moja polska zbrojna
Od 25 maja 2018 r. obowiązuje w Polsce Rozporządzenie Parlamentu Europejskiego i Rady (UE) 2016/679 z dnia 27 kwietnia 2016 r. w sprawie ochrony osób fizycznych w związku z przetwarzaniem danych osobowych i w sprawie swobodnego przepływu takich danych oraz uchylenia dyrektywy 95/46/WE (ogólne rozporządzenie o ochronie danych, zwane także RODO).

W związku z powyższym przygotowaliśmy dla Państwa informacje dotyczące przetwarzania przez Wojskowy Instytut Wydawniczy Państwa danych osobowych. Prosimy o zapoznanie się z nimi: Polityka przetwarzania danych.

Prosimy o zaakceptowanie warunków przetwarzania danych osobowych przez Wojskowych Instytut Wydawniczy – Akceptuję

First in NATO

Poland’s accession to NATO was hardly a breakthrough for the soldiers of JW GROM. Having been trained by the British Special Air Service (SAS) and the American Delta, they were already quite familiar with NATO procedures and regulations.

It was March 12, 1999 – several GROM soldiers were sitting in front of the TV at the headquarters of the OSCE Mission in Pristina, Kosovo. Among them were Piotr Gąstał and Dariusz Zawadka, the future commanders of JW GROM (Military Unit GROM –Operational-Maneuver Response Group). They were watching the broadcast of the ceremony marking Poland’s accession to NATO, together with two British officers of Polish descent: Col Richard Ciaglinski, former British Military attaché in Poland and liaison officer during the mission in Kosovo, and MajGen John “DZ” Drewienkiewicz, deputy chief of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission. When the Polish flag was hoisted, they all raised a toast. “We were proud and happy. I looked at Russians sitting somewhere in the back, who, just like us, were observers in Kosovo. They were looking at us with anger. I suppose it was hard for them to believe that Poland ultimately slipped the Russian chain, while we were certain that our country finally got on the right track,” recalls Col (Res) Piotr Gąstał.

 

To Kosovo with New License Plates

“Why were you so happy?” – I ask former GROM soldiers. Joining NATO was a success, and brought with it new perspectives, but did an average soldier give it any thought? Or rather only high-rank commanders and politicians? “We were aware of the changes that would await the army. We already knew the importance of training with NATO armies, the significance of joint procedures and operations executed together with the Allies. The rest of the army was still to find out,” explains Gąstał. Since its creation in 1990, JW GROM has been trained by American and British Special Units, according to NATO procedures. “For our unit, Poland’s accession to NATO didn’t change anything as regards training, or the way we execute tasks. We already had it all in place,” admits the former GROM commander. A year before Poland’s accession, our country hosted a very big US Army Special Forces exercise. Delta Force, Green Berets, Rangers and the US Air Force Special Operations soldiers exercised near the western border of our country. “GROM troops planned operations together with the Americans, and the main order to attack strategic targets was given by Col Petelicki, the then commander of the GROM unit,” says Piotr Gąstał. “It meant that even then, a year before joining the Alliance, GROM was included in the planning system of the largest NATO army.”

A few months after Poland joined NATO, GROM went from under the Ministry of the Interior and Administration to the Ministry of National Defense. As one of the soldiers explains, that decision was taken to keep compliance with NATO rules. No member of the Alliance can have a military unit existing within the structure of the Ministry of the Interior – such a solution was a relic of the Soviet system. “The change required introducing such prosaic modifications as, for example, replacing license plates on our vehicles,” remembers with a smile Grzegorz Wydrowski, mission veteran, former GROM soldier, today the chairman of the “Sprzymierzeni z GROM” (Allies of GROM) Foundation. “When we were saying goodbye to the boys going to the first mission after Poland had joined NATO, we joked that they would show our new, white, reflective license plates off to the Allies,” adds Wydrowski.

At the turn of May and June 2001, a dozen or so GROM soldiers left for Kosovo. Among them was Jacek, then task force operator, today a former GROM soldier. “There were fights on the Kosovo/Macedonia border, between KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army – Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës) terrorists and the Macedonian army. A decision was made to reinforce the Polish contingent in Kosovo by sending there GROM soldiers,” says Jacek. When they arrived, the situation was difficult. Albanian terrorists organized attacks against not only the Macedonian army, but also civilians – they raked villages, houses, killing the inhabitants.

One of the tasks given to Polish soldiers was to apprehend people connected with terrorist organizations. “We executed various special operations, such as “cordon and search,” which consisted in searching villages, houses, places where the people we were looking for might have been hiding. Apart from that, we liquidated illegal weapon storage facilities, and conducted special reconnaissance tasks,” says Jacek. The former soldier recalls that some of those tasks were executed with Polish regular forces that were stationed in Kosovo at the time. “Our cooperation was very good, we even kept in touch with some of the soldiers after the mission was over,” admits Jacek. “Obviously, our armament and equipment were different, but it is not something worth comparing. There will always be discrepancies in that area, as the tasks given to soldiers of special units, such as GROM, and conventional forces, are very different. I must admit, however, that our weapons and optoelectronic devices gave us significant advantage, especially during operations executed in limited visibility conditions,” adds the former special forces soldier.

In Kosovo, GROM also cooperated with the US Army Special Forces soldiers who were deployed in the region. “We understood one another perfectly. Almost all our procedures were identical, we planned operations in the same way, we had the same command system. They appreciated our tactical and shooting skills,” enumerates Jacek. Together with Americans, GROM soldiers arrested people suspected of terrorism. “It was eighteen years ago, so it’s hard for me to say now how many such operations were carried out,” says Jacek.

Test Begins

When the situation in Kosovo stabilized, GROM soldiers returned to Poland. The five-month mission was the first one executed after Poland’s accession to NATO. “For us, Kosovo was important for entirely different reasons. The conflict did not escalate, as everyone had feared, and we gained new experience, confirmed our skills, perfected our procedures and tactics of operating in that kind of environment,” says Jacek.

When GROM soldiers were withdrawn from Kosovo on September 11, 2001, new tasks awaited not only their unit, but the whole Polish army. On that very day the USA was attacked by terrorists, who hit, among others, the World Trade Center towers. A few hours later, during an informal meeting of the North Atlantic Council, one of its members said: “This is an alliance, for God’s sake! We have Article 5!” This most important provision of the North Atlantic Treaty was then invoked for the first and only time in the history of NATO. It reads that in the event of an armed attack against one member state, the remaining members will rush to help. NATO said: “I call.” “GROM was put in readiness,” recalls Col Gąstał, and Poland confirmed its participation in Operation Enduring Freedom.

JW Commando (JWK): Tough Mission

In the fall of 2001, commandos from Lubliniec were sent to Macedonia. Two of them never returned home.

The consequence of the war in Kosovo in 1999 was that the Kosovo Albanians escaped in great numbers to neighboring countries, Albania and Macedonia. Among them were also the Kosovo Liberation Army soldiers. Soon enough, the tensions between the Albanian minority and Macedonians started escalating. The conflicts led to establishing military groups under the common name National Liberation Army, which started a revolt in the spring of 2001. They carried out attacks on Macedonian security forces, as well as in the north-eastern part of the country, where Albanians lived in biggest numbers. However, thanks to international mediations, the conflict was mitigated. Peacekeeping forces, including NATO troops from various countries, also Poland, were sent to Macedonia to keep order and make sure the provisions of concluded agreements were obeyed.

In the fall of 2001, commandos from Lubliniec were sent to Macedonia for 12 months. The team, numbering no more than 30 people, included troops of the 1st Special Commando Regiment task forces, all of whom had successfully gone through a selection process earlier. They created a small military contingent in Kumanov. During the Allied Harmony Mission, they cooperated with soldiers from Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, and France.
The task of the Polish commandos, who were part of field liaison teams, was, among other things, protecting VIPs and international observers, ensuring that people kept peace, and monitoring the activity of various groups, Macedonian police, the military, and the border guard. Soldiers executed reconnaissance tasks between Macedonian Kumanov and Albanian-inhabited Lipkov. “The mission in Macedonia was very important to us. Firstly, It was our unit’s first mission, and secondly, we lost two soldiers there,” recalls one commando.

The accident happened during the Polish Military Contingent’s second rotation in Macedonia. On March 4, 2003, during one of the patrols, two anti-tank mines exploded under the vehicle carrying soldiers from Lubliniec, two Macedonians and a translator. The mines were purposely placed on top of each other to increase the force of the explosion. Two commandos, Sgt Paweł Legencki and Sgt Piotr Mikułowski were killed on the spot. Today, there is a memorial statue at the place where the tragedy happened.

Ewa Korsak

autor zdjęć: arch. prywante Jacka

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