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Norway has a long history of deploying special operations units. The Forsvarets Spesialkommando, or FSK, fought in Operation Enduring Freedom, running missions with Delta Force and Navy SEALs. But these men often meet a different kind of resistance when they encounter Muslim women. So there was a need for a different kind of front-line operative.

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“In Afghanistan, one of our biggest challenges was that we would enter houses and not be able to speak to the women,” said Capt Ole Vidar Krogsaeter, an officer with the Norwegian Special Operations Forces.

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“In urban warfare, you have to be able to interact with women as well. Adding female soldiers was an operational need.”

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And so the Jegertroppen (Hunter Troop) was born.  The Hunter Troop is the world’s only all-female special-ops force.

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The group was established in 2014, and has a very small acceptance rate. The first class of inductees had 317 candidates. Only 13 made it in.Those 13 women spent a year mastering airborne operations, arctic survival, urban warfare, counter-terrorism….

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And the 13 graduates of the program are highly capable. Their training is identical to that of their male counterparts with the exception of the weight they carry–their packs weigh 60 pounds instead of 88 pounds.

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While the group is ready to deploy anywhere, Norway’s brass are most optimistic about using the team in the Middle East, where the women would be able to interact with the local population quite differently than their male counterparts.

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Yet the group is having an impact at home, too. They’re role models. Little more than a decade ago, women made up just .7% of the entire Norwegian military. Now that number has climbed to 10%, and is expected to hit 20% by the end of this decade.

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Making the military more hospitable for women, and increasing the opportunities women find in the service are both important. Norway is the only NATO country that has a mandate requiring young people to serve, so it is important that their service is as useful and rewarding as possible.

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For a look at what the Norwegian special forces look like, watch this: