Spartans and Special Forces
The Spartans were the Special Forces (SF) of their time. Now we have Delta Force, Navy SEALS, Green Berets, Marine Force RECON and Army Rangers. All are small elite groups of warriors trained to kill. How many of today’s warriors would equal one Spartan? Given the vast differences in technology and the way that battles are fought, who would come out on top? Spartan warriors are taken from their families at the age of seven to begin the training of a warrior. These boys where placed into groups also referred to as “packs” and sent to Agoge, what we today call boot camp.
While in Agoge they became accustomed to hardship and given just minimal amounts of food and clothing to survive. By having just enough to get by they were encouraged to steal. If they where caught stealing they would be punished, not for stealing, but for being caught. The boys where also encouraged to compete in mock fights and games to promote unity. They learned songs of Spartan victories and how to read and write. They didn’t learn how to read and write for cultural purposes, but rather so that they could read maps. When the boys reached the age of 12 they became youths.
Much more was demanded of youths than children. They began a more intensified physical training regime, were given extra tasks and discipline became harsher. They were forced to go barefoot and wear only a tunic in both summer and winter. When the boys reached the age of 18 they became young adults. They served as trainers for the youths. Also included in this category where the most promising youths. These elite boys where the ones that stood out among all others and chosen for possible leadership positions. When a Spartan turned 20 years of age he became eligible for service in the military.
They joined a “messes” ( a group meal ) consisting of fifteen men of various ages. The ones who where not chosen for the messes where given a lesser citizenship. Only soldiers where of equal status and rank. Until the age of thirty the Spartan soldiers spent almost all of their time in the barracks with the unit. This included even soldiers that where married. Spartans remained in the military until the age of sixty. Today, at the age of seven, children are in school and living with their families in a warm home. They have enough food and clothing provided that there is no need to steal.
The only type of training they are receiving is basic schooling and fighting gets you in nothing but trouble. The only other type of military training a child can receive would be if they where sent to a military academy and only wealthiest of families can afford to do that. At the age of 12 what was expected of youths is a little more demanding than that of a child. You are expected to do more chores and the physical training is from playing with your friends or gym class at school. We definitely didn’t wear a tunic in both summer and winter and you are only barefoot if you want to be.
We have plenty of clothes for all seasons and footwear to stay protected from the elements. Now we reach the age of 18 and you have either graduated from high school or received your GED. Then and only then you are allowed to join the military after meeting one of these two goals. For the most fortunate of this age group, they may go to college. For the ones who want to become leaders in the military they go to a military academy like West Point or The Citadel to become officers. For those who chose to just join the military, they go to basic training. This is nothing compared to what the Spartans have already been through.
They have already been in training now for 12 years. Basic training only lasts eight weeks and then you go on to your military occupational specialty (MOS) school which could last up to a year. If you become and infantryman like a Spartan begins as, you have an additional 11 weeks of training to complete. In the Army you can apply for Special Forces Green Berets, and if you are chosen you now begin more intensified training. If you are one of the few enlisted men or officers chosen for Special Forces you now must complete the SF Qualification (Q) Course.
The Q Course can last anywhere from 12 to 24 months depending on the MOS you choose. Special Forces soldiers have four MOS categories to choose from: Weapons Expert (18B), Engineer (18C), Medic (18D) and Communications (18E). When an officer trains for SF they are only given one MOS to choose from Career Management (18A). When you have completed your SF training you are then assigned to your unit and then to your team. At age 20 you have been in the military for two to three years and have moved up the ranks to at least a Specialist or Corporal in the Army.
If you chose to go one of the military academies you are half way through your training and the process of getting your degree, which is required to be an officer in the military. Unlike Spartans though, today you are allowed to be at home with your family and only if you are single you are not committed to staying in the barracks with the unit. There are other daily rituals that you do while with your unit, such as physical training (PT), training with the unit at the range and cleaning your equipment. Those are only a few of the things that you do with the unit.
Special Forces units, unlike Spartans, have what is referred to as a Real World Mission, meaning they can deploy to any part of the world within 24 hours. They are SF Teams deployed today in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, the war on drugs in Central and South America and SF Teams in Africa on Peace Keeping missions. When you reach your 20 year mark in the military you have the choice of retiring or staying in longer. If I where to have stayed in for twenty years I would have retired at the age of 42.
Being part of the military until the age of 60 is not required of any soldier today. Spartans, like the citizens of many other Greek States, where trained as soldiers and used the Phalanx formation in battle. The Phalanx formation was rectangular in design and the Spartans where the masters in the use of this formation. The traditional formation consisted of a strait line of men in a file 8 to 12 deep. This formation used pushing and required a lot of strength and stamina to endure long days of fighting. The Elite, as they are referred to, would take up the honorary right flank when fighting with their allies.
When they broke through the line of the enemy, as they usually did, the Spartans would sweep left and roll through the enemy. The picture below is that of a Phalanx formation and shows the position of Elite forces on the honorary right side of the formation. [pic] [pic] The above picture is that of a Phalanx formation. The tactics of today’s soldier are vastly more superior because of the way battles are fought. Battles today are not fought by masses of men on one field of battle slugging it out with spears, swords and shields. Today, we rely heavily on technology to fight our battles.
The Spartans didn’t have the luxury of a Tomahawk cruise missile or artillery barrage to soften a target before attacking the enemy. Special Forces soldiers are taught Small Unit Tactics, SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) tactics, Combat Skills Training and Special Forces Field Craft Training. All of this training combined prepares the soldiers for their Unconventional Warfare Combat Exercise called “Robin Sage” at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. This exercise demonstrates the skills that the Special Forces soldiers have been taught over a 28 day period.
For a Spartan to have achieved this type of training he would have been training for almost 14 years. The Spartan would have been much more refined in his combat skills than the average Special Forces soldier. Spartans wore hoplite armor which consisted of armor with flanged bronze cuirasses, leg greaves and a Corinthian style helmet. The weapons they would have carried into battle would have been a bronze shield weighing up to 15 pounds known as a Hoplon, a 6 to 10 foot spear called a Sarissas for thrusting at advancing soldiers and a two foot long sword called a Xiphos for thrusting and cutting in close combat.
All of this equipment was simple and yet very effective on the battlefield. Below is a picture of a Spartan soldier with all of his equipment needed for battle. [pic] The equipment of a Special Forces soldiers varies drastically from one combat theatre to the next. The basic equipment used consists of a uniform with boots, knee pads, elbow pads, protective eyewear, Interceptor Body armor with Ballistic plates to stop a hi-powered rifle round, a ballistic helmet. The weapons carried by Special Forces Soldiers also vary from mission to mission. The basic weapons carried on a mission for an SF soldier are an M-4 5. 6 millimeter Carbine, M-9 9 millimeter pistol, a bayonet, ammunition for both the pistol and rifle and hand grenades. Below is a group of Special Forces Soldiers posing for a photo in Iraq. [pic] In my opinion, the Spartans would be the toughest of the tough. They endured many more hardships over the p of their lifetime. They where taken from their families at the age of seven and spent their lives in the military. We, on the other hand, have all the luxuries one could ever want, and more. We are not brought up to be killing machines like the Spartans were. Thankfully most of us will never have to kill another human being in our lifetime.
Headquarters, Department of the Army, Field Manual (FM) 3-05, Army Special Operations Forces, September 2006
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Retrieved: December 12, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Forces_Qualification_Course
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Retrieved: December 12, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exercise_Robin_Sage
ABC News, Retrieved: December 12, 2009 from http://a.abcnews.com/images/International/ht_berets06_070530_ssh.jpg
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Retrieved: November 11, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sparta
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Retrieved: November 11, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spartan_Army
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Retrieved: December 12, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phalanx_formation
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Retrieved: December 12, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hop2.jpg
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Retrieved: December 12, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Greek_Phalanx.jpg
Military Factory, website about ancient and modern weapons and armor Retrieved: December 13, 2009 from http://www.militaryfactory.com/ancient-warfare/spartan-hoplite.asp