Special Operations Battalion (Croatia): “Everyone is invited, few are chosen”

Special Operations Battalion
Special Operations Battalion (Photo: Croatia)

The Special Operations Battalion is an elite unit of the Croatian Armed Forces. In Croatia, they are known as Bojna za specijalna djelovanja or shortly BSD. They were founded on September 8, 2000, within the General Staff Unit of the Croatian Armed Forces. They are considered as the equivalent unit of the US Special Forces, the Green Berets.

The unit was formed by merging staff of the Centre for special combat skills from base “Šepurine” and the soldiers and personnel from the 1st Croatian Guard Corps. The Special Operations Battalion is headquartered in the barracks “Drgomalj” in the city of Delnice. The unit motto is: “Everyone is invited, few are chosen”.

Introduction

The Special Operations Battalion is now one of the most elite units of the Croatian Army and one of the best-trained and best-equipped units for special operations in the region. The symbol of the snake unit and the unit members are often mistakenly referred to as cobras, because the snake is the emblem of the unit’s viper, one of the most dangerous and the most poisonous snake which is found in Europe and Croatia.

Tasks

The unit is tasked with standard NATO SOF tasks: special reconnaissance and surveillance (SR), military assistance (MA), and direct action (DA), along with additional tasks such as counterterrorism and providing specialized aid to the civilian population in times of crisis. It also provides specialized training to other units and individuals within the Croatian Armed Forces.

The unit is also engaged in search and rescue tasks, both combat search and rescue for the needs of the armed forces and search and rescue for civilian purposes.

History

The backbone of the Special Operations Battalion consists of members of the Croatian Army who emerged from the Croatian War for independence and who were part of the special forces and reconnaissance brigades. Until today they have grown into one of the most elite and most trained Croatian Special Forces. The Special Operations Battalion members are trained for operations on land, at sea, and in the air, in all weather conditions and on all terrain. The unit’s patron saint is St. Martin of Tours.

Operators from the former Centre for special combat skills in Sepurine, Croatia
Operators from the former Centre for special combat skills in Sepurine, Croatia (Photo: XY)

They are specialized for insertion behind enemy lines and pulling forces from behind enemy lines to air water, and land, anti-terrorist activities, assisting in possible natural disasters and large-scale accidents, participation in international military operations, implementation of special activities in military and non-military operations such as search and rescue, reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and processing data, performing diversionary action in the water, air, and land, especially in rugged terrain and more. The unit is equipped with the most modern weapons and specialist equipment.

The Special Operations Battalion is a unit of composition of Army staff units in Croatian Armed Forces, which has been raised to the level of strategic decision-making in order to improve the conditions of its use (shortened decision-making process by reducing the level of one command).

Since the establishment of the Special Operations Battalion, they went through two reshuffles. The other is completed in 2008. Under him, the Special Operations Battalion increased from 150 to 300 members. The purpose of the reorganization was to connect all the special forces acting within the armed forces into a single organizational unit so that the Special Operations Battalion (BSD) today is the only special unit of the Croatian Army.

Special Operations Battalion from Croatia is armed with the modern Western weapons in the line with NATO standards
Special Operations Battalion from Croatia is armed with modern Western weapons in the line with NATO standards (Photo: XY)

Under the new organization, the band entered the company of the Anti-terrorist police and the company of naval commandos, so that The Special Operations Battalion (BSD) rounded in all specialties within the armed forces. The unit conducted a series of training such as scuba diving, parachuting, mountain climbing, sniper, both for their members and for the members of all the other units of the Croatian Army.

Organizational structure

  • Command-line – responsible for ensuring the system to do, medical, supply and transport, security
  • First Company of the Special Operations Battalion – specializing in the implementation of air-landing operations and to take the security of Airborne base.
  • Second Company of the Special Operations Battalion – specializing in the implementation of operations in the hills and mountain area, and winter conditions. Implementing agency in skiing and mountaineering.
  • Third Company of the Special Operations Battalion – specializing in the implementation of amphibious-landing operations at sea and on inland waters. Implementing agency training for combat swimmers and divers.
  • Company for counter-terrorism and urban war – especially for urban and anti-terrorist action. Specially trained to prepare and conduct counter-terrorist operations (direct actions on objects, solve hostage situations), and VIP protection. It was created by fitting the Military Police Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATVP) in BSD.
  • Company of fire support – the incumbent of sniper and mortar training. Provides direct fire support whole other BSD.

Weaponry and gear

Members of the Special Operations Battalion are equipped with state-of-the-art weapons and equipment in accordance with NATO standards. These include armored vehicles, modern infantry weapons such as VHS-2, HK G-36 assault rifles, sniper rifles, light machine guns, rocket launchers.

Selection and training

Selection

On selection training voluntarily coming members from all branches of the Croatian Armed Forces. All candidates first undergo psychological testing and medical examination and then approach the motor skills preparations. Those who meet all the Selection requirements accessing the selection training which is conducted in the 4 locations and lasts for 50 days.

The entire selection for the Special operations battalion lasts 50 days and is divided into five phases.

During the selection, the candidates are isolated from the outside world. They don’t know what the date is, they don’t have ranks, they don’t have cell phones, they don’t watch television, they don’t have contact with the outside world. Only the best of the best manage to pass the commando selection.

The candidates for Special Operations Battalion during the Commando selection
The candidates for Special Operations Battalion during the Commando selection (Photo: paluba.info)

The candidates first go through a two-week phase of socialization and physically rise on it. The next phase, which also lasts two weeks, is already elimination. It begins with testing according to the criteria of the special operations battalion. In uniform, the candidate must swim 300 meters under 6 minutes, dive 25 meters, followed by a march of 8 kilometers with 10 kilograms rucksack and full equipment. It needs to be done in under 60 minutes.

Candidates must also pass an aerophobia test which is done on the 18-meter-high tower. After passing the tests, there is a daily 16 to 18 hours of clean military drilling – physical exercises long walks, running.   In the third phase, which lasts eight weeks, the emphasis is on the abilities of the individual. Candidate’s physical endurance and his military knowledge.

Here the drill is relentless. If they haven’t dropped out by now, all those who have signed up for an adventure, who want to wear a black jumpsuit, who want a higher salary, and are fans of action movies are dropping out at this stage. Those who pass this phase of selection are awarded a basic parachuting badge. In the fourth phase, the candidates need to show teamwork and to learn to work together. They learn to plan operations, undergo psychological operations, survival operations.

Soldiers from Croatian Armed Forces during Commando selection course for the Special Operations Battalion
Soldiers from Croatian Armed Forces during Commando selection course for the Special Operations Battalion (Photo: XY)

The last phase is known as hell week. In this phase, they need to show all the skills they were learned during the previous four phases. In the last phase, for 7 days, they sleep on average between 4 and 6 hours a day. They are exposed to severe physical temptations. Only the strongest survive.

On average, up to 100 candidates apply for selection, and in the end, all criteria are met by an average of 8 to 12 candidates.

Training

To become a Commando, an elite member of the Special Operations Battalion, the only special unit of the Croatian Army, a candidate must successfully complete six months of brutal training.

Special Operations Battalion operators during the training at the shooting range
Special Operations Battalion operators during the training at the shooting range (Photo: paluba.info)

Candidates who successfully pass the commando training are then allocated to the specialist company: divers, paratroopers, counter-terrorism, climbers, or troop fire support. Only when they join forces begin their rights specialist training, education, both at home and abroad. Young people who are candidates for the training must be at least two years in the armed forces.

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