602nd Commando Company (Argentinian Army)

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The 602nd Commando Company (Compañía de Comandos 602 or Ca Cdo(s) 602) is a special operations unit of the Argentinian Army, created on May 21, 1982 and placed under the command of Major Aldo Rico. It was based on the original 601st Commando Company under Major Mario Castagneto that was formed and sent to reinforce the Argentinian-occupied Falklands/Malvinas Islands in late April.

The company is currently divided in three assault sections: 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Its motto is "Res Non Verba" (Actions Not Words). The company is based in Cordoba. The members of this unit wear green berets with unit badges.

The companies were formed in 1975 for the counterinsurgency campaign in Tucumán Province but then disbanded, then formed temporarily as Halcón 8 under Major Mohamed Alí Seineldín for security during the FIFA World Cup held in Argentina in 1978 but then disbanded after the games.

Falklands War

These Argentinian Army Commandos were hurriedly collected, and the 601st and 602nd Commando Companies were formed with about 114 men altogether and sent to Puerto Argentino/Port Stanley, the capital of the Falklands/Malvinas Islands. The Army Commandos were reinforced by a 65-man special forces squadron of the National Gendarmerie in late May 1982.

The British 22nd Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) and Mountain and Arctic Warfare Cadre (M&AWC) had several clashes with the 602nd Commando Company in the Battles of Mount Kent and Top Malo House. [1] The Argentinian Green Berets were being used as fighting patrols in the area and were ordered to shoot down British helicopters whenever possible. The 602nd had two men killed in an SAS ambush at Bluff Cove Peak in a morning action on 30 May. First Lieutenant Rubén Eduardo Márquez[2] and Sergeant Oscar Humberto Blas, from Captain Tomás Victor Fernández' 2nd Assault Section, were posthumously decorated for their part in this action.[3]

A larger fight took place on May 31. Captain José Arnobio Vercesi's 1st Assault Section from the 602nd Commando Company was spotted by the British in an isolated sheep farm, Top Malo House, which had been bypassed by the 3rd British Commando Brigade. 19 Mountain & Artic Warfare special forces were helicoptered there and attacked the house. During a fierce 45-minute action the house was set on fire, the British later paid tribute to the tough fight put up by the Argentinians, who suffered two killed and six wounded; there were only four unwounded prisoners. Two of the Argentinians, Lieutenant Ernesto Emilio Espinosa and Sergeant Mateo Domingo Sbert, were posthumously awarded Argentina's highest decoration for bravery. The Argentinian commandos claimed two British were killed; their comrades, they said, could be seen crying over the dead bodies. But no British were killed; what the Argentinian survivors saw were the three badly British wounded being tended.[4]

The only British death in the Mount Kent area was when an SAS patrol accidentally fired upon an SBS patrol in the early hours of 2 June and SBS Sergeant Nick Hunt was killed. Four Royal Marines (Sergeant Robert Leeming, Coporals Peter Fitton, Andrew Uren and Marine Keith Phillips) were also killed in the British patrol phase, reportedly due to friendly fire, but this action took place near Murrell River on the night of 9/10 June.[5]The Argentinian Army's version of events is that Senior Lieutenant Jorge Manuel Vizoso Posse, second-in-command of the 602nd Commando Company's 3rd Assault Section, shot dead all four Royal Marines that night at point blank range[6]for which he would win the Heroic Valour Cross[7], Argentina's highest military decoration. Senior Lieutenant Horacio Fernando Lauría and Sergeant Orlando Aguirre claimed to have destroyed a British machine-gun with rifle-grenades fired at a punto (horizontally) in this action with the British admitting one Royal Marine killed due to a fragmentary round.[8]

From their mountaintop observation posts British Commandos directed naval, artillery and mortar fire on the Argentinians below on Mount Harriet and Two Sisters Mountain. Major Rico's men, in the form of Captain Andres Ferrero's 3rd Assault Section, were able to dislodge Lieutenant Tony Hornby's 10 Troop on Mount Wall on the night of June 5/6. According to Captain Ferrero:

At about 4 in the evening on the 5th, we moved up to First Lieutenant Carlos Alberto Arroyo's command post on Mount Harriet. Major Aldo Rico commanded the patrol. We were as glad to see Arroyo as he was to see us. Dirty, bearded and a little thinner, he gripped Rico in a bear hug. A gallant Commando, Arroyo volunteered to go with us to Mount Wall. Several conscripts came to see us. There was a lot of laughter, some of it nervous, perhaps adrenaline-driven. We had a chance to get a scrumptious and - let us be honest here - very fatty barbecue going and look at the enemy positions at Bluff Cove Rincon and tried to pinpoint the observation post on Mount Wall. A 4th Regiment patrol had been out in the area the night before. Distances were deceptive. In the thin air Mount Kent seemed close at hand. In nearly every other direction arose outcrops of limestone. Their slopes were not sheer; rather they spread themselves, rugged and inhospitable. It was a very humbling place. We watched 155mm fire falling on the British paratroopers at Bluff Cove Rincon. The weather was appalling, cold and wet with high wind. Few people are aware that we also had the ugly experience of being shelled by the 3rd Artillery Group at one point. It was human error. The plan was to take Mount Wall from the rear. Two artillery batteries were on call, because our route up the feature was very open - a perfect killing ground. By 4pm it was almost dark and the temperature had sunk. Moving past shell craters and remnants of cluster bombs to the base of Mount Wall, we lay up among boulders while First Lieutenant Lauria cleared a path through the minefields. Altogether it must have taken three hours to get there. It was a moonlit night and cold. I lay there frozen, not moving. Argentinian Artillery fire started coming down on Mount Wall at approximately 10.30pm. Crouching in silence we waited for the fire to end. Some shells fell only 150 metres from us. Then - sudden silence. It ceased and Major Rico screamed to us to go and we advanced uphill through the rocks. A fit commando, if anyone was going to get to the mountaintop first, it would be Lauria but as he swept round a boulder, he came across a straggler or so he thought. It was Major Rico. Who says ages slows you down? On the way up we passed the body of a 4th Regiment conscript. Captain Hugo Ranieri knelt down to examine the body and removed the rosary from the young soldier's neck before moving on. We found a laser target designator and several rucksacks. It was the first indication we'd had of how well they had been equipped. There was even a 42 Commando beret.[9]

Postwar

The Commando Companies had fought well in the Falklands War, but were soon disbanded because, because the Argentinian government of Raúl Alfonsín feared the existence of such highly trained units which might be used in military coup.

Lieutenant-Colonel Rico, later in 1987 and 1988 led military uprisings against the Argentinian president Alfonsín.

Notes

  1. "Interestingly, Argentine military planners were aware of the redeployment of the SAS to Mount Kent and sent their own Special Forces (Commando 602) to neutralise them. New information reveals some tough fighting occurred between the British and Argentine Special Forces in which casualties were sustained on both sides; however, the failure of the Argentine forces to coordinate their efforts (communication was very difficult on Mount Kent) undermined their performance." Special Forces, Strategy and the War on Terror: Warfare By Other Means, Alastair Finlan, pp. 40-41, Routledge, 2009
  2. Merecido homenaje a ex combatiente en Coronda
  3. "Oponerse a una fracción enemiga superior en número, en ocasión en que integraba una patrulla de exploración que operaba en una zona ocupada por el enemigo. Alertar con su acción a sus camaradas y combatir hasta lograr que estos se replegaran, ofrendando su vida en esta acción." Informe Oficial del Ejército Argentino, p. 56, Ejército Argentino, 1983
  4. El combate de Top Malo House
  5. Marines shot comrades in Falklands conflict
  6. La Compañía 602 de Comandos
  7. Vizoso Posse, superó la guerra gracias a su fe y excepcional valor
  8. [http://www.naval-history.net/xDKCas1980-89.htm 1945-2008 - Casualty Lists of the Royal Navy Compiled by Don Kindel]
  9. 5th Infantry Brigade in the Falklands, Nicholas van der Bijl, David Aldea, pp. 167-168, Leo Cooper, 2003

External links