People often ask me about GROM, expecting to hear about the equipment, weapons and tactics. But GROM is so much more. It’s a group of friends with passion, gathered under a sign of eagle with a lightning in its claws. Their hard work and persistence is a proof that what they do has a meaning and can be a true passion.
To understand this enthusiasm, so typical for all GROM operators, the enthusiasm that gives the service a meaning, we have to go back in time. I’ll tell you about the history of Poland as I see it. The history that ends for me when general Petelicki created the Special Unit GROM in 1990.
Most of us do not remember very well that once Poland was one of the most powerful countries in Europe. This period is called by historians “the golden age” of Poland. In the middle of the XVI century the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with some 390,000 square miles and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million was the largest political, military and economic empire in Europe after Russia and Turkey. The country did not conquer any of the neighbors declaring the right of each nation to live in peace, what was a serious mistake from a military point of you.
It resulted in Poland stopping to arm itself and based its military strategy on Pospolite ruszenie (It’s a name for the mobilization of armed forces during the period of the Kingdom of Poland and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The tradition of wartime mobilization of part of the population existed from before the 13th century to the 19th century. In the later era, pospolite ruszenie units were formed from the szlachta (Polish “nobility”). The pospolite ruszenie eventually outclassed professional forces and the country became practically powerless in the next 100 years.
That type of governance and internal disturbances allowed the neighboring countries – the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg Austria – to become stronger, eventually enabling them to conduct partitions of the Commonwealth. In 1795 the Polish state lost its independence for the following 123 years. It did not appear on the map of Europe until 1918 – the date of the end of the World War 1. The generation that lived in the period between the end of First and the beginning of the Second World War was full of hope and eager to rebuild their country.
The period after the end of the Great War was a time of hope and new economic possibilities. First truly modern harbor in Gdynia, railway connecting Silesian Coal Basin and the Baltic Sea were built, other numerous new investments were undertook in the whole country. Young state was modernizing and becoming more socially open with each year. A new intellectual quality new generation was raised – ready and prepared to stand for their country if time comes.
Unfortunately, the controversial Versailles Treaty from 1919 re-arranged the new Europe and weakenws the old empires – Russia, Austria and Germany – and left them with a sense of injustice, which is one of the reasons why, after only 20 years of peace, the Second World War broke out.
Year 1939 came. To secure itself, Poland signed precious military pacts with the UK and France hoping for aid in case of war. Very quickly after the breakout of war and the attack on Poland on 1 September 1939, Germany signed a peace treaty with Russia that allowed the latter to attack Poland on 17 September, thus dividing it between the two aggressors. Neither UK nor France helped Poland at the beginning. They finally declared war on Germany, but by that time it was too late for Poland. After the so-called “September campaign,” the Polish Government did not sign the capitulation, but moved to Paris and then to London, from where they made decisions and gave orders to the Polish resistance back home.
In order to successfully achieve its aims, a special military unit was established. The soldiers were called – Cichociemni (“silent and unseen”). Their task, after being deployed to Poland, was to sustain the structures of the Polish state, training the member of Resistance and fighting the German occupant. Cichociemni were trained like the British Special Forces, although the curricula were different according to the specialization. There was intelligence training, sabotage, training for radio-operators and documents forgers. The parachute training was common for everybody.
Their training included:
- Sabotage and mines training, physical training, shooting training (basic military training)
- Parachute training
- Covert operations and partisan warfare
- Final briefing training (parachutists had to prepare a set of plausible lies – false identity including different name, date of birth, profession etc.)
- Special air training (in London) – design and types of German aircrafts
- Polish intelligence training
- Armored warfare training on German tanks
- Polish motor training
- English training
The training was completed by 606 soldiers, and 579 were cleared for jumping. There were 82 jumps where 344 paratroopers, including 316 Cichociemni-paratroopers, were deployed.
The first jump in Poland took place at night on 15 February 1941, in Debowiec. The last jump was on 28 December 1944. Of the 316 Cichociemni paratroopers deployed to Poland, 112 died:
- 6 died on the flight to Poland
- 3 died during the parachute jump
- 35 perished in the Gestapo torture chambers
- 12 died in the German concentration camps
- 28 died in the guerrilla fights
- 18 perished during the Warsaw Uprising
- 3 committed suicide by poison upon arrest
- 6 were murdered by the communist regime after the war
At the end of the World War 2, when the Soviet army approached Warsaw, the Polish Underground State struggled to avoid “being liberated” by the Red Army, which meant being occupied by the Soviets. The Underground issued an order to commence an uprising in Warsaw. At the end of July 1944, it was thought that the Reich was on the verge of collapse. German troops were losing on all fronts. The Warsaw uprising began on 1 August 1944, when the Home Army attacked at 5pm (so called “W-hour” “Godzina W”). Home Army Units of the Warsaw district and oddziały dyspozycyjne KG AK attacked the German premises in all the district of the occupied Warsaw.
During the next two months, nearly 16,000 members of the Polish resistance were lost – 10,000 were killed and 6,000 were missing. Out of 20,000 members of Polish resistance wounded, 5,000 were seriously wounded. 15,000 soldiers (including 900 officers and 2,000 women). The exact number of the civilian casualties is unknown. German Propaganda announced that 250,000 civilians died.
The uprising ended on 2 October 1944, in the evening, when a capitulation was announced. The insurrection did not change the course of history. After the World War ended, as the result of the Yalta Conference, a new order was established and Poland was subjected to the Soviet influence zone. Not until 1989, after the wave of workers’ strikes under the leadership of Lech Walesa, did Poland make a peaceful transition from Communism to Democracy.
New reality presented new challenges. Operation “MOST” (“Bridge”), when Polish special service took part in relocation of the Russian Jews to Israel, was one of them. These and other endeavors placed Poland on the list of possible Islamic terrorist attacks that forced the Polish government to establish a new unit, fresh from the communistic legacy, trained in the Western manner by our allies to respond to the new threat.
Lt. Col. Sławomir Petelicki was assigned to set up a special unit in 1990. The GROM Military Unit was named after the legendary “Cichociemni” Home Army Paratroopers. There couldn’t be any other name. At the beginning, JW 2305 was subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and was a police-like formation. From 1 October 1999, as a result of an agreement between the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Defense, it fell under the command of the Commander of Polish Special Forces
Instructors who helped to train the first GROM operators were specialists from the USA and UK. Today, it’s not a secret anymore that they were experts from Delta Force and SAS. The first GROM soldiers were sent off to be trained in these units.
GROM took part in police-type military operations in Haiti in 1994. On Balkans (1996, 1999, 2001) the soldiers arrested 7 war criminals, including Slavek Dokmanovic aka “Butcher of Vukovar,” during Operation Little Flower. They also took part in missions in Slovenia and Kosovo. In the Persian Gulf, the soldiers’ principal assignment was inspection of ships in 2002-2003.
The Unit took part in the attack on Iraq in 2003 (Battle of Umm Qasr 21.03.2003) and then in Iraq itself in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, hand-in-hand with the American special forces, and were responsible to catch people from the “personality identification playing cards.” They took part in many other covert operations. GROM is still present in Afghanistan, were they have been operating since 2002, fighting Taliban, countless hostage rescue operations, arresting and eliminating hundreds of insurgents and significantly contributing to stopping many attack on the allied forced.
For the last 23 years, JW GROM has been gaining experience in different parts of the world. Their operators are trained to conduct operations in all climate conditions. Their training prepares them to operate in the severe climate of Scandinavia, as well as tropical jungles in South America. The experience and lessons learnt from combat and extensive trainings are the reason why the curricula is constantly modified and adjusted to meet current needs and enable the soldiers to be ready to respond to current threats.
From the very beginning, physical strength, endurance and fitness were only some aspects of the training. Even more important was team-building, bonding and trust. The basic training was followed by special tactics and counter-terrorism courses that last a few months. The whole training is comprehensive – it not only prepares soldiers for combat, but also presents unprecedented possibilities of development in the Polish army.
GROM is prepared to conduct operations in peace and in war times. Their tasks consists of Hostage Rescue, counter-terrorist land operations (aka ‘black tactics’) include rescuing hostages from fixed structures (houses, high-rise buildings) and vehicles (airplanes, cars, trains), VIP detail duty, perimeter protection, and supporting operations of other military and non-military units. Special operations (aka ‘green tactics’) include reconnaissance, sabotage deep in the enemy hinterland, eliminating potential human and structural threats from the enemy’s infrastructure, assistance in evacuating the civilian population, and winning ‘hearts and minds.’ Sea-borne counter-terrorist operations (aka ‘blue tactics’) involve combating terrorism in coastal areas, on vessels, and on off-shore platforms, tactical intervention and combat targeting personnel and other data as well as intelligence.
GROM soldiers are divided into operators who work within battle groups and sub-units with soldiers. The latter consists of analysts, electronics engineers, IT specialists, EOD specialists and MOE specialists, as well as specialists from wybuchowe wchodzenie do pomieszczeń. The smallest cell is a section. Every section consists of 6 persons and they then are part of a group. Groups create teams. These teams consist of perfectly trained and equipped operators, each of them has minimum two specializations e.g. Radio-operator, explosive specialist, paramedics. The aim of this is to be able to quickly replace each operator in case of loses. Each unit has also snipers. They receive comprehensive training so they can operate on the open terrain as well as within urban areas.