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Guns of the Commandos

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In English, the term commando means a specific kind of individual soldier or military unit. In contemporary usage, commando usually means elite light infantry and/or special operations forces units, specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting, rappelling and similar techniques, to conduct and effect attacks. Originally "a commando" was a type of combat unit, as opposed to an individual in that unit. In other languages, commando and kommando denote a "command", including the sense of a military unit. Use of the singular to mean one man arose by popular misunderstanding of unexplained use of the plural in newspaper descriptions of the deeds of "(the) commandos".

In the militaries of most countries, commandos are distinctive in that they specialize in assault on conventional military targets. This is in contrast to other special forces units, which specialize in counter-terrorism, reconnaissance, and sabotage. However, the term commando is sometimes used in relation to units carrying out the latter tasks (including some civilian police units).

In English, occasionally to distinguish between an individual commando and the unit Commando, the unit is capitalized.


The word stems from the Afrikaans word Kommando, which translates roughly to "mobile (originally by horse) infantry regiment" and is notably similar to the word command in English which is where the word commando derives from in those languages. The Dutch word has had the meaning of "a military order" since at least 1652 and likely came into the language through Portuguese influence. It is also possible the word was adopted into Afrikaans from interactions with Portuguese colonies. Less likely, it is a High German loan word, which was borrowed from Italian in the 17th century, from the sizable minority of German settlers in the initial European colonization of South Africa.

The officer commanding of an Afrikaans kommando is called a kommandant, which is a regimental commander like a lieutenant-colonel or a colonel.

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