Special Forces Brigade (Georgia)

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სპეციალური დანიშნულების ბრიგადა
EMBLEM4.jpg
Official special forces emblem of army, Georgia
Active 1991 - present
Country Georgia
Branch Georgian Armed Forces
Type special forces
Role Direct action, counter terrorism, asymmetric warfare, unconventional warfare, psychological warfare, naval warfare[1]
Size brigade ( two active battalions + one naval squadron, one support battalion ) ~ 1,500
Part of Ministry of Defence
Garrison/HQ Tbilisi
Beret Grey Asparagus
Engagements

1991: Georgian Civil War*
1992: War in Abkhazia

2001: War on Terror (ongoing)
2003 Rose Revolution
2003: Operation Iraqi Freedom
2004: Adjara Crisis
2004: South Ossetia clashes
2006: Kodori Crisis
2007: Bokhundjara incident
2008: South Ossetia War

2012: Lopota Gorge hostage crisis
Commanders
Current
commander
Major Dimitri Kiknadze[2]
Notable
commanders
Gocha Karkarashvili
Zaza Gogava

The Special Forces Brigade (Georgian: სპეციალური დანიშნულების ბრიგადა) is the elite Georgian Armed Forces component. It has been established to conduct special operations, covert operations, special reconnaissance, counter intelligence, counter terrorism, counter insurgency, amphibious and asymmetric warfare in and outside Georgia. One of the operational centers is located in Tbilisi, Georgia.[3]

Georgian special forces are subordinated under the MOD Special Operations Main Division to a brigade-level command structure. Each formation is split into several sub-divisions which are allocated on different Georgian regions, cities and strategically important areas. Most instructor units are composed of veterans of past conflicts including the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the internal conflicts in Georgia. Officers and instructors served as in former Soviet Army or NATO special services.

History[edit]

The very first of such formations was founded during the War in Abkhazia in 1992 but many already disbanded after several years of service, falling victim to political intrigues and serious accusations of supposed terrorist acts against the Georgian government. Especially internal forces were involved. Since then various special formations occurred under mixed supervision, Russian designed units always enjoying more popularity among the Georgian leadership. A lot of efforts was put into the establishment of a sustainable system of development of special military units, which was achieved in 1999. Under the guidance of Turkish instructors a program called SOF Train and Equip Program had started.[4] Since 2001, Georgia has intensified the training of its elite forces in cooperation with American, French, British, Israeli and other countries' special services.[5][6] Georgian commandos participated in the Iraq War from 2003 until the complete withdrawal of the Georgian contingent in 2008 due to an escalation of hostilities in South Ossetia.[7][8] According to independent accounts, a number of Georgian operatives were also deployed prior in Afghanistan to aid the United States special operations forces in hunting down the Taliban leaders.[citation needed] Georgian officials have stated that a group of servicemen were deployed in Afghanistan for medical purposes.[citation needed]

Early 1990s[edit]

Numerous tactical units appeared during the early 1990s. Apart of state security groups ALFA and Omega, those included a Russian trained special battalion called "Orbi" which was considered more or less a military counterpart and an elite unit named "White Eagles". Their members were trained primarily by Russian officers from Spetsnaz and equipped with heavy military hardware. Both units saw dramatic action in the coastal town of Gagra when it got struck by a surprise attack from Abkhaz forces aided by their North Caucasian allies. Since Georgia had withdrawn most of its troops and heavy equipment following Russian demanded peace talks, there were only a single infantry battalion with a few gun batteries and these two units supported by a number of local militia left to defend Gagra. The first assault wave was defeated with the support of artillery but after the second assault the infantry battalion Shavnabada was forced to withdraw and the two special units were cornered in the center of the town. The attackers gathered several hundred men. Key positions were a police station and the nearby train station. When the Abkhaz and their allies moved in for the final attack, the Georgians had only a small portion of the White Eagles to delay a breakthrough while most troops fell back to regroup in the surrounding forests. The remaining Georgians put up a stubborn fight and repelled several attacks for some time but got eventually surrounded and killed soon after. Most of the aiding militia were captured. Among the dead were 11 members of the White Eagle unit including its commander Gocha Karkarashvili who chose to stay. The task force regrouped and hesitated for a counterattack when they were suddenly confronted by a large number of Abkhaz and North Caucasian combatants approaching them. It turned out that another force was advancing simultaneously to the main assault body through the surrounding forests. Both sides were surprised by the encounter and opened fire. The Georgians were heavily outnumbered and had to retreat, losing a number of men, marking the final engagement of the Gagra campaign. The remaining special forces were called off to fight Georgian paramilitary groups which were attacking government forces and weren't deployed anymore into Abkhazia.

Pankisi Gorge[edit]

In 2003 Georgia carried out a special operation in the infamous Pankisi Gorge known for its supposed hosting of militant groups and criminals elements. The aim was to surround and force the surrender of armed Chechen diversant formations which crossed the border. Clashes and arrests all over the area occurred when president Putin himself demanded the Georgian government to handle the situation as it presented a direct threat. Mainly police, but also military special forces were involved.[9]

Georgian special forces have been accused multiple times to have carried out numerous assassination and saboutage acts in North Caucasus(Russia) and within the autonomous republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.[10][11][12] Russia also accused Georgia of using its special forces to train and equip Chechen militants in the Pankisi Gorge who then would pass the Georgian-Russian border to commit terroristic acts in the Russian Federation.[13] The situation in the Gorge is yet still disputed as Georgia itself claims to have the Gorge under its control contradicting the claims of Russian authorities

South Ossetia 2008[edit]

In the evening of August 7, 2008 small special units backed by artillery support infiltrated South Ossetia to clear villages and key positions around Tskhinvali. From Georgian side the capital itself was considered abandoned. The initial assault turned out to be prerequisite for a full scale combined assault which followed in the morning of August 8. Georgian units quickly claimed more than 11 villages in South Ossetia before the regular army moved in. The same day a small specialist squad was rumored to have headed to the Roki Tunnel in order to destroy or damage it before the Russians could send reinforcements. According to Georgian sources that team was repulsed by a considerable force of Russian spetsnaz deployed at the tunnel and couldn't set off charges. The Russian side claimed that detonation charges and other devices were found inside the tunnel and defused just before the Georgians were able to trigger them. According to that statement Georgians had already secured the tunnel and withdrew without being sure that the plan would work out. Engagements were mostly between Russian motorized units and small sabotage teams and Ossetian resistance cells in Tskhinvaili. Sergeant Kakhaber Tavgorashvili fell victim to Ossetian sniper fire at Shanghai street in Tskhinvali, more than 50 members were wounded during firefights, ambushes, bombardaments and air strikes.[14][15] The poorly organized operation crippled any effort to establish a stable frontline which was mainly counting on elite units to delay all Russian counterattacks. The frontline troops were neither supported nor resupplied in any way and most engagements resulted in the isolated Georgian units being repulsed from their objectives. When Russian reinforcements grew to battalion sized units one area after another was abandoned without fight as it became apparent that those positions wouldn't be reinforced. A series of ambushes forced the Russian army to delay their advance numerous times. By arriving at Tskhinvali the lead Russian column experienced a devastating ambush by dug in Georgian commandos who almost captured their 58th army's general who got wounded while most of his column was destroyed.[16][17] The unit received numerous awards for that battle. The Georgian side was able to hold Tskhinvali but all special forces were recalled to Tbilisi which government officials feared the Russian army might besiege. Although no greater loss than a single serviceman was suffered, the number of wounded did rule out any further operation by the company strong force that was deployed in South Ossetia and took part in almost every single engagement.

Lopota Valley[edit]

During an anti terror operation in the Lopota valley in 2012 one special forces member was shot during a controversial engagement against 20 supposedly armed militants crossing the Georgian-Dagestani border. Security forces were reinforced by military after the exact extent was revealed. It was suspected that a group of armed men took local hostages and demanded ransom. But UAV records showed at least 20 individuals equipped to the teeth and a Muslim appearance which was also confirmed later. The hostage rescue operation itself was conducted primarily by police forces and military was initially held in the background closing down the entire valley. The local residents were released after a trapped border guard officer offered himself instead insisting he had a much higher value for them than those ordinary citizens. The supposed terrorists were then offered negotiations but refused the unprofitable conditions and threatened to take the negotiator. It was then when commandos suddenly appeared and killed one of the approaching terrorists. During the firefight 10 more militants were killed but also one police officer. In the middle of the ongoing shootout a special forces corpsman tried to drag out one of the wounded policemen but got attacked and both died on the spot.

In 2012, the training arm of the brigade received further upgrades and financial support to limit the dependence on training in foreign countries.

Organization[edit]

As of 2012 the special operations forces are divided into two main sections: the acting formations and their sub units merged into one combined force and the Special Operations Training Center which contains all training and educational arms of the branch.[18]

Special Operations Forces[edit]

The branch is split into six main arms consisting of:[1][19]

  • Staff / Administrative Division

-G1 -G2 -G3 -G4 -G5 -G6 -G7

  • Operational Headquarters
  • Special Operations Group / Battalion
  • Naval Special Operations Group
    • Adjara squadron
    • Batumi squadron
  • Mountain-Ranger Battalion/Regiment
    • Combat Command
      • Alpha Company
      • Bravo Company
      • Charlie Company
      • Delta Company
  • Support/Maintenance Battalion
  • Special Operations Training Center

former special forces units[edit]

  • Special Operations Unit "White Eagles". Was trained and formed by members of Soviet spetsnaz. Took part in the War in Abkhazia, most notably Battle of Gagra. Got disbanded few years later.
  • Alpha Group(Georgian). An analogue to the Soviet/Russian counterpart. Active from 1991-1995
  • Commando battalion, now 11th Telavi Light Infantry Battalion. Was tasked with protecting the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline in its possible radius of action. Trained and funded by U.S.[20] The protection of strategic objects such as pipelines is no more task of the Defense Ministry but MIA Strategic Objects Special Defense Forces.
  • Iverioni Recon/Assault Battalion. An effort of joint MOD and MIA cooperation. As a result a battalion named "Iverioni" was established which was to be responsible for surveillance, counter intelligence and first strike operations. Got eventualy disbanded somewhere between 2009 and 2012.

Special Operations Training Center[edit]

The training center comprises following arms:

  • Staff

-S1 -S2 -S3 -S4 -S5 -S6 -S7

  • Command
  • Special Operations School
  • Rangers Preparation School
  • Snipers Preparation School
  • Paratroopers Preparation School
  • Evaluation Development Section
  • Logistical Support & Transport Company

Functions and missions of the training center include the development of an institutional base and organizational sphere of military training, coordination and control of the process of education and training within the center, the training and retraining of military personnel according to higher international standards, development update and introduction of educational programs in the process of education, participation in the combined training of the Georgian Armed Forces, contribution to the armed forces buildup and conducting special operations in interaction with other structural units of the Special Operations Forces.[21]

Current commander of the training center is Major Zurab Khuroshvili[22]

Selection and courses[edit]

The four main education and training schools are the Special Forces School, Rangers School, Snipers School and Airborne School, which have different admission criteria and difficulty levels. To become special forces members, servicemen have to successfully complete all single schools. The qualification and training itself is monitored by NATO instructors of leading special forces units. The overall admission criteria include physical, psychological health and durability. The applicants passing rate for special operations forces does not exceed 10%. Details about single training parts are highly classified.[23][24] The education also includes mountaineer training and combat on highest attitude available in Europe. Within the framework of the 'Partnership for Peace Program' created by NATO and Georgia, foreign nations special forces are being trained by Georgian instructors for combat in higher attitude under enormous difficult circumstances.

Rangers School[edit]

The Army Ranger course is of interest for regular servicemen who want to join special forces. Potential candidates are required to not only to be servicemen in the armed forces, but also in the position of squad, platoon or company commander. The admission requirements are relatively low compared to special forces rangers since the course itself is not divided into two separate course with a preparation and afterwards admission course although the difficulty level of the course is still high. The purpose of the course is to give lower rank soldiers as well as officers the ability to make relevant decisions, manage troops and boost the morale of them under tense physical and psychological pressure. The attendants ranks can vary from corporals to lieutenants. The requirements include: 49 push-ups, 59 presses, running 8,000 meters in 40 minutes or less, 6 pull-ups, a forced march with equipment at a distance of 25 km in 4 hr 30 min or less and parallel dips and jumping into water from 10 meters. The theoretical part includes: an Intellectual Test, Test in Common Army Awareness and a Land Navigation Test. In an addition, a medical commission report and the commanders reference letter of the current unit are required. The passing score must amount 60% of correct answers on the theoretical part.

The Rangers School is located near the village Manavi and is the analogue of the United States rangers course. The six-month course for civilians is similar to commando-type training, which is also conducted in armies of NATO member countries Turkey and Great Britain. Throughout the course, future rangers will be skilled in leading combat operations in woods, mountains, populated areas, hard weather conditions and difficult terrains. The servicemen will also adopt leadership capabilities and will be instructed how to act in crisis and stressful situations.[25]

Applicants who pass these initial tests will be granted for Army Rangers Course, which takes 67 days on following subjects:

  • Marksmanship
  • Mountain Training
  • Airmobile Training
  • Military Topography
  • Tactical Training
  • Medical Training
  • Communication
  • Engineering Training
  • Combat on Urban Terrain

Passing the course successfully gives access to Special Forces Rangers Course. The military servicemen who first pass the Army Rangers course and then the Special Operations Forces Rangers course, can go to the evaluation to apply for the Special Forces School.

During the preparation stage for the later special forces admission, the applicants will acquire the minimal skills to pass through the course. Initial admission criteria are age from 19–30 inclusive, Georgian citizenship, a height above 170 cm, a secondary or higher education and a positive report from the medical commission. Physical tests are: 50 push-ups, 50 presses, running a distance of 3,200 meters in 16:00 minutes or less and 8 pull-ups. The theoretical test on general skills must be passed with a rating of 60% correct answers. After that the students will go through an interview in order to give general information about themselves. During the preparation course which' duration is 9 weeks, following subjects will be engaged:[26]

  • Marksmanship
  • Common Army Tactics
  • Military Topography
  • Medical Preparation
  • Communication
  • General Subjects
  • Physical Training

The actual course itself will start after the preparation in which the students will acquire the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge to master the skills of a ranger to be able to conduct operations under the same circumstances as under the Special Forces school. The Rangers Course is seen as a prerequisite for making a successful military career. Admission criteria are the successful completion of the BIT/BCT (Basic Combat Training) and Rangers preparation course. The admission tests are basically the same as for the preparation course except that the passing score for theoretical tests must amount 70% of the correct answers. The theoretical tests include: Tactical Training, Marksmanship, Engineering Training, Topography, Communication and General Skills. After passing these successfully, the applicants will be admitted at the course, which' duration is 28 weeks.

The general subjects of the course are:

  • Training on Water
  • Marksmanship
  • Mountain Training
  • Airmobile Training
  • Survival
  • Military Topography
  • Tactical Training
  • Medical Training
  • Communication
  • Engineering Training
  • Physical Training

Airborne School[edit]

The airborne training is divided into Paratroopers Basic Training Course and Parachute Rigger Training Course. During the basic course, the students will be trained to carry out parachute jumps under the supervision of instructors with ram-air parachutes in light meteorological conditions, from average attitude, medium speed and with load and weapons. Criteria as of age is unrestricted. Any serviceman who has the satisfactory medical report will be admitted to the course which will take three weeks. Subjects will be the history of parachute development, material parts, theoretical parts of parachute jumping, rules of movement and airdrome, aircraft tour, parachute jumping elements on land, special cases during jumping, packing the parachute and practical jumps.

During the so-called Rigger course, the paratroopers will learn how to use, pack, maintain and repair the TTS, T-10B and T-10R parachutes. The course can be attended by personnel who have already passed the basic training course and carried out at least five jumps. The course program also includes two forced jumps.

Servicemen who passed both courses and can prove an overall record of 35 jumps, can apply for Land Instructor-Parachutist Training Course in which they will learn the methods of conducting theoretical parachute and land preparations, organizing parachute jumps and making records, also

paratroopers instructor duties. The course duration is seven days and includes 3 days of practical jumps. The program includes six jumps, the first, the second, the third and the fourth with load and weapons.[27]

Special Forces School[edit]

The course purpose is to make the cadets being able to acquire and master the necessary skills to conduct special operations under extremely tense physical and psychological pressure in close to real combat situations. This will help the students to become the special forces members who will be capable of making prompt evaluations of a situation and relevant decisions.

Admission criteria are age from 21 to 31 inclusive, the students must have the ranks from private to captain and passed the Army Rangers Course as well as the Special Operations Ranger Course. Admission requirements are split into physical tests which contains 60 push-ups, 66 presses, running a distance of 3,200 meters in 14:24 minutes or less and 10 pull-ups. An intellectual tests and combined tests in army awareness in which 80% of the answers must be correct and finally a reference letter of the current unit commander.

Active servicemen who can prove a satisfactory medical report and successfully passed the entrance examinations will be admitted at the course.

The course's duration is 31 weeks in which following subjects will be engaged:[28]

  • Marksmanship
  • Mountain Training
  • Airmobile Training
  • Military Topography
  • Tactical Training
  • Medical Training
  • Communication
  • Engineering Training
  • Command Training
  • Physical Training
  • Hand-to-Hand Fighting
  • Preparation of Specialists
    • Preparation of medics
    • Preparation of weapon specialists
    • Preparation of engineering and demolitions specialists

Additional courses are:

  • Pistol Marksmanship Special Course
  • Naval Special Course
  • Bodyguard Course
  • Antiterrorist Course.

The special forces course counts as the harshest and toughest one of all four courses, having the highest requirements and the greatest students failing rate.

Snipers School[edit]

The SOF sniper school trains special forces personnel as well regular army members from age 18 to 40 in modern sniper warfare in accordance to higher international standards.

The special forces sniper course requires special forces personnel to have a marksmanship level expert or I class to be accepted to the course. Other criteria are a Common Army Awareness Test, a Memory Test, the Shooting from Sniper Rifles, psychological tests and a physical test which equals that of Special Forces School with the exactly same requirements. Special forces personnel passing these tests will undergo a 12-week-long course engaging following subjects:[29]

  • Marksmanship
  • Sniper Tactics
  • Sniper Tracking
  • Survival
  • Special Reconnaissance

During the course, theoretical evaluations must amount 70% of correct answers.

After completion of all necessary courses until Sniper Course in a time period of 24 to 27 months or longer depending on if started as civilian or servicemen, the candidates may be granted title of Special Operations Employee or Member. Service in the special unit grants access to the Special Operations Battalion and further education for special naval warfare in the combat frogmen squadron or the Support Battalion. Unit members will be taught in foreign languages and sent abroad to train together with partner nations.[30]

Comparable units[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b https://matsne.gov.ge/index.php?option=com_ldmssearch&view=docView&id=2130581&lang=en&Itemid=
  2. ^ http://mod.gov.ge/en/news/1566/
  3. ^ John Pike. "Georgia Army". Globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  4. ^ "History | Special Operations Forces". Geosof.ge. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  5. ^ Israel, Georgia: Israel To Halt Arms Sales To Georgia. Stratfor. 5 August 2008.
  6. ^ http://mod.gov.ge/index.php?l=E&m=5&sm=12&ssm=3&acm=2 (Georgian)
  7. ^ "International Cooperation | Special Operations Forces". Geosof.ge. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  8. ^ "December 22, 2003 - Rumsfeld praises republic of Georgia Special Forces for joining U.S. operations in Iraq". The Militant. 2003-12-22. Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  9. ^ "Georian Security Operation Proceeds in the Pankisi Gorge". EurasiaNet.org. 2002-09-02. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  10. ^ "Moscow says Georgian sabotage groups operate in Abkhazia, South Ossetia — RT". Rt.com. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  11. ^ "Georgia trains young refugees for sabotage - South Ossetian KGB | World | RIA Novosti". En.rian.ru. 2010-08-27. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  12. ^ "Abkhazia Creates Anti-Sabotage Military Unit in Gali - Kanal PIK TV". Pik.tv. 2012-04-26. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  13. ^ "Russia accuses Georgia of aiding rebels". News.rin.ru. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  14. ^ http://www.kommersant.ru/Doc/1600839 (Russian)
  15. ^ http://mod.gov.ge/index.php?page=-10&Id=31&lang=1[dead link]
  16. ^ MSK (2008-08-09). "Итар-Тасс / Pda Версия" (in Russian). Pda.itar-tass.com. Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  17. ^ Holdsworth, Nick (2008-08-16). "Russian soldiers who died in Georgia conflict hailed as heroes by Kremlin". Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  18. ^ "Structure | Special Operations Forces". Geosof.ge. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  19. ^ http://www.geo-army.ge/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=488&Itemid=172&lang=ka
  20. ^ (12/16/2002 issue of the CACI Analyst) (2002-12-16). "FIRST U.S.-TRAINED GEORGIAN COMMANDO BATTALION GRADUATES | Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Analyst". Cacianalyst.org. Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  21. ^ "Mission | Special Operations Forces". Geosof.ge. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  22. ^ "Leadership | Special Operations Forces". Geosof.ge. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  23. ^ "Training Courses | Special Operations Forces". Geosof.ge. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  24. ^ "Ministry of Defence of Georgia". Mod.gov.ge. 2012-07-25. Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  25. ^ "The Rangers Course". Mod.gov.ge. 2012-09-26. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  26. ^ "Rangers School | Special Operations Forces". Geosof.ge. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  27. ^ "Airborne School | Special Operations Forces". Geosof.ge. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  28. ^ "Special Forces School | Special Operations Forces". Geosof.ge. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  29. ^ "Snipers School | Special Operations Forces". Geosof.ge. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  30. ^ "Payment & Benefits | Special Operations Forces". Geosof.ge. Retrieved 2012-10-09.