any condition.

“We spend six to seven months a year practicing with weaponry in order to master each weapon with both hands,” team captain Hoa said.

Lt.Tung and Lieutenant Do Tien Tung are amongst Unit 12’s best sharpshooters, Maj. Hoa asserted, adding that Lieutenant Phan Van Thanh leads the pack in marksmanship and has earned the nickname Thanh ‘sniper.’

Thanh is proficient in all types of guns and exerts excellent speed and accuracy, always scoring outstandingly high in all gun shooting exercises, the captain continued.