I would like to start off this new series of articles on Europe’s Finest SOF Units that usually escape the limelight – but whose responsibilities, actions and sacrifice are not inferior to those of the big names like SAS, GROM or KSK. In each episode, I will concentrate on one SOF unit, provide some background information, history and a glimpse of the equipment used.
Episode 1: JW FORMOZA
Introduction: FORMOZA is the least numerous special forces unit at the disposal of the Polish Special Forces Command. Due to its origin in the Polish Navy, the unit is often called the Polish Navy SEALs to reflect its American counterpart. The unit often operates with maritime detachments of other Polish SOF units like JW Komandosów and JW GROM. The name of the unit derives from the nickname given to its base in the city of Gdynia, an old torpedo test platform. The building was erected offshore with only a small bridge connecting it to the mainland. This gave the soldiers an impression of their base being Formoza (the island of Formosa, currently Taiwan) with the Polish mainland acting as if it were mainland China.
History: The motion to create a maritime sabotage unit was coined in 1974. The initiative by the Reconnaissance Unit of the Navy High Command and especially CDR Zygmunt ZAWADZKI, lead to the creation of the Zespół Badawczy ds. Płetwonurków Morskich (Research Group on Marine Divers). Its main goals were to develop the concept of its organization and the formation of a special squadron of divers. As a result of the intense work, by the order of the Head of the Polish Armed Forces, Jednostka Wojskowa (Military Unit) 4026 was formed November 13, 1975. The official name given to JW 4026 was the Department of Divers. The unit was attached to the 3rd Naval Flotilla. The first commander of what became secretly known as the Department of Special Operations was CPT(N) Józef REMBISZ.
In September 1987 the unit took it secret designation as its formal name. On November 12, 1990 the Department was disbanded and several Grupy Specjalne Płetwonurków (Special Diver Groups) were created in its place. GSPs with all operators of the former unit got reassigned to the Naval Hydrographic Group which later, in 1992, was renamed to grupa Okrętów Rozpoznawczych (Naval Reconnaissance group). In 2002 GSPs had a name change as well to Sekcje Działań Specjalnych (Special Operations Sections) only to be renamed back to GSP two years later.
On March 9, 2007 the order by the Chief Commander of the Polish Navy created the Morska Jednostka Działań Specjlanych (Naval Special Operations Unit). The unit regained its number JW 4026 and became an independent unit of the Polish Navy. All the operators of the GSPs and the GOR got reassigned to the MJDS. The first commander appointed to MJDS was LCDR Jan PAWŁOWSKI. However, the newly formed unit did not stay long under the command of the Polish Navy. On September 12, 2007 the Polish MOD reassigned the entire unit to the newly formed Dowództwo Sił Specjlanych (Special Forces Command). The change took effect on January 1, 2008. In spite of this and due to its specification, JW 4026 continued to cooperate with the Polish Navy. Finally on October 1, 2011, in accordance with the decision by the Polish MOD, the unit’s name was changed to JW Formoza. A long-term nickname for the unit became its formal.
Operational record: During its early years the unit took part in many Naval SERE operations as well as providing security for officials both foreign and domestic. The year 1994 marks the beginning of a long-lasting cooperation by the unit with its counterparts from NATO countries like the US, UK, Germany and France. Several combined training exercises have been conducted since.
In the years 2000-2001, the unit formed the Polish Military Contingent in the Persian Gulf operating from US Navy ships. As tensions escalated the Polish Military Contingent was re-stationed to board and operate from the Polish vessel ORP Xavery Czernicki until late 2003.
In 2011, during the IX Rotation of the Polish ISAF Contingent, several members of JW Formoza were part of Task Force 50 together with members of JW 4101 (JW Komandosów).
Recently the unit came back from a 6-month deployment to Afghanistan as part of the NATO Response Force. The unit’s current commander CDR Dariusz WICHNIAREK as of January 9, 2013 suspended his role in JW Formoza and became the Special Operations Joint Task Force – Afghanistan / NATO Special Operations Component Command – Afghanistan Chief of Staff.
1975 – 1982 – (now CDR) CPT(N) Józef REMBISZ
1982 – 1989 – (now CDR) CPT(N) Zbigniew KLUZOWSKI
1989 – 1998 – CDR Andrzej SZYMAŃSKI
1998 – 2002 – LCDR Jan PAWŁOWSKI
2002 – 2004 – LCDR Tomasz ŻUK
2004 – 2006 – CPT(N) Krzysztof NIEDŹWIEDZKI
2007 – 2009 – CDR Jan PAWŁOWSKI
2009 – 2011 – CDR Dariusz WICHNIAREK
JW FORMOZA Commanders:
2011 – now – CDR Dariusz WICHNIAREK
– SIG-Sauer P226, P226SO
– Beretta M9
– SSP-1 (Soviet underwater pistol)
– H&K MP5A3, MP5N
– H&K G36KV
– APS (Soviet underwater assault rifle)
– FN Minimi Para
– Accuracy International AW
– H&K AG36
– Carl Gustav recoilless rifle
JW Formoza does not use current Polish military issue weapons like the Beryl assault rifle or the WIST pistol, as these did not meet the unit’s expectations during testing and therefore have not joined the armoury.
I hope this gives you all a good view of this unit of Europe’s Finest. Stay tuned for more articles in this series.
(Featured Images Courtesy: JW Formoza www.formoza.wp.mil.pl)