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Special Operations Forces

Special forces in Vietnam

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Special forces in Vietnam 3

Nam Dong, Lang Vei, Dak To, A Shau, Plei Mei – these were just some of the places Special Forces troops fought and died for during their 14-year stay in South Vietnam. It was a stay that began in June 1956 when the original 16 members of the 14th Special Forces Operational Detachment entered Vietnam to train a cadre of indigenous Vietnamese Special Forces teams. In that same year, on October 21, the first American soldier died in Vietnam – Captain Harry G. Cramer Jr. of the 14th SFOD.

Throughout the remainder of the 1950s and early 1960s, the number of Special Forces military advisors in Vietnam increased steadily. Their responsibility was to train South Vietnamese soldiers in the art of counterinsurgency and to mold various native tribes into a credible, anti-communist threat. During the early years, elements from the different Special Forces groups were involved in advising the South Vietnamese. But in September 1964, the first step was taken in making Vietnam the exclusive operational province of 5th Group when it set up its provisional headquarters in Nha Trang. Six months later in February, Nha Trang became the 5th’s permanent headquarters. From that point, Vietnam was mainly the 5th’s show until 1971 when it returned to Fort Bragg.

By the time the 5th left Southeast Asia, its soldiers had won 16 of the 17 Medals of Honor awarded to the Special Forces in Vietnam, plus one Distinguished Service Medal, 90 Distinguished Service Crosses, 814 Silver Stars, 13,234 Bronze Stars, 235 Legions of Merit, 46 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 232 Soldier’s Medals, 4,891 Air Medals, 6,908 Army Commendation Medals and 2,658 Purple Hearts. It was a brilliant record, one that was built solely on blood and sacrifice.

Not to be overlooked, other Special Forces training teams were operating in the 1960s in Bolivia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Columbia and the Dominican Republic. Counter-insurgency forces of the 8th Special Forces Group conducted clandestine operations against guerrilla forces, carrying out some 450 missions between 1965 and 1968. In 1968, Special Forces were involved in tracking down and capturing the notorious Cuban revolutionary, Che Guevara, in the wilds of south-central Bolivia.

Southeast Asia, however, was to remain the Special Forces’ primary focus. Through their unstinting labors, Special Forces troops eventually established 254 outposts throughout Vietnam, many of them defended by a single A-team and hundreds of friendly natives.

The Special Forces earned their reputation in places like Song Zoai and Plei Mei, where the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese threw everything they had at them but found out that wasn’t enough. They won their Medals of Honor in places like Nam Dong, where Captain Roger H.C. Donlon claimed the war’s first Medal of Honor for his actions on July 5, 1964, when he led Nam Dong’s successful defense against a Viet Cong attack, despite sustaining a mortar wound to the stomach. “Pain, the sensation of pain, can be masked by other emotions in a situation like that,” Donlon recalled. “I was fighting mad right from the start; I also felt fear from the start … fear anybody would feel. It got to the point where we were throwing the enemy’s grenades back at them. Just picking them up and throwing those grenades back before they could blow.”

Back home in America, a confused public searching for heroes in a strange and unfamiliar war quickly latch onto the Special Forces. John Wayne made a movie about them, Barry Sadler had a number-one hit song, “The Ballad of the Green Beret”, and the Green Beret took its place along side the coonskincap and cowboy hat as one of America’s Mythic pieces of apparel.

But fighting in remote areas of Vietnam – publicity to the contrary – wasn’t the only mission of the Special Forces. They were also responsible for training thousands of Vietnam’s ethnic tribesmen in the techniques of guerrilla warfare. They took the Montagnards, the Nungs, the Cao Dei and others and molded them into the 60,000-strong Civil Irregular Defense Group (CIDG). CIDG troops became the Special Forces’ most valuable ally in battles fought in faraway corners of Vietnam, out of reach of conventional back-up forces. Other missions included civic-action projects, in which Special Forces troops built schools, hospitals and government buildings, provided medical care to civilians and dredged canals. This was the flip side of the vicious battles, the part of the war designed to win the hear and minds of a distant and different people. But although the Special Forces drew the allegiance of civilians almost everywhere they went, the war as a whole was not as successful.

President Lyndon Johnson had committed the first big conventional units to the war in March 1965, when Marine battalions landed at Da Nang to provide perimeter security to the air base there. Then in June, the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade entered the country, followed in July by the 1st Air Cavalry Division. From then on, a continual stream of Army and Marine units flowed into Vietnam until they numbered over 500,000 by 1968. But although American conventional forces scored successes in every major battle they fought, there was still no clear end in sight to a war many Americans back home regarded as a quagmire.

So in 1969, after President Richard M. Nixon took office, the United States began its withdrawal from Vietnam, a process known as Vietnamization. Gradually the Special Forces turned over their camps to the South Vietnamese. On March 5, 1971, 5th Group returned to Fort Bragg, although some Special Forces teams remained inThailand from where they launched secret missions into Vietnam. But by the end of 1972, the Special Forces role in Vietnam was over.

I'm the active duty law enforcement officer serving in SWAT unit. My hobby's are firearms, skiing, martial arts.

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Special Operations Forces

COMMANDO Special Forces Group

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COMMANDO Special Forces Group is part of Polish Special Operations Forces. The unit or JWK (Polish: Jednostka Wojskowa KomandosowJW Komandosow) and its history date back to 1957 when the Commander of the 6th Pomeranian Airborne Division decided to form a reconnaissance company. In 1961 on the basis of that company, the fully independent 26th Reconnaissance Battalion was established.

History of the unit

In 1964 they were transferred from Krakow to Dziwnow, changing their name to the 1st Assault Battalion. Another transfer happened in 1986 when the battalion was moved to Lubliniec to be transformed again in 1993 into 1st Special Forces Regiment.

Operators of JWK during the combat training (Photo: Facebook/JWK)

In 1995 the regiment received a distinguishing name “COMMANDO”. In 2011 the name was changed again to COMMANDO Special Forces Group.The unit is dedicated to the whole spectrum of special land operations (including inland waters). It fulfills various tasks of both operational and strategic character in Poland and abroad. COMMANDO operators served in Macedonia, Congo, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Role

The unit is designed to carry the full range of military activity which is part of special operations. These operations can be carried out on land and inland waters in peacetime, crisis or war. The principal types of these operations are direct action, reconnaissance and special military support. An entity may carry them alone or as part of national and Allied campaign.

Missions

In Afghanistan they conducted ISAF operation priorities i.e. training and preparing the local security forces as well as providing assistance during counterterrorist actions. Training and support provided by COMMANDO soldiers helped Afghan operators from special operations police units become one of the first to reach combat readiness to conduct operations independently.

Motto and insignia

JW Komandosow insignia (Photo: Wikipedia)

Insignia of Commando Special Forces Group (Jednostka Wojskowa Komandosow, JW Komandosow, JWK) represents the spirit of Polish people and the unit itself. It combines tradition and modernity of such type of unit. It refers to the tradition of the Polish Home Army, which is very important for the unit because JWK is formed from the parts of units involved in war operations.

The anchor refers to the distinctive signs of the three battalions of Polish Home Army  “Parasol”, “Zoska” and “Miotla”, whose roots unit continues.

The second sign of a symbol contained in JWK a dagger – it is clearly recognizable throughout the world as a sign of special forces, and at the same time refers to the symbols contained in the sign of 1. PSK.

The red color of the emblem was taken from the signs of the 1st Independent Commando Company, which inherits traditions JWK. The color of the black dial has been selected as the official color of Special Forces in Poland.

Non-official motto’s regularly used inside the unit:

  • People are more important than hardware.
  • Quality is better than quantity.

Jednostka Wojskowa Komandosow operators during the exercise (Photo: Facebook/JWK)

Today, COMMANDO Special Forces Group continues the tradition of the following Polish special formations: the 1st Independent “Commando” Company, the 62nd Special “Commando” Company in Boleslawiec, Polish Independent Special Battalion, Polish Home Army Battalions: “Parasol”, “Zoska” and “Miotla”, and the 1st Assault Battalion in Dziwnow.

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Special Operations Forces

Serbian Gendarmerie

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Serbian Gendarmerie is a highly operational unit, established under the Police Directorate of the Serbian Ministry of Interior. It is a military-police unit whose purpose is now defined by the new Police Law that brought the status of a special unit.

Tradition

The tradition of the Serbian Gendarmerie goes back to 19th century when a Gendarmerie Company was established in the city of Belgrade after Serbian Prince Mihajlo issued a Decree stating the Company will be in charge of preserving and protecting public order and peace through the Serbian capital. This company gathered around 120 infantrymen and 15 cavalrymen in its strength. The tradition of generations of the Serbian gendarmes is filled with accomplishments and heroic deeds that are being remembered today and are an important part of the professional socialization of modern Gendarmerie police officers.

Members of Gendarmerie during the training exercise DRINA 2016

After the armed conflict in Serbian southern region Kosovo and Metohija were finished, Serbian state establishment concluded that Special Police Units (Serb. Posebne jedinice policije), even though have shown great character and determination, were not up to pair for regular police tasks and jobs, primarily due to their impermanent personnel in ranks. That is why several officials came up with an idea to establish a modern and professional unit of a military-police type which should be organized under territorial criteria in order to be highly operational through the State territory. In June 2001 as a result of efforts of the former Minister of Interior Dušan Mihajlović, Chief of the Public Security Department Sreten Lukić and Police Colonel Goran Radosavljević Guri, professional unit Gendarmerie was established with a primary purpose of fighting terrorism and preserving or establishing public order when disrupted in larger intensity or ground area. Colonel Radosavljević was the first commander of the modern Serbian Gendarmerie until August 2004, when succeed by Borivoje Tešić. The next commander was Srđan Grekukolić, followed by Bratislav Dikić. In August 2013 Dikić ceded commanding duties to Police Colonel Milenko Božović who was succeeded by Colonel Goran Dragović, who is the present commander of the unit.

The name of the unit was chosen as a result of a desire to continue the great Serbian warrior tradition which is nowadays highly respected, not only by the operators but educated civilians as well.

Purpose and organization

As a special unit Serbian Gendarmerie is intended for:

  • counter-terrorism at the operational and tactical level, as well as fighting other forms of organized crime,
  • providing and preserving public order, as well as working on its recuperation when disrupted in a broader area or higher intensity,
  • other police tasks and jobs in accordance with the Serbian ongoing legislations.

At the moment Gendarmerie counts around 2 800 operators in strength. The Command of the Gendarmerie is established at Serbian Capital, Belgrade. The main operational element consists of four detachments located in four strategically important cities: Belgrade, Novi Sad, Kraljevo, and Niš.

Serbian Gendarmerie operators brandishing their weapons

These detachments are organized as highly independent units in order to be able to execute every-day duties on their territory of jurisdiction and when needed, can quickly assist others throughout the State territory. Every detachment has its specialized unit (Serb. specijalistička jedinica) of a company rank with a specially trained and equipped operators, ready to face the most complex threats in urban and rural surroundings. Specialized units compile several anti-terrorist teams each, that can be reinforced with sniper groups, K9s and EOD specialists when needed. Diving Unit of the Serbian Gendarmerie is organized in Belgrade and as a specialist element is intended for conducting special actions in all water surroundings, on water surfaces, as well as the land area near water. Since 2005 operational capacities of the Gendarmerie are being increased with the Personnel and Infrastructure Protection Unit which is specialized in tasks and jobs of physical and technical protection.

Selection and training

In order to apply for a workplace within the operational element of the Serbian Gendarmerie one must be an active officer of the Serbian Ministry of Interior with at least two years of service and good professional results and file. At the moment, civilians are not allowed to apply for an operational-type job place but can be enrolled as doctors, mechanics, psychologists etc. There is a difference between a selection for a place in the “regular” element of the Gendarmerie, and the one for a place within specialized units. The second one is usually of a “closed” type, thus only active gendarmes can apply to undergo tough selection training for a place at the elite specialist element of the Serbian Gendarmerie. Those attracted by diving can apply voluntary when the Diving Unit issues a job opening.

Serbian Gendarmerie operators

Willing candidates must submit asked documents on time before the selection starts. Every candidate is being checked, and if receives a security clearance, being called up for initial tests of physical strength and stamina, along with a special personality test. Those who meet the criteria are being admitted for a detail health inspection. If received a positive evaluation, a candidate is being dispatched for a classical drill, lasting for 3 to 4 weeks in police training centers in the country. During this period instructors expose candidates to extreme efforts combined with a minimal rest period, in order to test their motivation to become a part of the Serbian Gendarmerie. Daily activities include tough and often physical exercises, marches through rough terrain in full combat gear, tactical situations and problems in urban and rural surroundings and similar. Every candidate is obligated to continuously bear a rifle, Zastava M70 AB1 or AB2, both chambered for 7.62×39 mm caliber, which are Serbian versions of the famous Russian Kalashnikov system, along with semi-automatic handgun CZ 99 in 9 mm caliber, manufactured by the Serbian producer Zastava Arms.

Gendarmerie operators during training operation kneeling behind armored vehicle (M84 BOV)

One`s combat set is completed with an old military camouflage uniform, tactical vest, and ballistic helmet. The results of every candidate are carefully being monitored by a team of instructors, a psychologist and a doctor, including his or her scores in individual tasks as well as in group ones because the unit needs only those who are strong individuals, but able to fit in team actions as well.

At the end of the drill, if evaluated positively, a candidate is admitted for a Basic Training which is defined by the Plan and Program of Training for the Operators of the Serbian Gendarmerie and includes firearm training, small unit tactics, basics of counter-guerrilla warfare, survival in rural and urban environment etc. New Gendarmerie operators are expected to be familiar with all armament systems which are being used in the unit, as well as specialized service vehicles. Depending on individual preferences, some operators could be admitted for a specialization in a particular area of training and later admitted to a correlating Gendarmerie unit. Gendarmes training is continuous as long as they are active in the unit. After some period, a gendarm with a good professional result can apply for a selection for a place in a specialized unit, which is much more demanding.

Operators of the specialized unit are daily trained to conduct special actions in rural and urban environments, with a special attention to counter-terrorist actions, as well as arrests of dangerous suspects and criminals and the hostage crisis in all conditions. Their firearm and shooting training is more advanced and more often, along with their special physical training which includes practicing martial arts, developing physical strength, power, and agility, as well as alpinism in urban and rural surroundings. Specialists also meticulously study tactics of small units, actions such as ambushes, blockades, and surroundings, but also some elements of diversions and raids. In order to improve their overall training and combat readiness, the Command often organized joint exercise, courses, and seminars with colleagues from elite units abroad.

Weaponry and gear

Gendarmerie units possess systems from national producers as well as those from high-quality foreign manufacturers. In the handgun category, primary in use are semi-automatic handguns in 9 mm caliber. The majority of operators in the regular Gendarmerie element use CZ 99 handgun in 9 mm caliber, which is a rough short-stroke weapon with a 15 round mag capacity. The series is produced by Zastava Arms from the city of Kragujevac and constructed by the Swiss SIG-Sauer P226 series. The main model used in specialized units is Austrian Glock 17 Gen 3 in 9 mm caliber, usually holstered in BLACKHAWK! Serpa Tactical Level 2 and Level 3 holsters.

Members of Gendarmerie during the training exercise DRINA 2016

As of submachine guns, operators mostly use German HK MP5 in various models, mostly A2 with a telescopic stock, but units also possess A3 variations, compact K models, as well as suppressed SD3, all in 9 mm caliber. Some operators choose to use Serbian carbines Zastava M92 in more powerful caliber 7.62×39 mm, produced by Zastava Arms.

Considering assault rifles, operators of the Serbian Gendarmerie use various Kalashnikov models along with Western systems. National producer Zastava Arms provides AK versions in 7.62 mm, already mentioned Zastava AB1 with a fixed wooden stock and AB2 with a foldable skeletal stock, along with Zastava M21 systems, usually in S version (equipped with Picatinny rails) and chambered for 5.56 NATO. It should be mentioned that gendarmes often modify AB2 series with a Magpul buttstock, UTG front handguard, and Picatinny rails, along with a UTG red dot sight. Besides these systems, the specialized unit also possesses reliable US carbines Colt M4 A4 Commando in 5.56 mm NATO, as well as East-German AK47s in 7.62 mm, often fitted with grenade launchers. The US carbines were purchased along with Surefire accessory that combines a tactical light and an assault handgrip. All carbines are also equipped with reflex red dot sights Aimpoint CompM3.

Serbian Gendarmerie operators

For a greater firepower light machine guns, Zastava M84 in 7.62×54 R caliber can be used, along with automatic 30 mm grenade launchers Zastava M93. Specialized vehicles are often seen with various heavy machine guns mounted.

When it comes to precision, thrust is being given to semi-auto Kalashnikov versions, mostly in 7.62 mm. Specialized units possess German HK G3 in semi-auto models, along with reliable Steyr Tactical Elite in .308 Win and semi-auto SIG Sauer 716 Precision Marksman in 7.62×51 mm NATO. The last two series are combined with KAHLES optic sights and Milmont optic carriers. For engaging long-range, covered or armored targets specialists usually use national bolt-action rifles Zastava M93 Black Arrow in devastating 12.7×108 mm, along with the US semi-auto Barret M82 with Swarovski optics chambered for 12.7×99 mm NATO.  Sniping specialists usually use ghillie suits purchased from Mile Dragic producer.

Head protection is achieved with MD 97 ballistic helmets, producer by the Serbian manufacturer Mile Dragic which provide IIIA level of protection acc. NIJ STD 0106.01, along with CGF Gallet S.A. in black matted color which were purchased for Gendarmerie specialized units. Ballistic vests are mostly being purchased from Mile Dragic in black and rural camouflage patterns.

Given tasks and duties are carried out in tactical uniforms purchased from several national producers. For urban actions operators generally use two-pieced Tactical One uniforms in AT Digital camo, purchased from Mile Dragic while specialized units` operators also have black ones from Mile Dragic and another Serbian producer Yumko A.D. When conducting actions in rural areas, operators usually wear two-pieced Tactical One uniforms in rural digital camo by Mile Dragic, specially developed for the operational standards of the Serbian Gendarmerie.

More information available here.

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