National Gendarmerie Intervention Group
|Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (French)|
Official GIGN insignia
|Role||Counter-terrorism and hostage rescue|
|Size||c. 420 operators|
|Garrison/HQ||Satory, Yvelines France|
|Motto||Sauver des vies au mépris de la sienne
("To save lives without regard to one's own")
|Decorations||Croix de la Valeur Militaire|
The National Gendarmerie Intervention Group, commonly abbreviated GIGN (French: Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale), is a special operations unit of the French Armed Forces. It is part of the National Gendarmerie and is trained to perform counter-terrorist and hostage rescue missions in France or anywhere else in the world.
The GIGN was formed in 1973. On 1 September 2007, a major reorganization took place. The original GIGN absorbed the Gendarmerie Parachute Squadron (EPIGN) and the thirty gendarmes of the Presidential Security Group (GSPR) to form a "new" expanded GIGN.
There are now three distinct parts to the unit:
- Intervention force (the original GIGN)
- Observation & search force (from the former EPIGN)
- Security & protection force (from the former EPIGN and gendarmes from the GSPR)
After the Munich massacre during the Olympic Games in 1972, and a prison mutiny in Clairvaux Prison the year before, France started to study the possible solutions to extremely violent attacks, under the assumptions that these would be difficult to predict and deflect.
In 1973, the GIGN became a permanent force of men trained and equipped to respond to threats of this kind while minimizing risks to the public and hostages, for the members of the unit, and for the attackers themselves. The GIGN became operational on the first of March, 1974, under the command of Lieutenant Christian Prouteau.
Ten days later, it had its first intervention against a deranged person in Ecquevilly, proving the necessity of the unit. GIGN initially had 15 members, which increased to 48 by 1984, 57 by 1988, and 87 by 2000.
In 2007, a major reorganization was implemented, with the GIGN, EPIGN and GSIGN staff merged into a single 380-member unit also called GIGN. In the future, newly recruited gendarmerie officers will be trained for intervention, and will have the opportunity to be trained in close protection and/or research/observation (missions of the old EPIGN). The total man power was expected to increase to about 420 soldiers in 2010. The reorganization goal was to enable the deployment of a 200 strong unit, trained together, for large-scale interventions, such as a Beslan-type mass hostage-taking - in French they're called POM (Prise d'Otage Massive). With the reorganization the acronym GSIGN has become moot and the acronym "GIGN" no longer refers to the same small unit. Collaboration between GIGN and RAID has become more and more focused upon large hostage-rescue scenarios.
The GIGN is divided into a command cell, an administrative group, four operational troops of twenty operators, an operational support troop including negotiation, breaching, intelligence, communications, marksmanship, dogs and special equipment cells. The special equipment group equips the unit with modified and high-tech equipment, by either selecting or designing it. GIGN is called about 60 times each year.
All members go through training which includes shooting, long-range marksmanship, an airborne course and hand-to-hand combat training. Members of the GIGN are widely regarded as having some of the best firearms training in the world. It is for this reason that many of the world's special operations and counterterrorist units conduct exchange programs with the GIGN. Mental ability and self-control are important in addition to physical strength. Like most special forces, the training is stressful with a high washout rate - only 7–8% of volunteers make it through the training process. GIGN members must be prepared to disarm suspects with their bare hands.
Since its creation, the group has taken part in over 1000 operations, liberated over 500 hostages, arrested over 1000 suspects, and killed 15 terrorists. Until the November 2015 Paris attacks the unit had seen two members killed in action, and seven in training, since its foundation. It has also seen two of its dogs killed in action, and one in training.
Past actions include:
- The liberation of 30 students from a school bus captured by the FLCS (Front de Libération de la Côte des Somalis, "Somali Coast Liberation Front") in Djibouti in 1976.
- Planning the liberation of diplomats from the French embassy in San Salvador in 1979 (the hostage-takers surrendered before the assault was conducted).
- GIGN commandos were instrumental in regaining control during the Grand Mosque Seizure in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in November and December 1979.
- Arrest of a Corsican terrorist of the National Liberation Front of Corsica in Fesch Hostel in 1980.
- Liberation of hostages of the Ouvéa cave hostage taking in Ouvea in the New Caledonia in May 1988.
- Protection of the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville.
- In December 1994, the liberation of 229 passengers and crew from Air France Flight 8969 in Marseille. On the plane, hijacked by four GIA terrorists who wished to destroy the Eiffel Tower, three passengers had been executed during the negotiations with the Algerian government. The mission was widely publicized.
- Arrest of Bob Denard in 1995 in Comoros.
- Operations in Bosnia to arrest persons indicted for war crimes.
- Seizing of 6 Somali pirates and recovery of part of the ransom after making sure Le Ponant luxury yacht hostages were freed in the coast of Puntland in Somalia on the Gulf of Aden. In conjunction with French Commandos Marines (Naval commandos) in April 2008.
- Key involvement in elimination of terrorists involved in Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris and outlying regions in January 2015.
- A group of 50 GIGN Counter Terrorists were deployed to handle an al-Qaeda hostage situation at the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali on November 20, 2015, exactly one week after the attacks in Paris, France.
The GIGN was selected by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to teach the special forces of the other member states in hostage-rescue exercises aboard planes.
- Weapons handling
- Combat shooting and marksmanship training
- Airborne courses, such as HALO or HAHO jumps, paragliding, and heliborne insertions
- Combat/Underwater swimming, diving and assault of ships
- Hand-to-hand combat training
- Undercover surveillance and stalking (support in investigating cases)
- Infiltration and escape techniques
- Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and NRBC devices neutralization
- Survival and warfare in tropical, arctic, mountain and desert environments
- Diplomacy skills, such as negotiating
- Lieutenant Christian Prouteau: 1973-1982
- Capitaine Paul Barril: 1982-1983 (Interim)
- Capitaine Philippe Masselin: 1983-1985
- Capitaine Philippe Legorjus: 1985-1989
- Chef d'Escadron (Major) Lionel Chesneau: 1989-1992
- Capitaine Denis Favier: 1992-1997
- Chef d'Escadron (Major) Eric Gerard: 1997–2002
- Lieutenant-Colonel Frédéric Gallois: 2002-2007
- Général de Brigade Denis Favier: 2007-2011
- Général de Brigade Thierry Orosco: 2011–2014
- Colonel Hubert Bonneau: 2014-present
In popular culture
The group is mentioned in the Phoenix Force 1984 book Phoenix in Flames.
They are featured in L'Assaut, a 2010 French film about the Air France Flight 8969 hijacking. It was done with the collaboration and the advice of the GIGN.
L'Ordre et la Morale (Rebellion) was released in 2011 and is based on the war crimes of the 1988 Ouvéa cave hostage taking in New Caledonia as seen from the perspective of then GIGN leader Captain Philippe Legorjus, accused by many of weaknesses in command and to have had "dangerous absences" (some even said he fled) in the final stages of the case. He was forced to resign from the GIGN after this operation, since nobody wanted him as chief and to fight under him anymore.
In Michael Bay's The Island, Djimon Hounsou plays Albert Laurent, a French private military contractor and GIGN veteran hired to bring back Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson).
GIGN members are present in several video games such as SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Lockdown, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege, Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Hitman: Contracts, Battlefield 3, Modern War, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. GIGN uniforms are available in the games Counter-Strike and SWAT 4. Players can also choose their avatar on the Xbox 360 gaming platform to have the GIGN special ops costume, from the Modern Warfare 3 Avatar content pack on the avatar storefront. It is labeled as French Special Ops costume, but is the GIGN Special Ops uniform in reality.
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