Greece is a country that has traditionally depended on the sea. In fact, no part of Greece is more than 85 miles from the sea and 20 percent of the land area is comprised of hundreds of islands. The Greek merchant fleet is among the world’s largest with around 1,800 vessels of at least 100 gross tons each and the ports of Piraeus near Athens and Thessaloniki are important to the Greek economy.
As shown in World War II by raiders from the British SBS (Special Boat Squadron), British SAS (Special Air Service) and the Greek Sacred Squadron, the Aegean and Adriatic that are dotted with Greek islands are perfect operating areas for combat swimmers and small boat units. As a result, one of the most important units in the Greek armed forces is DYK (Dioikisy Ypovrixion Kastrofon), the Hellenic Navy’s Underwater Demolition Command.
Formerly known as MYK (Monada Ypovrixion Kastrofon), which translates roughly as Underwater Destruction Unit, DYK has four primary missions: infiltration and sabotage of enemy shipping and bases, combat reconnaissance, pre-landing beach, hydrographic surveys, ordnance disposal and Maritime Anti-Terrorism.
The MAT mission has assumed greater importance for DYK over the last decade. The combination of the Athens Olympics, the popularity of the Greek coast for visiting Western cruise ships and yachts, the substantial Islamic population of Greece and the close proximity to the Middle East have required DYK to train for a variety of MAT missions. DYK actually works with EKAM (Eidikes Katastaltikes Antitromokratikes Monades), the Greek national police anti-terrorist unit and the KEA, (Klimakio Idikon Apostolon) the special ops unit of the Greek Coast Guard, on MAT. All three are highly skilled in combat boarding and other MAT skills.
Currently, DYK has approximately 110 personnel divided into four operational detachments plus a small headquarters unit. Each detachment has 25 operators assigned and specializes in a certain type of mission. OYK-1 (Omada Ypovrihion Katastophon) and OYK-2 are assigned unconventional warfare and intelligence gathering missions. They are also the primary MAT units. OYK-3 specializes in beach recon and hydrographic surveys. OYK-4 specializes in underwater demolition and EOD (explosive ordnance disposal).
Initially US Navy UDT (Underwater Demolition Team) and SEAL personnel trained personnel for MYK and currently DYK training still reflects this background. Relations are still good with the US SEALs as well. In fact, reportedly, SEALs from DevGru (United States Navy Special Warfare Development Group) were assigned to work with DYK during the Athens Olympics.
Current DYK training at the Scholeio Ypovrichion Katastrofon (SYK or Greek for Underwater Demolition School) lasts about seven months and is divided into three phases. During the course, trainees learn to endure despite mental and physical fatigue. Training includes martial arts, basics of hydrographic survey, diving with various types of equipment, demolitions including with improvised explosives, weapons and CQC (close quarter combat), unconventional warfare tactics, sabotage and combat survival. The course ends with a five-day “Hell Week.” Once a candidate has completed selection, he attends airborne training. Reportedly, the SYK course has recently been expanded to nine months to incorporate some pre-training to enable candidates to have a better chance at passing selection.
Other advanced training for members of DYK includes the EOD school, diving medical school, Seal Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Operators School, Unconventional Warfare Craft School, sniping school and various other Greek military schools or foreign training.
DYK has been especially active in enforcing various United Nations and NATO embargoes. During the First Gulf War, two OYKs carried out 217 ship boardings and searches in enforcing the UN embargo against Iraq. Members of DYK have been used on various NATO missions in the Adriatic and Eastern Mediterranean. In 1997, during unrest in Albania, DYK was used to evacuate Greek citizens and other foreign nationals.
Later, during warfare in Lebanon in August 2006, DYK operators were assigned aboard Greek frigates used to evacuate Greeks and other foreign nationals from Beirut. These are the well-known DYK deployments. Operators have also been used on other more secretive operations.
Weapons & Gear
DYK operators are equipped with an array of small arms to accomplish their diverse missions. The primary handgun is the Glock 17. A friend of mine who was an armorer for DYK informed me that the unit’s G17s are fitted with the sub-aqua spring cups designed for use when water is in the pistol, primarily to allow effective engagement as soon as the operator breaks water, and with extended, threaded barrels for suppressors. DYK has also used the select-fire G18. DYK has used the Uzi, which has a good reputation with combat swimmer units, but recently has used Heckler & Koch’s MP5A3 and MP5SD3 more frequently. The Colt Commando, which has an 11.5-inch barrel, is widely used by DYK, but other versions of the M16 and recently the M4 are available as well.
At least some Beta Mags are in use with DYK M16 variants, as are M203 grenade launchers. The Colt Commandos have been fitted with EOTech optical sights. Among sniping rifles used by DYK is the Springfield Armory M21, which lends itself well to MAT missions. Accuracy International sniper rifles and Barrett M82A1 .50 anti-material/long range sniping rifles have been used. The principal shotgun in use with DYK is the Benelli M3T. The Minimi light machinegun has also seen use with DYK.
Greece is a country that is oriented towards the sea. Greek men have traditionally become sailors and the sea links Greece with its many islands. For Greeks who love the sea, love their country and love the rush of serving in one of the world’s truly elite units, DYK offers them an opportunity.