Special operations units are known for their improvisation. Since they are designed, trained, and organised to operate behind enemy lines, having the ability to think on their feet and make do with limited resources is essential. Bring this mindset and attitude to the training room, and you get marvels. The German Kommando Spezialkrafte (KSK) created a maritime training facility that allows its members to safely train in maritime operations without wasting funds in helicopter maintenance.

The facility is called Multifunktionshalle (multifunctional room). The training team has thought about everything. There’s, for example, a special audio system that replicates the sound that a helicopter’s rotors make. There are also special effects that create waves. Given that the German commandos are also using Special Operations Military Working Dogs (SOMWD), it is paramount that the conditions resemble reality as much as possible (for example, a SOMWD unaccustomed to the deafening roaring of the rotors) — although they wear earplugs, as are their human colleagues — could lose its temper or be disoriented on a real-life operation. Among others, the commandos are trained in helocasting and Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) operations.

Helocasting is when troops are dropped from a helicopter. It is a valuable but dangerous insertion method. A helicopter slowly hovers above the designated area whilst the troops drop into the water. A drop of anything more than a few feet will cause serious injury. Helocasting can also be used to insert or extract zodiac rubber boats — such insertions are called “hard duck” or “soft duck” depending on if the zodiac is fully inflated or not.

Established in 1996, the KSK is Bundeswehr’s (the German military’s) premier counterterrorism and special operations unit. Following the unification of West and East Germany after the end of the Cold War, the German government decided to create a SOF unit that would be capable of conducting a wide range of special operations. Before the creation of the KSK, core SOF missions were distributed throughout the German military and even police. For example, all counterterrorism tasks fell under the authority of the famous GSG-9, special reconnaissance missions were conducted by Fernspäher, Long Range Reconnaissance units, and maritime operations by the German Navy’s Kampfschwimmers. The KSK brought these missions under one umbrella — GSG-9 and a company of Fernspäher are still active. The KSK have been active in Afghanistan and Africa, among other places. They were one of the first units to deploy alongside their American, British, Canadian, New Zealand, and Australian SOF brethren in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.