Interview: Rich Norman
Pics: Forsvarets Mediearkiv, Roar Stene, STAS
STAS – Norwegian special forces milsim team.
– About STAS on Facebook
You may remember that Joe used to be part of another cutting edge Norwegian team…
Joe – you left a well-known and highly successful team (HHK) to help form STAS. What was your motivation?
At the time, I felt I had accomplished all I could with my CAG setup. I loved the kit, but I grew tired of it.
It was a tough call, it really was, to leave the safety and friendship of such a warm and close-knit group.
However, I realised that if I was going to continue to enjoy the hobby, I had to challenge myself with a new project.
Forsvarets Spesialkommando (FSK) is so different to a CAG impression and there was no one in the community doing this particular timeframe – apart from a good friend who inspired me to build this kit.
I thought it would be pretty cool if I could contribute to something that was so new and exciting.
Tell me about STAS
The STAS name is actually just an inside joke between members. The word has a positive meaning and can be translated to “dashing”, “impressive”, “your Sunday best”.
In other languages it also means to be “ostentatious” or with “fanfare and/or flash”, we could say “swagger” – but the millennials ruined that term 🙂
There are too many acronyms in the world already, so just using an actual word for once was a plus. Also, it’s easy to remember; both for our domestic audience and for those we interact with online all over the world.
The team finally came together when a few interested individuals started talking online about modern FSK kit. We then began identifying gear, to set a baseline for how the team should look – defining a set of standards, which also applies to team attitudes.
Most of our group lives on the west coast of Norway. That means we don’t get together as often or as easily as we’d like. But hey, we’re living in 2018 – never has it been easier to communicate. Our chats are active 24/7 and we regularly talk via Discord or Skype when there’s serious stuff to plan for.
We still consider STAS a young team, but we already have plans for this year and hope to expand our network, meet new people, get new gear and attend as many events as possible.
You’re still pals with the HHK guys, right?
Most definitely! Let me be absolutely clear about this from the very start. There’s no bad blood between any of us. HHK understood why I needed to leave and they have been really helpful and positive.
We still go to events together and between us we’ve even organised our own milsim. Together we ran Svenor 2017, which STAS, Hestehovkompaniet, Berserkir Mechanized, Devt6G5 Grey Group, Trident EOD, EIR Medical, Sky One and SOE_SWE attended. We had help from Phantom Security who spent the days as scripted crisis actors/bad guys.
The weekend went well and there was a shared feeling that this was something that should happen again.
So Ola from HHK asked me if we shouldn’t plan another weekender for those who missed out on the first one. Two months later, Milsim Missions/NorNor emerged. Ola and I spent the time writing some new scenarios to fit with the expectant participants, as well as rewriting some of the old ones to work with the new gang of people. This time around, HHK and a bunch of people from TF Exorbitance took on the role of opfor/civilians for the other teams to handle.
From our perspective, Milsim Missions was a success, and both Ola and I hope those who attended agree with us 🙂
Let’s throw in some videos…
Grey Group at Svenor:
TF Exorbitance at Svenor:
A TF Exo member and two other guys during a night operation during Milsim Missions:
Readers outside Europe may not know much about FSK. What’s their background?
FSK – Forsvarets Spesialkommando – roughly translates to “The Norwegian Army Special Forces”. They were created in 1982, as a counter terror unit to supplement the established police CT unit, Beredskapstroppen Delta (Quick Reaction Troop Delta). The Norwegian government identified an increased threat towards Norwegian interests, including offshore oil installations. While Delta would handle domestic terror situations, FSK would take the lead where the police weren’t properly equipped or trained.
The existence of FSK was secret until 1999, when it was finally admitted that there was a special operations group within the Norwegian Army.
But we can go back even further. When Norway was invaded during WWII, some of the Norwegian forces managed to escape to Britain. Even with limited resources, they managed to make a sizable dent in the Axis war machine. This was very much thanks to the training and skills they learned from the British Special Operations Executive (SOE – which would later turn into the SAS/SBS).
The group of Norwegian commandos working under the SOE was named Norwegian Independent Company No. 1 (known to Norwegians as Kompani Linge, under the command of Martin Linge). There were also several Commando Companies in the British forces, where the No. 5 Troop was Norwegian; also known as the Norwegian Commando Company. (Very few in Norway know that David Stirling instructed Norwegian commandos before he founded the SAS).
Back to present day and in FSK’s beginnings, 22 SAS and the SBS were a huge influence: acting as mentors, thanks to the time-honoured Norwegian and British war-time friendship. You can see the similarities in the earlier FSK patch and SAS patch; daggers and wings. 22 SAS would instruct FSK in counter terror training. The SBS trained the FSK in how to conduct maritime operations.
FSK is one of a handful of world class special forces. The unit has been involved in Kosovo, Macedonia, Qargha, Kabul and more. They’ve had a central role in mentoring the Afghan Special Police, CRU TF24 (Crisis Response Unit Task Force 24), together with the New Zealand SAS. They are capable of almost any task, from direct action, reconnaissance, hostage situations, intelligence and as advisors.
For readers who understand Norwegian, I’d like to recommend a book by Tom Bakkeli – “Krigere og diplomater” (Warriors and Diplomats).
Bakkeli is a journalist who got exclusive access to the inner circle of FSK, covering their whole official history in his book, with a lot of details and some interesting and inspiring pictures.
An outstanding history! You mentioned standards earlier?
We expect, first and foremost, a mature attitude and respect towards other groups or individuals in the community.
STAS members are all dedicated towards immersion and realism, and we work hard to embroil ourselves in the events we attend – both for our own enjoyment and for the benefit of others.
It’s also expected from everyone in the group to behave in a way that discourages elitism.
In STAS, although we have different roles within the team, we make decisions as equals. Every member has their say and a voice, and can make a difference. Since we’re still a fairly small group, this kind of consultative discussion works right now – but if we’re to expand to become a larger group in the future, the guys with the most experience and knowledge will lay down the law for what, how and when.
While it’s important that every person in the group is comfortable with what we’re doing, we can’t stray from the group goal of doing a legitime impression because one of the members likes an EoTech over the issued Aimpoint, for example.
Which segues nicely into kit standards…
RS gear is preferred in the long run, but may not be feasible immediately due to prioritisation of funds and accessibility. We’ll settle for high end replicas if we can’t get the real deal. This is because you get what you pay for; a replica from the top shelf will outperform the 10 euro replica from ebay any day.
Reference pictures are key to our research, which affects standards. If we have a kit issue that needs to be solved, that’s where we go for our answers. Even after looking at the picture for the 100th time, it’s not uncommon that you’ll see a new detail, a new variant, or realize that the thing you thought was just that thing, is in fact another thing!
Some reference pic examples:
In cases where we don’t have clear cut reference material, we try to reason with ourselves as to what would likely be used. We look at units close to the FSK and see what they use, and try to imagine if it would suit our needs. This is something that works in small doses, as there comes a time when we’ve spent all our snowflake points.
Here’s a short version of STAS’ baseline:
Crye Precision Combat Shirt AC/G3 Multicam
Crye Precision Combat Pants AC/G3 Multicam
Granquist gloves, tan
Shoes are up to the enduser to choose, as it’s important to have good shoes for your feet
OpsCore FAST Ballistic
VIP-strobe with Adventure Light helmet mount
Peltor Comtac XP or singlecom III, OD
First Spear AAC PC, Multicam
First Spear Mini Admin, Multicam
First Spear Triple Ranger Shingle 6/12, Multicam
First Spear TQ pouch, Multicam
Safariland 6385 ALS, tan, either on a platform or mounted to your belt
First Spear Assaulter Belt, tan
First Spear Double Speed Reload pouch, Multicam
Diemaco C8 RIF
CAR15/Magpul CTR stock
Aimpoint Comp M2 on an ARMS #17 mount with 22M68SP riser
Diemaco front folding sight
VTAC Mk I two point sling
Was it hard getting used to new gear after HHK, like the First Spear AAC?
Yes. After years of using the same gear, there was stuff etched into muscle memory. Similarly, USSOF are avid users of velcro, while their Norwegian counterparts are not. It was also a new feeling to wear a plate carrier without the sturdy harness that the Crye CPC has; but First Spear’s AAC offers more agility and movement in return, and an overall lower profile. It reminds me of a slightly bigger JPC, if readers have tried that carrier.
We’ve been running PCs with First Spear’s Tubes technology for almost two years now. None of us have had the mechanisms break, or open unintentionally.
The downside is that your cummerbund loses one PALS channel on either side of you front platebag. But the pros of not having to lift the velcro flap to don and doff your PC is worth it. While it’s way easier to gear up, or gear off with the Tubes system, it takes longer to adjust the cummerbund length in the first place.
First Spear’s 6/12 technology is more of a mixed bag. It does cut down on weight, but it can be a pain in the behind. The laser-cut PALS slots are a definite win, but the velcro backing tabs leave much to be desired. FirstSpear’s 6/9 system is a better compromise, in my opinion, because it mixes the laser-cut slots with a more traditional, threaded MOLLE pouch backer.
We, as an FSK impression team, aren’t restricted to First Spear gear. Blue Force Gear, Tyr Tactical, and not least NFM are frequently spotted. NFM is probably most well known in the international community for their M07BA vests, issued to the Norwegian Army in various forms. They also supply the Bear II vest, which is the most common vest out there today in the Army and Navy. FSK use their older generation of Bear vests for long range recon and winter kit.
NFM is mostly seen as the medic pouch and the HABD pouch on FSK operators. For events that require us to be out in the wild for an extended period of time, we’ve settled for the NFM Bear II with NFM pouches. Some of us have military backgrounds, and learned the pros and cons with this vest, so we know how to best use it for simulation use.
One of the things that NFM has thought of, is magazine pouches with lids that completely cover the pouch and whatever it packs. This is due to the ridiculous amount of snow that falls every winter in Norway. Try pulling out a magazine from a pouch that’s full of snow with winter mittens, while under stress. The lids also prevent dirt and debris from interfering with your gear.
Compared to Crye, NFM makes more durable and sturdy tactical nylon. But on the other hand, these manufacturers make their products based on use in different environments; so while NFM tends to be more bulky and robust than Crye, the latter isn’t meant to be exposed to the same scenery.
NFM makes various clothes under the GARM name, which the GARM Combat Shirt has made them famous for. They recently released the 2.0 version of their uniforms and combat apparel. Well worth a look if you’re into Norwegian gear.
We do go for Crye Precision, Arcteryx and Taiga when it comes to uniforms, but you can see GARM here and there if you spot us somewhere. Issued Gore-Tex uniforms are not uncommon either.
Tell me about any specialisms within the team
We aim to be an assault/breaching team. We don’t put all our eggs in the CQB setup, but the guys know how to knock down doors and take names.
There are different roles for everyone in the group, consisting of a leader, breacher, medic, scout, and whatever we would need. You’re not locked in to your role forever, but at larger events you bring your medic pack if you’re the medic in the team. The goal is that every member can cover for each other if the situation demands it, and we hope to get there in the future.
Lastly, what are the team’s future plans?
We are looking to expand our merry group of bandits. Hopefully we can grow as a team and add positive influences to the group and the milsim community as a whole.
We are planning to attend this year’s Berget on the NAF side, and will pretty much jump onto any milsim event when ever we get a chance.