Historically, Portugal has played a major role in maritime commerce and military power. Dating back to the year 1585, the Corpo de Fuzileiros Navais de Portugal, or the Portuguese Marine Corps, has had a rich history of service. Portuguese Marines served with distinction throughout the colonial era against the forces of the other major European powers. They also played an important role in protecting Portugal’s royal family from Napoleon’s forces in 1808. Over a century later, they fought in Angola, Guinea and Mozambique for a 14-year period starting in 1961. Since 1997, Portugal’s Marines have participated jointly and separately in peace support and humanitarian assistance operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Timor-Leste, the former Republic of Zaire, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, the Congo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today, Portugal’s Marine Corps provides a ready, operational combat force for the national defense of Portugal, and as a power projection capability, it supports the interests of the nation overseas. As a subdivision of Portugal’s Navy, the Marine Corps forces are amphibious in nature and offer flexibility and mobility.
Operational units of the Marine Corps include the 1st Marine Battalion, 2nd Marine Battalion, Combat Support Company, Tactical Transport Company, Assault Landing Unit, Naval Police Unit and the Special Actions Detachment. The 1st and 2nd Marine Battalions provide the core of the manpower that can be used in combat or humanitarian operations. Both battalions can be tasked to conduct offensive amphibious landings, securing Portugal’s naval bases and those of her allies, and providing shipboard detachments on vessels of the Portuguese Navy.
Among the various small arms and equipment the Marines use, GLOCK pistols are the handguns of choice. Portugal’s elite Marines, like many other European forces, use the GLOCK 17 in 9×19. According to a Marines spokesman, the GLOCK pistols have proven to be very durable in service and popular with the Marines due to their ergonomic design and other factors, including GLOCK’s black nitride finish, which results in excellent corrosion resistance in the harsh sea conditions the Marines operate in. The GLOCK 17 is also considered very accurate because of the pistol’s barrel length, sight radius and trigger.
A special operations unit known as the Destacamento de Acções Especiais or Special Actions Detachment, commonly referred to by the Portuguese abbreviation “DAE,” is considered to be the most elite unit in the Portuguese Marine Corps. The DAE is responsible for conducting amphibious raids, reconnaissance, covert operations and destruction of high-value targets. DAE personnel carry out independent operations or operations in support of other units as part of naval and amphibious missions. DAE Marines are specially trained to conduct high-risk assault missions aboard fixed platforms, ships and boats at sea as part of counter-terrorism and criminal enforcement actions. Hostage rescue of passengers and crew, as well as recovery of ships from hostile combatants, is also a vital role of the DAE. Another common task is Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), which involves recognizing, disarming and destroying explosive devices.
DAE Marines can be called upon to perform a wide range of actions at sea and on land that require exceptional skills and the use of specialized equipment. DAE personnel can be inserted into an area of operation by naval surface ship, submarine and by air. Technical diving, parachuting, helicopter fast-roping, and small boat operations are just some of the skill-sets employed by DAE Marines during insertions. These DAE Marines are required to maintain high standards of fitness, training and individual skills. Given the nature of these demands, the admission of candidates is very limited and selective.
Once an individual Marine is selected and trained in basic DAE techniques, he is then required to complete advanced training in various specialized topics. These include open-water swimming; open- and closed-circuit scuba diving; explosives and demolitions; tactical medicine; military parachuting (including static-line and free-fall techniques); defensive driving; patrolling; long-range observation; communications; nuclear, biological and chemical defense; camouflage; sniper marksmanship; unarmed fighting; mountaineering; helicopter fast-roping; and underwater egress training.
Pistol marksmanship and tactical pistol shooting are also important. DAE Marines have used the GLOCK 17 as their standard pistol since 1996. The Marines train with and shoot their GLOCK pistols on a near daily basis and expend thousands of rounds of ammunition each year.
GLOCKs In Action
The following account from a former DAE Marine highlights the effectiveness of the GLOCK pistol in special operations. Due to security concerns, his name has not been published.
“During my career I used several pistols, beginning with the Model 61, our version of the German P1. When I first read about the GLOCK pistol, I must admit I was skeptical about the frame being constructed from polymer. My first experience with a GLOCK pistol came during a training exercise with other NATO forces on the island of Lajes. Shortly after that I was able to fire the GLOCK pistol on the range, and I came away very impressed. I was using a GLOCK 17 and found it to be accurate, easy to grip and nearly idiot-proof to use. The last characteristic is important for new soldiers with limited training and also for those under great stress in a difficult situation. When we adopted the GLOCK 17, it was well received by my fellow Marines and sailors. Perhaps the two most important details were its capacity for carrying many cartridges and the ease in which it can be broken down for cleaning.
“One experience that I was involved in proved to me the value of the GLOCK. This came during a raid exercise that would involve live fire at the end. During the late afternoon, we began the insertion operation of two Marine DAE detachments. The movements were to be conducted from the air by Air Force Puma helicopter and by the sea from a submarine. I was a member of a five-man detachment aboard the submarine off shore while a second five-man team stood by with the helicopter at the airfield at Montijo. After night fell, the submarine would surface, and my detachment would proceed ashore aboard a small rubber boat. After we landed, we would take up positions on the seaward side of the target. Once in position, we would wait for the helicopter to deliver the second detachment, at which point we would carry out a synchronized assault. I was armed with a machine pistol as my primary weapon and a GLOCK pistol as backup.
“After leaving the line of departure from the submarine, we utilized an engine until we neared the breakers, just off shore, where we began to paddle. The sea was rougher than expected, and things soon went bad. Our boat capsized, and we all went for a swim. It was so rough that most, if not all of us, had to inflate our floatation vests. We all made it to shore safely, but we lost some of our kit and had to trudge through heavy sand and muck. I made an equipment check and found that my machine pistol had collected lots of debris in the barrel and around the trigger. I deemed it to be unsafe to use for live fire, so I transitioned to my GLOCK, which had been dangling loose from a lanyard only a few moments before. I quietly cycled the slide a few times and then inserted a magazine and made it combat-ready. We moved forward, and although we were now behind schedule, we reached a good assault position prior to the arrival of the helicopter assault detachment. The exercise went smoothly from that point, and I successfully engaged five targets with two or more shots each.
“My GLOCK performed without any malfunctions, and I didn’t need to make a magazine change. I later carried a GLOCK on assignments in the Balkans and in Africa. Although I never had to use it, I knew it would work if I needed it.”