Jednostka Wojskowa GROM (JW GROM): The Polish Surgeons

JW GROM is a Tier-1 Polish special forces unit and is a part of the Special Troops Command of the Polish Armed Forces. Established in 1990 after Poland gained its independence it is considered to be the most elite unit of the Polish Armed Forces. GROM operators are renowned for their extensive training and ability to operate in some of the most hostile combat environments.

1. 0 Name, Motto, Symbols, Patches, Badges, and History

1.1 Names of JW GROM

JW Grom has several names and nicknames because of its historical legacy and traditional heritage. These include:

  • JW GROM (Jednostka Wojskowa GROM)
  • GROM Military Unit
  • Home Of Army Silent Unseen Paratroopers GROM Military Unit (Jednostka Wojskowa GROM im. Cichociemnych Spadochroniarzy Armii Krajowej) [Source]
  • ‘The Surgeons’ – nickname given to the unit because of their extensive medical training and their surgical ability to coordinate and execute special operations. [Source]

1.2 Motto

The motto of JW GROM is 

“Siła i Honor! Tobie Ojczyzno!” – “Strength and honour! For you, Fatherland!”

[Source]

1.3 Symbols

The GROM Military Unit (JW GROM) has a notable symbol which takes the form of its banner.

This banner has several notable features.

  • Two dates: The establishment of the unit on 13 July 1990, and the date of the first drop of the Cichociemni (Polish paratroopers trained in Britain in WW2) into occupied Poland which took place on 15-16 February 1941.
  • 13: The banner also features the number 13, which is symbolic of the group’s foundation date.
  • Cichociemni: The parachute sign of the Polish paratrooper regiment from WW2 is present
  • Badge of GROM: The unit badge is also present as a swooping eagle with a lightning bolt in its talons
  • Centre: in the centre of the banner on both sides is the Polish Imperial eagle and the inscription “Bóg, Honor, Ojzyzna” – “ God, Honour, Homeland”

[Source]

1.4 Patches and badge

The unit uses several patches which are worn on the right shoulder of its operator’s uniforms.

JW GROM unit patch variants
JW GROM unit patch variants – [Image source]

All three of these patches feature the unit’s badge, which is of an eagle clutching a lightning bolt. [Source]

The unit also uses the eagle clutching a lighting bolt as its recognition badge. Introduced by Decision No.37/MON of the Minister of National Defense of 20 February 2002.

GROM unit badge
GROM unit badge – [Image source]

1.5 History of JW GROM

Among the five special forces units under the Special Troops Command is Grupa Reagowania Operacyjno-Manewrowego, or Group (for) Operational Manoeuvring Response (GROM). It was named after Poland’s elite World War II special operations unit, the Silent Unseen (Cichociemni Spadochroniarze Armii Krajowej), and was inaugurated on July 13, 1990. [Source]

1.5.1 Early History of JW GROM

Officially activated on July 13, 1990, JW GROM undertook a range of special operations and unconventional warfare missions, including anti-terrorist operations and projecting military force deep into enemy territory. The unit was named in honor of the Silent Unseen (Cichociemni Spadochroniarze Armii Krajowej). 

1.5.2  Foundation of JW GROM

In 1989 Jews from the Soviet Union were allowed to emigrate to Israel and Poland was one of several countries which provided help to the organisation of the operation. Dubbed Operation Bridge (Operacja Most)  this created the need for Poland to establish a new special forces unit due to potential targeting by Islamic terrorists. 

Lt. Col Sławomir Petelicki was assigned to create a new special forces unit in 1990. It was established on 13 July 1990 and named after the WW2 “Cichociemni” Polish Home Army Paratroopers. After an agreement between the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Defense, its command fell under the Commander of the Polish Special Forces.

[Source]

1.5.3 First major military operations of JW GROM (1994-2003)

JW GROM took part in police-type military operations in Haiti in 1994 and from 1996-2001 operators from JW GROM arrested several war criminals in the Balkans including Slavko Dokmanović (The Butcher of Vukovar) during Operation Little Flower. They also took part in missions in Slovenia and Kosovo. 

The unit was also assigned to the inspection of ships in the Persian Gulf from 2002-2003 in support of allied forces. [Source]

1.5.4 Afghan and Iraq War Involvement

Early in 2002, a 40-person JW GROM operator team was sent to Afghanistan to support allied operations there. [Source

Along with US Navy SEALs, British Royal Marines, and US Psy-Ops teams, JW GROM participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a member of the Naval Special Operations Task Group. JW GROM operatives, alongside US Marines from 1st F.A.S.T Company and US Navy SEALs from Teams 8 and 10, seized control of the MABOT oil facility on March 20, 2003. Additionally, they successfully neutralized explosives found within the facility. [Source]

A combined squad of twenty US Navy SEALs from SEAL Team 5 and thirty JW GROM personnel successfully seized control of the Mukatayin hydroelectric dam. There were no casualties on either side during the operation. The only injury occurred when a GROM operator broke his ankle during insertion from a US Air Force MH-53J Pave Low helicopter. [Source]

1.5.5 Task Unit Thunder

After the invasion of Iraq, JW GROM personnel actively joined the CJSOTF-AP (Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula) and formed the backbone of Task Unit Thunder. Throughout the Iraq War, this force, led by JW GROM operators, spearheaded rapid assaults alongside partner Task Units to target suspected enemy positions and compounds.

Along with Task Unit Raider, which was based on the operators of Marine Corps Special Operations Command Detachment One, Det One, they supplied a Tier-1 counterterrorism unit for the task force. These two task units eventually became the main direct action assets of the CJSOTF-AP. [Source]

The CIA appreciated JW GROM operatives for their reportedly lower engagement threshold when it came to targeting, a characteristic they valued. JW GROM snipers only needed a suspect cell phone call or a curfew breach to engage their targets. [Source]

1.5.6 Chris Kyle 

In September 2004, SEAL operator Chris Kyle joined JW GROM’s B Squad to contribute his sniper and navigator expertise. He commented that 

“The GROMs were a lot like the SEALs: extremely professional on duty and outright revelers at the end of the day. They all drank Polish vodka, and especially Żubrówka.”

He continued by comparing the JW GROM operators to the US Navy SEALs, British SAS, and Special Forces of the US Army. Noting that the manner JW GROM and SEALs attacked houses was very similar, he thought the group’s Polish stun grenades were superior. This was because Polish stun grenades detonated seven times, as opposed to the US stun grenades’ single detonation, providing a more confusing and disorienting experience for the target. [Source]

2.0 Organisation

Jednostka Wojskowa GROM (JW GROM) members visualised by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.
Jednostka Wojskowa GROM (JW GROM) members visualised by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.

2.1 JW GROM Unit structure

JW GROM is organised into four separate Squadrons or specialisations

  • A Squadron (ZBA) – Land element based in Warsaw
  • B Squadron (ZBB) Maritime element based in Gdańsk
  • C Squadron (ZBC) – Unknown speciality based in Warsaw
  • Logistics and security unit based in Warsaw

[Source]

2.2 Key Figures

Many of the unit’s operators are unknown due to their classified nature. However, several notable commanders are known.

  • Brigadier General Sławomir Petelicki – First commander of the JW GROM unit from 13 July 1990 – 19 December 1995. Awarded several Polish military medals and also the Air Assault Badge, Army Commendation Medal and Officer of the Legion of Merit from the United States he died by suicide in 2012 and left no suicide note. [Source, source]
  • Colonel Tadeusz Sapierzyński – Commander of the unit from 11 February 2004 – 23 February 2006. He served as commander of Polish military units in the Golan Heights and in Bosnia & Herzegovina. [Source]
  • Brigadier General Roman Polko – Two-time commander of the JW GROM unit from 26 May 2000 – 11 February 2004 and 23 February 2006 – 8 November 2006. He has worked as a Combating Terrorism Advisor for the Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration and as the Deputy Head of the National Security Bureau. [Source]

2.3 Recruitment and training

Candidates who are applying to serve with JW GROM have to pass several recruitment barriers as well as pass psychological and physical tests.

2.3.1 Recruitment rules of JW GROM

JW GROM has several recruitment standards which recruits must pass if they are to be considered fit to serve with the unit:

  • You must be either:
    • Active/reserve soldiers
    • Uniformed police officers
  • Minimum requirements for candidates:
    • Polish citizenship
    • No criminal record
    • Pass a security clearance check
    • Knowledge of a foreign language

  • For Officers:
    • Having a master’s degree
    • Military rank of at least second lieutenant or having a rank in the officer corp if you are from the Police or other armed services

  • For NCOs (Non-commissioned officers)
    • Secondary school degree
    • Military rank of at least corporal or having a rank in the non-commissioned officer corps if you are from the Police or other armed services.

[Source]

2.3.2 Fitness tests

Candidates for service with JW GROm have to pass several fitness and psychological tests as well as the so-called “Truth Week”. All of which are designed to filter out applicants at every stage.

  • General fitness tests
    • Pull-ups
    • Dips
    • Torso bends
    • Rope climbing
    • Shuttle run 10x10m

  • Running/endurance tests
    • 3000m run

  • Swimming tests
    • 50m swim
    • Underwater swimming test
    • Jumping from a diving tower
  • Hand-to-hand combat test

In the end, once candidates complete the above tests they are then able to partake in the so-called “Truth Week” test. This involves a week-long multi-day physical and psychologically exhausting test in the mountains.

[Source]

2.3.3 Further Training of JW GROM

JW GROM operators are further trained in several areas including parachuting, sniper training, combat diving, and communications amongst others. Also, the unit’s operators must undergo extensive medical training. Unit paramedics are attached to an ambulance crew and sent to some of the most dangerous districts in Warsaw to get used to the sight of blood and wounds. [Source]

Climate and safety of training

JW GROM operators are trained in a variety of different climates. The diversity of Poland’s topography allows for this and they have also participated in training in both Venezuela and the Sahara. 

Training in JW GROM has been reported to be boring as weapons are stored in safes and only brought out for training which is done repeatedly and to improve muscle memory. The basic movements are drilled into the operators to prepare themselves for the potential that they may come across terrorists or opponents using someone as a human shield. [Source]

Hostage Rescue Training

The unit regularly conducts training which is meant to emulate the rescue of hostages from a variety of different environments. This includes planes, buses, trains, buildings and other sites. They also regularly conduct hostage rescue exercises in the ocean and train to rescue hostages from ships, ferries and oil drilling platforms. [Source]

Training levels

JW GROMs training consists of three levels which are green, blue and black. 

  • Green – Green training consists of training which deals with reconnaissance, deep cover sabotage, population extraction/evacuation and the elimination of personal threats
  • Blue – Blue training deals with maritime and naval insertions. Further, this training also includes underwater diving, naval sabotage and naval reconnaissance training. 
  • Black – Black training is the highest level of training for JW GROM operators and includes hostage rescue, VIP protection and area protection

[Source

3.0 Equipment of JW GROM

3.1 Weapons

JW GROM uses a wide variety of weapons:

  • Handguns
    • IMI Desert Eagle Mark XIX (likely in training)
    • FN Five-seveN
    • Glock 17/17T
    • Heckler and Koch Mark 23
    • Heckler and Kock USP
    • Sig P226/P228
    • Colt-1911

  • Assault Rifles
    • Bushmaster M4A3 (replaced in service by the HK416)
    • Heckler and Koch HK416
      • D10RS
      • D145RS
    • Bushmaster XM15E2S
    • FN F2000 Tactical
    • Heckler and Koch G36
    • KAC SR-16 (replaced in service by the HK416)
    • Colt M4A1 (replaced in service by the HK416)
    • Steyr AUG

  • Submachine guns and personal weapons
    • Heckler and Koch MP5 (replaced in service by the Sig MPX)
    • Sig MPX
    • FN P90 TR

  • Machine guns
    • FN Minimi Para &TR
    • Manroy M2 QCB
    • M2 Browning

  • Precision rifles
    • Accuracy International AWM-F
    • CheyTac Intervention
    • Heckler and Koch PSG1
    • KAC SR-25 (replaced by the LaRue Tactical OBR 7.62)
    • LaRue Tactical OBR 7.62 marksman rifle 
    • PGM Mini Hécate II .338 Lapua Magnum PGM Hécate II
    • Sako TRG-22

  • Launchers/anti-materiel weapons
    • Barrett M107 anti-matériel sniper rifle
    • Saab Bofors Dynamics Carl Gustav M3 MAAWS
    • Saab Bofors Dynamics AT4
    • Zeveta RPG-75
    • LRM vz. 99 ANTOS (Czech 60mm mortar)
    • Rafael Spike
    • Raytheon-Lockheed Martin Javelin 

[Source, source, source, source, source]

3.2 JW GROM Vehicles

Although JW GROM will have access to the vehicles used by the wider Polish Armed Forces, they have been pictured using several notable vehicles. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Mi helicopter variants
  • UH-60
  • Transport planes
  • HMMWV variants
Operators descending from a Polish MI-8
JW GROM operators descending from a Polish MI-8 – [Image source]

3.3 JW GROM Kit

JW GROM operators use a variety of kits and equipment. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Hełm HP-05
  • AN/PEQ-1 SOFLAM
  • Rebreather equipment for divers
  • Night vision systems (NVG)
  • Gas masks
JTAC operator equipped with a Hełm HP-05 helmet, communication system and AN/PEQ-1 SOFLAM
JTAC operator from JW GROM equipped with a Hełm HP-05 helmet, communication system and AN/PEQ-1 SOFLAM – [Image source]

4.0 Tactical-Operational Information

JW GROM operators are trained to handle an extensive list of special operations, including:

  1. MOOTW (Military Operations Other Than War): These are crisis response operations, which often involve evacuating people from areas of conflict or civil unrest.
  2. Counterterrorism AT, CT (Counterterrorism): These are operations, which involve physically combatting terrorists and conducting rescue operations.
  3. HR (Hostage Rescue): These are operations, which involve recapturing hostages.
  4. PR (Personnel Recovery): These are rescue operations, which involve evacuating personnel from hostile or unfriendly terrain.
  5. CSAR (Combat Search and Rescue): These are rescue operations, which involve conducting search and rescue operations in enemy territory.
  6. SR (Special Reconnaissance): These are operations, which involve conducting reconnaissance operations on enemy territory.
  7. DA (Direct Action): These are special operations, which involve carrying out sabotage and diversionary tactics on enemy territory.
  8. MS (Military Support): These are training operations, which involve training Polish and allied units during peacetime.
  9. UW (Unconventional Warfare): These are special operations, which involve a variety of unconventional actions such as infiltrating enemy troops and counter-diversion actions.

[Source]

4.1 Operations

JW GROM has been involved in a wide variety and amount of operations since its inception in 1990. This includes but is not limited to:

4.1.1 Operations Pre-2000

  • Operation Bridge (Operacja Most) –  The Soviet Union permitted Jews to immigrate to Israel in 1989, and Poland (using JW GROM) was one of the nations that assisted in the operation’s coordination. They transported over 40,000 Jews from the USSR to Israel in 1990-1992. [Source]
  • Haiti – JW GROM’s first foreign mission was in Haiti in 1994 as a part of Operation Uphold Democracy. JW GROM operators were responsible for the protection of VIPs and were the personal protection of the UN special envoy for Haiti. [Source]
  • Eastern Slavonia – JW GROM operators formed a police group and were responsible for the protection of VIPs, protection of small objects of strategic importance, escorting groups of national minorities, preventing possible demonstrations and, if necessary, reacting immediately. They were also responsible for the arrest of the war criminal Slavko Dokmanović. [Source]

4.1.2 Operations Post-2000

  • Persian Gulf- In 2002, JW GROM operators, alongside US Navy SEALs were responsible for the protection and searching of ships suspected of smuggling oil in the Gulf. They carried out a number (twenty-eight) of night patrols near the territories of Iraq and Iran. [Source]
  • Iraq – JW GROM was extensively involved in the Iraq War as a part of the Polish military contingent stationed there. They aided US forces in the seizure of the Um Qasr port and the seizure of oil terminals. [Source]
  • Afghanistan – JW GROM, as a part of Task Force 49 (TF-49), conducted counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan, namely Ghazni province. [Source]
  • Ukraine – JW GROM operators protected Polish President Andrzej Duda during his visit to Ukraine amidst the Russian invasion. [Source]

5.0 Conclusion

JW GROM is one of the premier special forces units and their extensive experience and knowledge places them at the top of the list of effective military units. Their extensive training and repetition have allowed their operators to garner respect and nicknames including “The Surgeons”. Formed in 1990 and with an extensive operating history they are highly capable and will continue to play a major role in Polish counterterrorist operations for the foreseeable future.

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