Military Police Battalion for Special Operations "Cobras"

Elite military special operations unit. A vast tradition is filled with great professional achievements and professionalism and military code of the unit`s operators made them a pride of the Serbian Army and Serbian citizens.

FOUNDATION AND PURPOSE


Unit`s insignia

During the seventies the world is facing a new type of security threats that very soon went global. The special way of preparations and realizations of these threats, as well as training and organizing of the direct executors, caused the need for changes in the national security systems organizations, as well as intensifying the international collaboration. On the territory of the former Yugoslavia events in the Bugojno area (the territory of the present Middle-Bosnian district of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina), and military-police operation on Radusha in 1972, showed clearly the weaknesses of then security systems. Under the decisions of then federal leaders began the organization of the small, specialized formations, trained and equipped by special standards. These formations should be capable to effectively engage complex security threats in all conditions and environments and would present very significant and strong elements of the republics as well as of the former federation. One of the first unit of that type on the territory of former Yugoslavia was founded within the armed forces of the former state, on the 14th of April 1978 in Belgrade, by the Order of the Federal Secretary of Defence. By the order, the Military Police Department for Counter Terrorist Actions was founded, within the 282nd Military Police Battalion of the Yugoslav National Army, under the jurisdiction of the General Staff.

Who does it better
than others?
At first, the Department counted 12 operators selected by special criteria, defined in the same order of the Federal Secretary of Defence. During the 1985 the Department for Counter Terrorist Actions expands its formation and organizes as a Platoon for Counter Terrorist Actions, under the jurisdiction of the then Guard Brigade. By increasing the number of operators, unit also raise its operational capacities and becomes capable for carrying out other kinds of tasks but counter terrorist actions, such as tasks and jobs of protecting high military and state officials and infrastructure of special importance, as well as other military-security tasks.

By escalation of the conflicts on the former Yugoslavia territory, the unit engages combat operations from the very beginning. Disintegration of the Yugoslavia brought changes in this unit as well, so during 1992 unit is organized within the Special Units Corps and continues with carrying out combat operations. Reliability in conducting all the given combat tasks will build a great reputation of the unit, and vast combat experience of the operators will be of a great importance in the upcoming years when training younger generations of Serbian Cobras.

In 2000 the unit is organized as a counter terrorist detachment directly under the Chief of General Staff of then Yugoslav Army. In the upcoming years detachment will increase its strength, and big credits for unit`s development in this period should go to the Colonel Stojan Kljajic, who carried out duties of a unit`s commander until 2005. Moreover, in this period a new unit`s insignia was chosen, presented with a cobra with wings curled around a sword, which will became a symbol of prestige among Serbian soldiers. As a counter terrorist detachment unit will operate until 2006, when according to the new systematization will be organized as a Military Police Battalion for Special Operations “Cobras”.

Today, Military Police Battalion for Special Operations “Cobras” is an organizational unit of the Military Police Department, specially trained and equipped for:

-counterterrorism in all conditions
-protecting VIPs, especially high military and state officials
-guarding military infrastructure of special importance
-securing important files, equipment and weaponry
-other military police tasks defined in 53rd clause of Serbian Army Law



The central base of Cobras is organized in barracks Vasa Charapic at Banjica, in Belgrade, and every 14th April is marked as a Day of the unit, in the memory of the founding date of the Department for Counter Terrorist Actions, the eldest military counter terrorist unit. Duties of the commander at the moment carries Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Ushljebrka, who succeeded duties from Lieutenant Colonel Viktor Dobric, in the beginning of 2015. From foundation to this day, Cobras operators carried out duties in more that 50 countries in the world, such as Russia, Iraq, Turkey, China, Nigeria, Qatar, Canada, USA, and are regular participants in the peace keeping missions in Cyprus, Lebanon and Somalia. Recognitions for devoted and highly professional tasks completing were given by numerous medals and decorations from highest state and military officials. The unit was several times decorated by the President of the Republic of Serbia, who is also the Commander of the Serbian Armed Forces. In 2002 former Counter Terrorist Detachment “Cobras” of the Yugoslav Army was decorated with the Medal of the Knight Sword of the Third Degree, for extraordinary efforts in areas of defence and security, and in the beginning of 2015 Military Police Battalion for Special Operations “Cobras” was decorated with the Golden Medal for Extraordinary Efforts in Areas of Defence and Security.

ORGANIZATION

The present organization of the Military Police Battalion for Special Operations “Cobras” includes Command, a Training Group consisted of the most experienced Cobras, a Group for Counter Diversion Protection, in charge of controlling paper or electronic documents, packages, letters and the like. The CDP Group also is in charge of protecting and controlling of the infrastructure within the central base of the unit, as well as service vehicles. The K9 Group is organized with the Group for Counter Diversion Protection.

Operational companies are organized by the criteria of tasks and duties given as well as by specializations of most operators within a concrete company. Among these companies one is intended for conducting counter terrorist actions and gathers younger operators who successfully completed basic and advanced counter terrorist courses, professional specializations in sniping and the like. Several operational companies is intended for close protection tasks and jobs, VIPs and infrastructure as well, and these companies have, as a rule, close protection specialists who are distributed to these companies by the evaluation of officers. Operational companies are between 50 and 60 operators in strength. Companies consist of operational platoons, from which every, as a rule, gathers 3-4 tactical teams. In order to maintain and improve combat readiness of the operators and entire unit as well, training plan and program is organized in a manner so that operators of any team, if needed, can effectively participate in a direct task execution or provide assistance to any company.

Logistics of the Military Police Battalion for Special Operations “Cobras” is covered by the Logistic Battalion of the Guard Brigade of the Serbian Army.

The unit also has several very capable female operators with various specializations.

SELECTION AND TRAINING


Demonstration of training

A decision about organizing and conducting selection training for a service in the Military Police Battalion for Special Operations “Cobras” is made by the battalion`s command, in accordance with needs of the unit and the number of available workplaces defined with the present systematization. Before initial checks, the decision about selection is published on time so that interested have enough time available to submit all the papers needed. The applyment is voluntary, and candidates are selected exclusively from the professional composition of the Serbian Army.

Preselection of the candidates begins with security checks of every candidate, as well as controls of the submitted documents. Afterwards mandatory health checks undergo, organized at Military-Medical Academy on Banjica in Belgrade and include blood pressure checks, heart pump under physical effort, checks of breathing, eyesight, hearings and the like. Candidates who receive positive evaluations from physicians are dispatched to selection training.

A place in the elite and the eldest counter terrorist unit of the Serbian Army is wanted by everybody, but very few of them manage to achieve their goal. Standards are very high, because Cobras want only the best of the best. In order to carry black beret and unit`s insignia on shoulder, one must surpass hard and long way constantly proving his skills and motivation.

The first phase of the selection is a classical drill that lasts for a month. It begins in the base of “Cobras” and Military Academy on Banjica with classical strength, endurance and stamina checks. Commonly, a percent of candidates does not meet the criteria even at the very beginning checks. The drill is organized in a manner to push candidates to their maximum physical endurance and test their will and motives for applying to a unit of this type.

According to one of the experienced instructors D.M: “Candidates experience fear in the sense they are not able to complete a given task. Therefore instructors impose them believing in their abilities and that this is the unit where every given task must be completed. At the beginning instructors carry out all tasks along with candidates to show by personal example everything can be done“.
Along with strength exercises, long marches are conducted in full combat gear through rough terrain, which became almost a symbol of Serbian Cobras drills, and many operators earned lifetime memories by having scars on their feet. Those, whose will is strong enough to transcend all the hardships constantly given by instructors, will attain physical endurance of high level necessary for the upcoming phases of selection.

After completed selection, remaining candidates are dispatched to a basic training carried out in several locations in the country, also of elimination kind. During the first three months of the basic training physical readiness of the candidates is raising to a higher level, and within special physical training they practice practical fighting through arts such as karate, box, kick box, aikido and others. Significant attention is given to techniques performed in prone stances. Candidates also practice bare hands defensive techniques, as well as those using knives, blades or firearms, or other tools (such as shovel, axe, bat etc). For this part of training in charge is experienced instructor Dushan Jakovljevic, whose readiness, broad experience and enthusiasm are setting standards to the younger candidates and earns their respect. Intensive weaponry handling training are conducted also (courses of handgun, submachine gun and assault rifle usage) with range shootings, where a great attention is devoted to safe handling and carrying, especially when a weapon is cocked, and on a shooting range candidates firstly learn techniques of precision shooting, followed with combat shooting tactics, using national and foreign weaponry used within the unit. Some elements of weaponry training are conducted at the shooting range within barracks Rastko Nemanjic[1] in Panchevo, and military range “Peskovi”. In this phase climbing training is conducted as well, along with usage of the technical tools and elements of the professional military-police training.

The first three months are organized in a manner to develop individual skills and knowledges of a candidate. One`s results are monitored carefully and will have crucial impact during evaluation of his or her capabilities when deeming about status in the unit.

After completion of the first phase of the basic training, in the next six months remaining candidates will conduct most of the checks in groups. These checks were prudently designed by the generations of Cobras instructors and set in a way to be completed successfully only through a good teamwork. In this phase candidates will intensively learn elements of tactics, followed with basics of special actions and tactics of quick response actions in all conditions, close quarters combat, hostage situations and resolving tactics in various buildings and hijacked vehicles, elements of VIP close protection tactics, as well as of infrastructure of special importance etc.



After completion of six-months training, team of instructors conducts the evaluation of achieved results of every candidate[2], as well as his or her behavior in extremely stressful situations, his or her determination, desire and ability to lead others, to obey authorities and similar. If one meets high standards of Cobras, admits to the unit for evaluation work for six months, but every moment can be returned to the previous unit. During the evaluation work candidate continues with training and proving. If shows well, the candidate is received for full time job in the Military Police Battalion for Special Operations “Cobras” and can proudly carry prestigious tags.

Further training of the operators is continuous, through further specializations and professional development. Majority of Cobras during professional career completed basic parachuting training, conducted with operators of the former 63rd Parachute Brigade (today organized as a 63rd Parachute Battalion within the Special Brigade of the Serbian Army), basic diving training in the former 82nd Marine Center, with operators who came to Serbia, after the independence of the Republic of Montenegro.



Winter training is conducted usually on the Kopaonik Mountain and expect usual physical training includes survival training in winter conditions, skiing training, first aid and other elements.

Prema rečima iskusnog instruktora: “The specificity of VIP close protection tasks besides one`s professionalism, demands a significant mature behavior of a retainer. A retailer must be a calmed person, with a great ability of surroundings observation and control of emotions. In addition, an experienced retainer must be capable of rational situation judging, because it can directly affect the safety of VIP, and must be familiar with foreign languages and basic rules of bon ton. Based on our experience, as a very good practice is to trust these tasks to the older operators who previously prove their status and are professionally achieved".
Considering a significant part of given assignments to the battalion is related to the VIP close protection and infrastructure guarding, operators of the companies enroll professional courses in this area of training in the country and abroad. In order to attain the retainer rank, operators must complete demanding courses of personnel and infrastructure protection, and professional specializations in this area include fast driving courses that are regularly organized at the Kovin Airport near the city of Smederevo. Deploying within companies for close protection depends on one`s strives, but on the evaluation of officers as well.

The fact confirming high standards and proper training carring out in the Military Police Battalion for Special Operations “Cobras” is that in 2000 alpinists of the unit participated in conquering the highest peak in the world, Mont Everest, while Cobras regularly participate and achieve significant results in numerous sports competitions in the country and abroad in areas of orienteering, martial arts, athletic disciplines and the like.

Operators of the unit established IPSC club “Cobras” on the February 2003 and successfully compete in this kind of sport as well.



WEAPONRY AND GEAR

Helmet "JOBE" Tactica vest "Mile Dragić" Semi-automatic handgun Glock17 Gen4 in 9x19 mm Parabellum caliber Tactical leg holster BLACKHAWK! Serpa Tactical Level 3

To properly understand the criteria by which a unit of this type is equipping, it is important to consider the unit`s defined purpose, as well as major security needs at various levels as well, often influenced by political events.

The battalion is equipped with modern and reliable armament and gear of the Serbian producers, and respected foreign manufacturers. In the handgun category used are CZ 99 in 9x19 mm Parabellum, of the national manufacturer Zastava Arms from the city of Kragujevac. These models are mostly used for the purpose of selection of candidates and their training. Battalion also has a number of CZ 999 models in the same caliber which national producer constructed for the needs of special forces operators, as well as compact[3] models of these series. The main model used by the operators is Austrian Glock 17 of the 4th generation (few operators still use 3rd generation models) in 9 mm caliber. The battalion possesses a contingent of the compact models Glock 19, as well as Israeli Jericho 941 F and Jericho 941 FP, all in 9x19 mm Parabellum caliber, and unit also has a number of revolvers such as Smith & Wesson and others. For operators were purchased holsters for lowered/leg carry BLACKHAWK! Serpa Tactical Level 3 in black, as well as models Level 2, then holsters of the national manufacturer Mile Dragic and some models from 5.11 compatible with Glock 17s. When conducting tasks and jobs of VIP close protection operators often use concealed carry holsters by mounting then to a tactical or casual belt. Most of models used by the operators is made of specific material Kydex, and come from Israeli manufacturers.

The units possesses reliable submachine guns in 9 mm caliber of various manufacturers, such as German HK MP5 A3 with telescopic buttstock. Battalion also has compact HK MP5 K models in 9 mm caliber, which can be, due to great compactness, used for concealed carry. From the same producer were purchased newer models HK UMP also in 9 mm caliber, and unit possesses a number of personal defence weapon ERO and ERO Mini, which Croatian producer made in 9x19 mm Parabellum caliber, by the construction of Israeli Uzi.

In the assault rifle category, used are rifles of the national producer Zastava Arms in models M70 AB1 with fixed wooden buttstock and M70 AB2 with foldable one, chambered for eastern 7.62x39 mm bullet. Rifles of the national manufacturer were made by the Kalashnikov system and are mostly used for selection and training of the candidates and operators, as well as when conducting tasks and jobs in rural areas. In the same caliber is reliable East German version of AK 47 that can be mounted with a grenade launcher 40 mm. During 2012 as a result of joint effort of the Ministry of Defence and unit`s command, the battalion was equipped with a FN SCAR L contingent in CQC model and 5.56 mm caliber, as well as FN SCAR H series in more powerful 7.62x51 mm NATO caliber. Models of H series were used for precision shooting at medium distances in configuration with optic sight Schmidt & Bender Police Marksman II with 5-25x56 magnification and telescopic, foldable bipod. However, contingent of Belgian rifles is no longer used in the battalion.

Depending on needs, assault rifles and SMG models from the arsenal of the Military Police Battalion for Special Operations “Cobras” can be modified with red dot sights Aimpoint CompM4 or holographic EOTech XPS2-0, vertical handgrip, tactical light, laser illuminator and other accessories compatible with standard Picatinny rails or special carriers with the same purpose. During 2016 by the intercession of the Ministry gear capacities were enlarged, so, among other, a contingent of holographic sight used in the unit was significantly increased.

Camouflage suit for sniping specialist "Mile Dragić" Rifle FN SCAR H in 7.62x51 mm NATO modified for precision shooting
As for the precision rifles, the battalion possesses semi-automatic rifles Zastava M76 in 7.92x57 mm Mauzer caliber from Zastava Arms, which are usually mounted with optic sight Zrak M76 4x50-10. Mentioned rifles are constructed over the Kalashnikov system, and as a crown in this rifle category are Finish Sako TRG in model 42, with a bolt action system, chambered for .338 Lapua Magnum. In configuration with optic sight Schmidt&Bender Police Marksman II rifles are very effective weapon at 1000-1500 distances. For the needs of destroying covered or light-armored targets at greater distances chosen marksmen of the battalion can use long range rifles M93 Black Arrow with a bolt action system in 12.7x108 mm caliber of the national manufacturer Zastava Arms.

In the support armament category battalion possesses light machine guns Zastava M84 in 7.62x54 R caliber of the national producer. From the same manufacturer were purchased reliable automatic grenade launchers Zastava M93 30 mm.

For the needs of the battalion purchased were two-pieced uniforms of the national producer Mile Dragic in Tactical One cut. As for the camouflage ones, unit possesses two-pieced and overalls in rural patterns M01, M02 and M03 of the same producer, and used are two-pieced and overalls in digital rural pattern M10 of the national manufacturer Jumko. Mentioned pattern is adopted as a standard camouflage pattern for the Serbian Army. For the needs of masking with surroundings chosen marksmen[4] of the Military Police Battalion for Special Operations “Cobras” use camouflage suits ghillie of the Mile Dragic producer. Over the uniforms and overalls tactical and ballistic vests are worn, also purchased from the same manufacturer. Made by strict standards these vests have to enable carrying of needed gear while conducting interventions and tasks, such as magazines, secondary armament, grenades, knives, blades and the like, with as less limitations or hardening of movements of operators carrying a vest. Ballistic protection can be achieved by using special protective ballistic suitcases with special pockets to insert ballistic plates. These cases can be equipped with three panels of IIIA protection level and are suitable for tasks and jobs of VIP close protection. As for boots, used are models Haix Black Eagle Tactical 20 High in black, which meet the standards and expectations of the operators.

For protection when conducting breach into buildings ballistic tactical shields from Mile Dragic producer are used in various models. Head protection is achieved with ballistic helmets of the same producer, and during parachute or climbing training operators can use JOBE polymer helmets that protect head from various fragments or mechanic shocks. Eye protection is achieved with tactical goggles Revision Military Wolfspider, as well with models Bullet Ant Tactical and Sawfly Military from the same manufacturer.

As for tactical gloves, various models are purchased from reliable manufacturers abroad, like BLACKHAWK!, 5.11 and Mechanix and several models from national producer are used as well. Depending on personal strives operators often purchase models of mentioned producers privately. Same producers provide protective pads for knees and elbows.

For the needs of the Group for Counter Diversion Protection special gear, such as detectors, demining suits and the like, is purchased from several reliable producers from abroad. K9 Group possesses breeds Labrador, Retriever and German Shepherd breeds.

For the personnel transporting unit uses vehicles Mercedes-Benz G 500, while for escort of VIPs used are cars Audi, Mercedes-Benz and others, modified to meet the standards of the unit.

COOPERATION WITH OTHER UNITS

Professional specialization of the operators of Military Police Battalion for Special Operations “Cobras” include joint exercises and security seminars with other units from the country and abroad. In Serbia, the battalion maintain a good cooperation with the elite Special Brigade of the Serbian Army, Special Anti-terrorist, as well as with the Department for Close Protection of the Serbian Ministry of Interior. Joint exercises, seminars sports events and shooting competitions are chances to check the level of training and readiness, but to strengthen joint respond in the case of security threats. In 2009, by the initiative of the Ministry of Defence, Military Police Department and Command of the Cobras hosted two-week joint training of the Serbian and French elite units. The subjects of the training were operators of the French GIGN, and on the Serbian side, along with Cobras participants were police special force operators from Counter Terrorist Unit, Special Anti-terrorist Unit and Department for Close Protection. The major segment of the training related to experience exchange in the areas of VIP close protection and counter terrorist actions. On the same year cooperation was established with French RAID. During 2010 operators from GIGN were guests of the battalion once again, confirming good cooperation and friendly relations between two units. Cobra operators several times carried out trainings with units from Israel, and in 2013 several operators successfully completed two-week specialist Close Protection course, organized in Israel.

[1] Barracks Rastko Nemanjic are the central base of the Special Brigade of the Serbian Army.
[2] It can occur that a candidate successfully complete the selection, but does not join the operational element of the unit, due to a negative evaluation of his psychological profile concluded by instructors.
[3] Professional term for armament series with shortened barrel, therefore total length of the weapon system. In CZ 99 models of the Serbian producer, the barrel of the handgun is shortened for 8 mm comparing to standard models.
[4] An expression used to mark specialists in precision shooting, especially at a long range. A term “sniping specialists” is used as well.

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