Commandos Marine

The Commandos Marine are the Special Operation Forces (SOF) of the French Navy. The Commandos Marine are nicknamed Bérets Verts (Green Berets). They operate under the Naval Riflemen and Special Operations Forces Command (FORFUSCO) and form part of the French Special Operations Command.

Commandos Marine
Commando-marine-béret V2
Commando beret badge
Active1942 – present
Country France
Branch French Navy
TypeNavy Commando
RoleSpecial Operations
Counter Terrorism
Direct Action
Long-Range Reconnaissance
Special Reconnaissance
Joint Terminal Attack Controller
Underwater Demolition
Amphibious Warfare
Size721 authorized personnel (2017)
Nickname(s)bérets verts (green berets)
RADM Olivier Coupry
CDR. Philippe Kieffer
LCDR. Victor Servent
French Navy
(Marine Nationale)
Naval Ensign of France
Motto: Honneur, Patrie, Valeur, Discipline
("Honour, Homeland, Valour, Discipline")
Naval Ministers
Maritime Prefect
Naval Action Force
Submarine Forces
Naval Aviation
FORFUSCO (Marine Commandos, Naval Fusiliers)
Maritime Gendarmerie
Current fleet
Current deployments
Ranks in the French Navy
History of the French Navy
Future of the French Navy
Ensigns and pennants
Historic ships
Historic fleets
Cross of War
Military Medal
Legion of Honour


The Commandos Marine were formed in 1942 during World War II, in the United Kingdom and were modelled on the British Commandos (who were founded in 1940). They were formed from Free French volunteers from different services, mainly from Navy Fusiliers Marins (Naval Infantry), other Navy specialities and even from the Army. They were trained at the Commando Training Centre in Achnacarry, Scotland and joined the No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando as the 1st and the 8th Troops. To commemorate this, the beret of the French naval commandos is worn pulled to the right with the badge worn over the left eye or temple, the opposite of all other French military units.

Kieffer philippe
Lieutenant Commander Philippe Kieffer.

The 1st BFMC (Bataillon de Fusiliers Marins Commandos, Commando Naval Riflemen Battalion) took part in the Normandy Landing on D-Day under the command of Lieutenant Commander Philippe Kieffer, on Sword, and were for the occasion integrated in No. 4 Commando. They further participated in the Netherlands campaign, still associated with No. 4 Commando. When the British Commando Units were disbanded at the conclusion of World War II, the two French Troops (forming the 1st BFMC) were repatriated to France to relieve in position the 1st RFM (1st Naval Infantry Regiment) departing for Indochina. Most of them demobilised or returned to their services (Army or other Navy specialities) but Commander Philippe Kieffer made the case to the French Ministry of the Navy that a Commando Corps was a capacity required to counter the guerrilla warfare in Indochina. The surviving members of the 1st BFMC formed the core leadership and the cadres for the Commando Training School to be created in Algeria in 1946 (Siroco Center, Matifou Cape).

Another branch comes from a Naval Reconnaissance Unit created in December 1944, Company NYO, formed from volunteers from different parts of the Navy, mainly Naval Riflemen (Fusiliers Marins) and Naval Artillery. This unit later renamed as Company Merlet (the name of its founder and commanding officer, Lieutenant (Navy) Jean Merlet), fought in Italy before embarking for Indochina in September 1945. It was renamed Company Jaubert, then naturally became Commando Jaubert, the first unit to be constituted as Commando when the French Navy decided to create a Commando Corps in 1946.

Commander Pierre Ponchardier and his Special Air Service Battalion aka SAS-B (also nicknamed Tigers Commandos), created in early 1945, fought in Indochina until 1946 before the battalion was disbanded. Ponchardier was a visionary of modern SOF. Although he was not subordinated to a Naval Rifleman chain of command, he ran large-scale operations in conjunction and with the support of Compagnie Merlet/Jaubert and the 1st RFM. His audacity, the innovation of the TTPs and the course of actions he applied in guerrilla warfare and COIN set the spirit and were disseminated to the overall Commandos Marine organisation.

By a 19 May 1947 decision, the Ministry of the Navy decision created five "Commando Marine" units, organised and designed as the former British Commandos. The French Navy transformed several Fusiliers Marins companies (Naval Riflemen) already combatting in Indochina (including Company Jaubert) or based aboard French Navy destroyers (to become Commando Trepel and Commando de Penfentenyo) and gradually renewed their personnel with commando-qualified recruits after the Siroco Center (commando course) was commissioned. Commando François and Commando Hubert were formed from scratch. Although Commando Jaubert was already trained for parachute and airborne operations, Commando Hubert became the official paratrooper commando unit for the French Navy. For this reason, they integrated by preference and priority former Ponchardier SAS-B members, who were already jump qualified.

Each Commando Marine bears the name of an officer killed in action during the World War II or during the Indochina campaign:

Charles Trepel
Charles Trepel

Captain Charles Trepel was an Army officer (artillery), Free French Forces; commanding officer of the 8th Troop (French), No. 10 Commando (Inter-allied). MIA/KIA 28 February 1944 during a night reconnaissance raid in Wassenaar, the Netherlands.

Augustin Hubert
Augustin Hubert

Lieutenant Augustin Hubert was an Army officer (infantry), Free French Forces; platoon leader in the K-Gun Troop (French) operating in support of Troop 1 and 8 (French) integrated for D-Day to the No. 4 Commando. He was killed 6 June 1944, in the first hour of combat, when the French Troops were maneuvering to seize the Casino of Ouistreham near Sword.

Commander François Jaubert was a Naval Rifleman officer, commanding the Riverine Flotilla in Indochina, severely wounded during a joint operation with Compagnie Merlet, Ponchardier SAS-B and the 1st RFM and his Flotilla. He died of his wounds 25 January 1946.

Lieutenant (junior grade) Alain de Penfentenyo was a Navy officer, commanding officer of an LCVP platoon, killed in action during a riverine raid on the Donai river, 14 February 1946 (Indochina).

Lieutenant (junior grade) Louis de Montfort was a Company Merlet platoon commander. After his commander was wounded and evacuated de Montfort took command and was killed leading the company in Haiphong, 26 November 1946 (Indochina).

Lieutenant Jacques François was a Navy officer, commanding the 1st Amphibious Flotilla North. He was killed leading his unit, 6 January 1947 on the Nam-Dinh-Giang river (Indochina).

Commando François suffered dramatic losses on 29 May 1951 when it faced the attack of the 308th Vietminh division in Ninh Bình (Indochina). Only 29 survived, five were taken prisoner for months, 40 were killed and nine were declared missing in action. Their sacrifice disrupted the surprise effect and unveiled General Giap's plans for the battle of Day. It gave French General de Lattre time to organise his counterattack. This commando unit was disbanded in May 1953.

Commando Hubert officially became a combat swimmer unit on 30 March 1953. It was a joint unit composed of Navy and Army (SDEC, secret service) combat swimmers. The army branch later separated to establish their base in Aspretto, Corsica (France) and today in Quélern, Brittany (France).

Commando Kieffer was created 6 June 2008 in Ouistreham during the D-Day commemoration ceremony.

Recruitment and training

Commando Marine, cérémonie du 06 juin 2009 hommage au commando Kieffer
Tribute to Commando Kieffer, 6 June 2009

Most of the recruits must have completed the Fusiliers-Marins Basic Training and served at least nine months of service. They have to enter a special forces basic training course, called Stage Commando (commando training) and reputed to be one of the toughest among the NATO Special Operation Forces. In 2016, the Stage Commando had an attrition rate of 82%.[1] The SOF Basic Training is open to sailors or enlisted from other Navy specialties. Commando Kieffer recruits specialists and experts from other specialties in the Navy or other services. They must go through the same training pipeline to earn the green beret and be deployed overseas.

Commando training is the gateway to the Special Operations Forces for the Naval Riflemen. Conducted at the Fusilier Marins school at Lorient on the Atlantic coast, it provides upon successful completion entry to the commandos and the right to wear the green beret. Lasting 20 weeks, it includes one week of commando testing, six weeks of screening and preparatory training, four weeks of evaluation, the actual SOF course for seven weeks, and two weeks of parachute training. During this period, any mistake can instantly disqualify the candidate. The ultimate goal of this training is to detect individuals with the physical, intellectual and psychological potential needed to serve in the Commandos Marine. The historical roots of commando training date back to the Second World War, when Fusilier-Marins volunteers from the Free French Navy went to the Commando training center in Achnacarry, Scotland. Since then, the Commandos Marine have kept by tradition the green beret pulled right with the bronze shield badge on the left, the only such exception in the French armed forces. They have retained the principle of exceptional training without compromise, based on immersion in a highly stressful environment, close to the conditions of combat operations.

The prospective Commandos in training are constantly under stress and pressure from instructors leaving them no respite. All activities are timed and scored: marching tens of kilometers with equipment and weapon in all weathers, obstacle courses and night navigation exercises. The training is punctuated by firearms training and assault tactics, climbing and rappelling, boat handling, explosives instruction and hand-to-hand combat. The instructors are experienced operatives assigned to the Commando School who monitor and punish failure with extra-hard physical activity.

The Commandos Marine have evolved to be broadly comparable to the British Special Boat Service.


Their personnel are distributed between seven Commando Units (squadron+ size), named after former commando officers killed in action, and are dedicated maritime counter-terrorist units :

Insignia Team Deployment Number of Platoons HQ Notes
Insignes du Commando Jaubert Commando Jaubert Worldwide 5 Lorient, France Direct action, Assault at sea and on land, hot extraction, close quarters battle at sea and on land. Equal capabilities in the land and maritime Counter Terrorism (CT) roles.
Ins Cdo MFT 02 Commando de Montfort Worldwide 5 Lorient, France Reconnaissance, Intelligence Operations, Long Range Neutralisation (SKIT), JTACs. Comprises a Tier One platoon named ESNO.
Ins Cdo KPF 03 Commando de Penfentenyo Worldwide 5 Lorient, France Reconnaissance, Intelligence Operations, Long Range Neutralisation (SKIT), JTACs. Comprises a Tier One platoon named ESNO.
Ins Cdo TPL 02 Commando Trépel Worldwide 5 Lorient, France Direct Action, Assault at sea and land, hot extraction, close quarters battle at sea and on land. Equal capabilities in the land and maritime CT roles.
Blason hubert Commando Hubert Worldwide Classified Toulon, France (also named Commando d'Action Sous-Marine Hubert, CASM, "Underwater Operations Commando"): Underwater action (combat divers). Appears to be a Special Mission Unit in support of land and maritime Counter Terrorism roles.
Kieff10 Commando Kieffer Worldwide Classified Lorient, France C3I, Combat dogs K9, CP CBRN, UAVs, Intel, TTPs and Procedures Development.
Insigne du SAS B - Ponchardier Commando Ponchardier Worldwide Classified Lorient, France Support and supply for all Commandos Marine.

Commando Hubert personnel transition over a beach.

Commando jauber1

Commando Jaubert personnel storm the Alcyon in a mock assault.

Commando jauber2

Members of the Commando Jaubert covering each other.

Operation Enduring Freedom - djibouti2

U.S. Army Special Forces and French Commandos Marine conduct a reconnaissance patrol during a joint-combined exercise in Djibouti.

Commandos-IMG 9112

A member of the Commandos Marine during a ceremony.

Beret commando marine français

Beret and badge of the Commandos Marine.

See also


  1. ^ (in French) Le Mammouth:14 nouveaux commandos marine
Action Division

The Action Division (French: Division Action), commonly known by its predecessor's title Action Service (French: Service Action) is a division of France's Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE) responsible for planning and performing clandestine and covert operations including black operations. The core specialisations of the Action Division are sabotage, destruction of materiel, assassination, detaining/kidnapping, and infiltration/exfiltration of persons into/from hostile territory.

The division also fulfils other security-related roles including testing the security of strategic sites, for example nuclear power plants and military facilities such as the submarine base of the Île Longue, Bretagne.

Within the Action Division there are three separate groups, CPES for clandestine agents, CPIS for clandestine commandos, and CPEOM for clandestine combat divers. The division's headquarters are located at the fort of Noisy-le-Sec. It replaced the Service Action of the SDECE in 1971.


The ETRACO (acronym for Embarcation de Transport RApide pour COmmandos, translation in English language "Rapid Transport Boat for Commandos") is the standard light inflatable boat of French special forces naval branch, the Commandos Marine.

In service since 1996 ETRACO will be replaced from the summer of 2015 a new system called ECUME.


The Fusiliers Marins and Commandos Marine units are under command of the Force maritime des fusiliers marins et commandos (FORFUSCO) in Lorient. It is headed by a general officer with the title of Admiral commandant Les fusiliers marins et commandos (ALFUSCO).

This force carries out:

Advanced force and reconnaissance operations from the sea

Special operations

Protection of key sites and vessels of the French Navy

Provision of security for elements of the naval forces.A 2,500-man strong force, the FORFUSCO is the fourth organic force of the French Navy.

Free French Naval Forces

Les Forces Navales Françaises Libres ("Free French Naval Forces") were the naval arm of the Free French Forces during the Second World War. They were commanded by Admiral Émile Muselier.

French Navy

The French Navy (French: Marine Nationale, lit. National Navy), informally "La Royale", is the maritime arm of the French Armed Forces. Dating back to 1624, the French Navy is one of the world's oldest naval forces. It has participated in conflicts around the globe and played a key part in establishing the French colonial empire.

The French Navy consists of six main branches and various services: the Force d'Action Navale, the Forces Sous-marines (FOST, ESNA), the Maritime Force of Naval Aeronautics, the Fusiliers Marins (including Commandos Marine), the Marins Pompiers, and the Maritime Gendarmerie.

As of June 2014, the French Navy employed a total of 36,776 personnel along with 2,800 civilians. Its reserve element consisted of 4,827 personnel of the Operational Reserve. As a blue-water navy, it operates a wide range of fighting vessels, which include the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, various aeronaval forces, attack submarines and ballistic missile submarines, frigates, patrol boats and support ships.

French commando frogmen

France has a large commando frogman tradition. Jacques-Yves Cousteau was a naval officer in World War II and helped to set up France's commando frogmen. France further developed the role of commando frogmen in the First Indochina War.

Since the 1950s, the combat swimmer unit of the French Navy have been formed as Commando Hubert, the only Commandos Marine unit having combat swimmers. The tip of the spear of the overall Commandos Marine organization, their military capacities are broader than combat swimming operations. They are publicly known to be a Special Mission Unit supporting counter terrorism along with GIGN (see Ouvea cave, MS Pascal Paoli).

The French intelligence service DGSE also has combat-swimmers brought together in the Centre Parachutiste d'Entraînement aux Opérations Maritimes (CPEOM, "maritime operations training parachutist center") at Roscanvel.

While these are the only French combat-diver units, other French units have divers, including:

the military engineer units of the French Army have two types of divers:

the spécialistes d'aide au franchissement (SAF, "specialists for help in clearing"): swimmers trained to recon and clear banks and bridges to permit their use by military vehicles.

the nageurs d'intervention offensive (NIO, swimmers "for offensive actions"): they accomplish missions similar to combat swimmers but in rivers and estuaries, to destroy bridges inside enemy territory for example and belong to an engineer-regiment.

some commando units like the commando group of the 2nd foreign parachutist regiment and the special unit forces of the Army and the Air Force have offensive divers.

the GIGN and RAID counter-terrorist groups have divers trained to assault a hijacked ship in support of Commando Hubert.

Fusiliers Marins

The Fusiliers Marins ("Naval Fusiliers") are specialized French naval infantry trained for combat in land and coastal regions. The Fusiliers Marins are also in charge of providing protection for naval vessels and key French Navy sites on land.

Green beret

The green beret was the official headdress of the British Commandos of the Second World War. It is still worn by members of the Royal Marines after passing the Commando Course and personnel from other units of the Royal Navy, Army and RAF who serve within 3 Commando Brigade and who have passed the All Arms Commando Course.

There are certain other military organizations which also wear the green beret because they have regimental or unit histories that have a connection with the British Commandos of the Second World War. These include the Australian, French and Dutch commandos. It is the norm in the armed forces of the Commonwealth Nations, where most regiments wear hats or cap badges which reflect regimental battle honours and traditions.

Jean-Dominique Merchet

Jean-Dominique Merchet (born 26 October 1959 in Besançon) is a French journalist working for Marianne. He specialises in military topics.

List of military diving units

This is a list of notable military diving units and may contain combat units, salvage units, training units and diving research units which are present or past commands of any branch of the armed forces of any country.

List of ships of the Free French Naval Forces

This is an incomplete list of the ships of the Free French Naval Forces.


Marines, also known as naval infantry, are typically an infantry force that specializes in the support of naval and army operations at sea and on land and air, as well as the execution of their own operations. In many countries, the marines are an integral part of that state's navy. In others, it is a separate organization altogether, such as in the United States, where the Marine Corps falls under the US Department of the Navy, yet it operates independently (and similarly the UK's Royal Marines come under Her Majesty's Naval Service). Marines can also fall under a country's army like the Troupes de marine (French Marines) and Givati Brigade (Israeli Marines).

Historically, tasks undertaken by marines have included: helping maintain discipline and order aboard the ship (reflecting the pressed nature of the ships' company and the risk of mutiny), the boarding of vessels during combat or capture of prize ships, and providing manpower for raiding ashore in support of the naval objectives.

With the industrialization of warfare in the 20th century the scale of landing operations increased; this brought with it an increased likelihood of opposition and a need for co-ordination of various military elements. Marine forces evolved to specialize in the skills and capabilities required for amphibious warfare.

Marius (commando)

Alain Alivon, known under the pseudonym Marius (born 23 July 1965 in Marseille), is a French military and drill instructor member of the Commandos Marine unit and the French Navy. He is mostly known for featuring in the 2005 documentary L'École des bérets verts on France 2 in the program Envoyé spécial. He later appeared on film and television, and publishing his autobiography.


Minedykkerkommandoen (MDK) or Norwegian Naval EOD Command is a clearance diver group. MDK is subordinate to Norwegian Navy Special Warfare Group Marinens Jegervåpen, which is a division of the Royal Norwegian Navy. MDK is located at Haakonsvern Naval Base in Bergen and Ramsund Naval Base, in vicinity of Harstad.

The Commando is part of the naval contribution to the Norwegian Armed Forces Intervention Force, and the command's personnel have taken part in operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Baltic states and Mediterranean, among others. The unit is often on assignment for the Norwegian Police Service with bomb disposal.

Naval Action Force

The Force d'action navale (FAN, Naval Action Force) is the 12,000-man and about 100-ship strong backbone of the French Navy. As of 2018, it is commanded by Vice-Amiral d’Escadre Jean-Philippe Rolland.

The ships are divided into seven categories:

The aeronaval group, which has the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle at its core

The amphibious group, directed by "Projection and Command vessels" (currently ships of the Mistral class)

Frigates, which act either as protection for the strategic groups, or alone in monitoring, survey, presence, rescue or deterrence missions


"Sovereignty" ships, which are deployed overseas and act as presence and prevention forces

Support vessels

Public service ships, and hydrographic and oceanographic vessels

Olivier Gruner

Olivier Gruner (French: [ɔlivje ɡʁyne] (listen); born August 2, 1960), also named O.G, Оливье Грюнер in Russian, and 奥利弗·古鲁内尔 in Chinese, is a French former soldier, actor, director, producer, screenwriter, martial artist, and pilot. Born in Paris, France, he moved to the United States in 1988. His career began in 1987 at the Cannes Film Festival, France, where he was discovered.He has since appeared in over 40 films and four television series and is best known for his martial art and science fiction action films. Gruner is regarded as an "action hero" due to his portrayal of Alex Raine in Nemesis (1992), Lt. Sean Lambert in the Interceptor Force franchise (2000–2002), and of Dirk Longstreet in The Circuit franchise (2001-2006).His credits also include urban action movie Angel Town (1989), Automatic (1994), Savate (1995), Mercenary (1996), The white Pony (1999), Kumite (2000), Blizhniy Boy: The Ultimate Fighter (2007), Lost Warrior: Left Behind (2008), One Night (2010), and Beyond the Game (2016).

As a martial artist, Gruner was a full time kickboxer in France for 8 years from 1981 to 1988. He became France middleweight champion, then middleweight full-contact kickboxing world champion in 1985, and again middleweight kickboxing world champion in 1986.

Republic of Vietnam Marine Division

The Republic of Vietnam Marine Division (RVNMD, Vietnamese: Sư Đoàn Thủy Quân Lục Chiến [TQLC]) was part of the armed forces of South Vietnam. It was established by Ngo Dinh Diem in 1954 when he was Prime Minister of the State of Vietnam, which became the Republic of Vietnam in 1955. The longest-serving commander was Lieutenant General Le Nguyen Khang. In 1969, the VNMC had a strength of 9,300, 15,000 by 1973., and 20,000 by 1975.The Marine Division trace their origins to French-trained Commandos Marine divisions recruited and placed under the command of the French Navy but officially incorporated in 1960. From 1970 onwards, the South Vietnamese marines and Airborne Division grew significantly, supplanting the independent, Central Highlands based Vietnamese Rangers as the most popular elite units for volunteers. Along with the Airborne the Marine Division formed the General Reserve with the strategic transformation under Vietnamization, with elite and highly-mobile units meant to be deployed in People's Army of Vietnam attacking points and incursions. By then, the level of training had improved considerably and U.S. General Creighton Abrams who oversaw Vietnamization stated that South Vietnam's Airborne and Marines had no comparable units to match it in the PAVN.This division had earned a total of 9 U.S. presidential citations, with the 2nd Battalion "Crazy Buffaloes" earning two.

Special Actions Detachment

The Special Actions Detachment (Portuguese: Destacamento de Ações Especiais) or DAE is the special operations maritime unit of the Portuguese Navy. It is part of the Portuguese Marine Corps.

Raised in 1985, the DAE is one of the smallest special forces units within the Portuguese Armed Forces.

It is responsible for conducting special operations, beach reconnaissance, Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), maritime counter-terrorism, demolition operations, and other missions in support of Portuguese and NATO armed forces.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.