The manpower required for the Ozel Kuvvetler Komutanligi (OKK), which is publicly known as Red Berets or Bordo Bereliler, is acquired from the selected officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) of various units operating under the Land Forces Command. In other words, the Army officers and NCOs only are eligible to join this elite unit. The OKK is the Special Forces Command. This unit directly operates under the command of the General Staff Headquarters. The individuals forming this special unit are selected from their regular army troops on voluntary basis.
Not all who volunteers are admitted though since there is a pass/fail written exam as well as physical tests to go through. Those who pass the exams become special forces candidates. Adequate linguistic skills in at least one foreign language is a plus for admission. The candidates then have to complete a challenging training period which lasts around 2.5 years. Many drop out during this intense training period. Training encompasses fitness, obstacle, Martial Arts, close quarters combat (CQC), biological/chemical/nuclear warfare, parachuting, diving, sniping, demolition, counter-terrorism, search and rescue, stealth seek and destroy, reconnaissance and survival. Learning foreign languages is a part of the training. During the training, candidates are pushed by their instructors to their limits, both physically and mentally. Training schedule includes all aspects of a modern day regular and psychological warfare. 100 kilometer terrain-walking with a 40 kg. load is just an example of what the candidates have to go through during training. Although the official size of the OKK stands at a Division level, this includes non-combatant units and behind-the-desk duties as well. The combatant size of the OKK is not greater than 500. The OKK may be considered as the Turkish counterpart of the US Green Berets.
Within the OKK, there is a more specialized unit with only 100 members. Although the name of the unit is Combat Search and Rescue (Muharebe Arama Kurtarma – M.A.K.), its duties focus more on unconventional warfare and military intelligence. No further information is available on MAK except for the fact that it is thought to be established and organized like its US counterpart Delta Force. It also differs from the OKK in that its members are selected not only from the Army, but also from the other two main forces, Navy and Air Force. It should not be difficult to conclude that the MAK members are the best of the best within the Turkish Armed Forces.
OKK and MAK perform a variety of duties such as:
– Surveillance on enemy structures, facilities, defense systems or strategically relevant buildings.
– Covert sabotage against enemy units and structures.
– Hostage/POW/downed pilot rescue.
– Counter-terrorism missions.
– Close Quarter Combat.
– Organization and training of friendly civilians against the enemy.
OKK and MAK both took part in the accomplishment of several missions. Capture of Abdullah Ocalan, the Chief of the terrorist PKK organization, in Kenya and of Semdin Sakik, PKK’s second chief in charge were carried out by the OKK. The OKK gained vast amount of experience in search and destroy type missions, especially in rural areas and caves in South-East Turkey during its years long campaign against the PKK. The OKK has also been undertaking missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, Afghanistan and North Iraq. A few OKK teams were sent to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom and trained the new recruits of the newly-established regular Afghan Army.