The Blog

The GROM Factor

Haven't heard of Poland's Special Forces? They're real, they're serious, and they're here to save the day.

2:40 PM, May 8, 2003 • By VICTORINO MATUS
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

And what about "cold killing"? Asked if the ominous term refers to garrotes or piano wire, Petelicki replies "Yes." Pausing to choose his words carefully, he explains, "Many things. For instance, we can create a weapon from . . . well . . . many things." The weapon used most by GROM is the MP5 submachine gun. They also get to choose their own sidearm--most choose either the Glock Model 19 or the SIG-Sauer P228.

PETELICKI says that GROM is a mixture of the Delta Force, SAS, and the Navy SEALs. "We took what we found best from each group." (GROM trainers have been to Fort Bragg as well as Hereford--home of the SAS.)

For the past twelve years, GROM operators have engaged in numerous operations, including peacekeeping in the Balkans and Haiti. In 1997, they successfully captured Slavko Dokmanovic, aka, "the Butcher of Vukovar" who was held responsible for the murder of 260 Croats. Despite being well-protected by Serb commandos, Dokmanovic was successfully captured alive (his bodyguards didn't fare so well).

So what was the significance in having 56 commandos from the 300-member GROM take part in Operation Iraqi Freedom? "This war saved GROM," says Petelicki. "Without it, it would have been broken up between the army and navy. But now everyone knows about GROM in Poland and they are proud of them."

Radek Sikorski observes that "It was wise for the United States to show countries who backed it in this war that they are appreciated. This will probably pave the way for more 'coalitions of the willing.' Poland took a lot of risks supporting America. It also took a beating from some of its European friends." Sikorski thinks this could be the beginning of a special relationship with the United States, akin to the one shared by Great Britain, but warns "it is still in the very early stages and much will also depend on America's staying power in the region, its willingness to remain interested in Central Europe. One thing the Americans could do is move their bases out of Germany and into Poland, which has less population density and greater space to conduct exercises."

Since GROM's creation 12 years ago, only 4 commandos have been killed in operations. I asked General Petelicki if, during those years, there is one mission that stands out. "Although 70 percent of our operations are still top secret, the one operation I liked best was this last one at Umm Qasr. That was definitely my favorite. [He sighs.] I was jealous I could not be there instead of Colonel Polko [the current commander of GROM]. Umm Qasr was a very risky operation--a lot of explosives were used--but there were no casualties for us." He adds, "I liked it because we were able to help our friends, the Americans, who helped us create GROM. It was a real masterpiece."

Victorino Matus is an assistant managing editor at The Weekly Standard.