Diving Articles

The Diving Unit of the Serbian Gendarmerie


Naslovna

Posted in columns: Diving Photo: specijalne-jedinice.com

Diving center was established in 1997 as an operational part of the former Unit for Special Operations (Serb. Jedinica za specijalne operacije-JSO) of the former Department of State Security (Serb. Resor državne bezbednosti) of the Republic of Serbia. After the unit was disbanded in the end of March 2003, Diving Center was then organized as a unit within the Gendarmerie of the Republic of Serbia.

Less strength of the operating personnel of the former center, allowed its good organization, which is one of the prerequisites for effective execution of tasks, both from the specific purpose of the center, as well from the general purpose of the Serbian Gendarmerie. On the other hand, less personnel allowed precise defining of the plan and program of basic and specialist training for police officers, so due that, many of the divers carried out different specialized courses in the country and abroad in recent years. Until 2010 ranks and training program for divers were aligned with CMAS [1] standards, and one of the members of this prestige international school was Diving Club Gendarmerie.

After minor systematization changes in 2010, the center turns to SSI Association[2], which resulted in a new training curriculum for Serbian divers. After adoption of the new systematization of the Gendarmerie during the next year, The First Diving Center became an operational unit of the First Detachment for Quick Reactions (Serb. Prvi odred za brze intervencije) of the Serbian Gendarmerie. After the dissolution of the First Detachment in mid-2013, the center was organized directly under the Command of the Gendarmerie in Belgrade. According to the latest systematization The First Diving Center changes its name and continues to carry out activities as the Diving Unit of the Gendarmerie.

Today, operators of the Diving Unit of the Gendarmerie of the Republic of Serbia are specially trained and equipped for:

-search and rescue tasks of persons that are considered missing in all kinds of aquatic environment, as well as in land areas near water
-search tasks for objects that are considered connected with attempted or committed criminal acts
-fight against terrorism, especially for raids on hijacked vessels and resolving complex crisis situations on board
-general prevention of preparing and executing criminal actions
-close protection of high state officials when being on water surface, or on land areas near water
-rescue actions and providing professional assistance during natural disasters

To become an operator of the Diving Unit of the Gendarmerie, one must be an operator of the Gendarmerie, to be of a good health and to be a swimmer, in order to be able to apply. The application itself is voluntary, but it is necessary that there are available work positions in the unit.

Organization

Operational part of the Diving Unit consists of three specialist teams: Intervention, Search and Nautical Team. Due to good organization, gear and training, these teams are able to carry out their duties and tasks independently and, if necessary, in cooperation with other teams of the unit or other units of the Serbian Gendarmerie, as well as with other units of the Ministry of Interior and/or Ministry of Defence.

Photo: specijalne-jedinice.com

Practice of conducting water surface actions. Photo: specijalne-jedinice.com

Intervention Team conducts tasks of searching and putting under control persons and objects that are suspected or connected with committed or attempted crimes and which are located on the territory of the Republic of Serbia, particularly on or in water environment, or in near land areas. Specialists are highly trained to execute reconnaissance and intelligence tasks, as well as assaults and raids. They can also perform counter diversion inspects of the vessels and facilities, to provide escort of the vessels carrying dangerous materials, or perform duties and tasks of close protection of VIPs.

Searching Team is usually activated for actions of searching for missing persons and extractions of drowned or killed persons from rivers and lakes, as well as for items that are considered connected with attempted or committed crimes. Also, specialists can be activated to search, defuse, extract or perform controlled detonation of EOD.

Nautical Team is mostly activated to perform regular patrol activities on water surfaces, or to provide support to the other teams of the unit.

Training

The basic diving training is mandatory for all police officers at the unit and starts with theoretical lectures on basic diving principles, basic diving gear that is used in the Diving Unit. Also, gendarmes must be able to use all specialized vessels and vehicles that are being used in the unit. The practical part of the basic training involves special physical training and swimming techniques mastering. In further phases, officers must learn and sharpen all actions that are needed to conduct a safe dive and these are initially performed in man-made pools and lately in stagnant waters, in high-flow rivers, as well as in dirty and or polluted water and the like. Dives are always carried out in diving pairs or groups.

Photo: specijalne-jedinice.com

Practice of conducting special actions on land near water surfaces. Photo: specijalne-jedinice.com

Specialist training for the operators of the Diving Unit is organized and executed in the country and abroad, independently and in collaboration with other national and foreign units. It involves special tactics training on water surfaces and specialists particularly improve alpinism in rural environment. Also, divers are trained to perform dives and tactical tasks in complex conditions, such as dives at greater depths, dives in full dark, technical dives, dives with nitrox and threemix mixtures and similar.



Diving training of the Serbian gendarmes is carried out within central base of the diving center in Belgrade, as well as in training centers in the country, at Lake Zlatar and Kokin Brod, training center at Vlasina, on Lake Zaovine on the mountain of Tara etc. As for cooperation with national units, divers of the Gendarmerie have a good cooperation with colleagues from the Special Anti-terrorist Unit-SAU (Serb. Specijalna antiteroristička jedinica-SAJ) of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, as well as with divers from the Special Brigade of the Serbian Army. Of the units from region and abroad, divers of the Gendarmerie have excellent cooperation with divers of the Special Police Unit (Serb. Specijalna jedinica policije-SJP) of the Republic of Srpska. Training at sea was organized in the place of Becici (Serb. Bečići) in Montenegro, independently and in cooperation with divers of the Special Anti-terrorist Unit of Montenegro. Some time ago, professional cooperation was established with elite divers of the Department for Special Diving Activities and Training of the Czech Police.

Gear and Weaponry

Due to great effort of the Command of the Gendarmerie, as well as of leadership of the Ministry of Interior, the Diving Unit uses modern gear and weaponry, which is one of the prerequisites for effective execution of tasks.

Wet neoprene diving suits were purchased from reliable manufacture ScubaPro. Within these suits most often are used models Everflex. Diving vests are worn over suits and are used for mounting weights needed to dive, or other diving equipment. For the needs of the unit, diving vests are also purchased from ScubaPro. Basic diving gear also consists of hydrostatic regulators as well of tanks with compressed air. Regulators come from Spiro Artic, as well as previously mentioned ScubaPro through models MK 20 and MK 25, while tanks with 15-18 litres usually, come from famous manufacturer Mares and, of course, ScubaPro. Of great importance are diving computers which are used for measuring and processing all the parameters that are important for a dive. The unit has Suunto computers, and the same manufacturer signs high-quality diving watches. Diving masks come from Kirby Morgan company.

Complex tasks require special gear. Thus, for dives at greater depths as well as those in high soiling and/or contamination of water, dry diving suits are used[3], and Serbian gendarmes have suits from Poseidon company. During these dives full-face masks or helmets are used which allow the usage of underwater communication systems by which divers can communicate under water or with operatives at surface. The unit has purchased systems OTC Buddy Phone which high-quality and reliability are proven. Also, in these conditions autonomus diving apparatus with closed circuit of breathing can be used. For the purposes of rescue tasks divers use rescue dry diving suits from Ursuk.


Reliable and modern gear of the specialists. Photo: A. Kerekesh

As for combat tasks, divers of the Diving Unit use weapons from national and foreign manufacturers. These models must meet special criteria which are primarily related to safe action in water environment, to be compact and with acceptable total mass. As for handguns, the primary model that is used is Austrian Glock 17 Gen 3 in 9x19 mm Parabellum/Luger. While executing tasks on land or water surfaces these handguns are holstered with BLACKHAWK! Serpa Tactical Level 2 holsters that come in black color, or ones from the national producer Mile Dragic, also in black. In the sub machine category, the mostly used are famous Heckler&Koch models in MP5 A3 versions with telescope stock, or in MP5 SD3 versions that are equipped with integral sound suppressors, as well compact versions MP5 K, all in 9x19 mm Parabellum/Luger. Depending on the conditions in which tasks are performed, these models can be modified for the needs of shooters by mounting red dot sights Aimpoint CompM3[4], and if actions are carried out in conditions of reduced light and visibility, tactical lights and laser illuminators can be mounted as well. Next, divers are also equipped with models Zastava M 84A Scorpio which are chambered for the specific caliber 7.65x17 mm and come from national manufacturer Zastava Arms (Serb. Zastava oružje). These models could be considered as a personal defence weapon-PDW. From the same manufacturer come models Zastava M 92 in 7.62x39 mm, which are, by many, marked as carbine weapons.

In the category of assault rifles, there are Eastern-German AK 47 in 7.62 mm, which are often used due to their small mass. The primarily used rifles are US carbines Colt M4 A4 Commando in 5.56x45 mm NATO, which were purchased along with tactical lights and ergonomic assault handgrips CAA FGA with CAA TC1 tactical flashlights fitted.

For the needs of greater firepower and support, assault groups and teams could be reinforced with light machine guns Zastava M 84 in 7.62x54 R caliber. These machine guns from a national manufacturer are proven as reliable in all weather and terrain conditions, and moreover, are very precise in full auto mode. Machine guns can be mounted on patrol boats that are used in the Diving Unit.
Fast rubber boat Zodiac-730, modified for the needs of the unit. Photo: A. Kerekesh

As for specialized vessels, the unit uses boats Wolf 1 and Wolf 2 which were taken after the dissolution of the Unit for Special Operations. The rapid transport of personnel and gear can be provided by using fast rubber boats Zodiac 730. During 2016, as a result of mutual efforts of the state leaders and the Command of the Gendarmerie, the Diving Unit increased its operational capacities by receiving a boat for special actions of the national manufacturer Jugoimport SDPR.

Photo: specijalne-jedinice.com
The boat for special actions used by the Diving Unit. Photo: specijalne-jedinice.com

A significant firepower of the boat is provided by 6 armored platforms that together enable surveillance and firing in a full circle, 360 degrees. Both sides of the boat have two installed platforms each, intended for mounting fire support weaponry such as automatic grenade launchers or machine guns. On the front a 20 mm cannon is mounted, while on the rear a heavy national-produced machine gun in 12.7 mm caliber is.

When it comes to special tactical gear, the Diving Unit mostly uses the gear that is present in other specialized units of the Gendarmerie. Fragment, as well as mechanical shock protection of the head is provided with helmets JOBE. Fragment eyes protection is provided with ESS tactical glasses that also enable comfortable viewing during the intense sunlight. Ballistic head protection is provided with CGF Gallet S.A. helmets that come in black matted color in PASGT (Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops) design. Ballistic vests in black are provided by national manufacturer Mile Dragic, and fitting holsters and bags of various purposes on these vests is enabled by the MOLLE[5] straps system. For the needs of actions on water surface or land two-pieced uniforms in black from Mile Dragic manufacturer are used, in Tactical One Cut, as well as two-pieced ones with digital rural camouflage pattern[6] of the same producer and of the same cut.

[1] French: Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques, The first international association that gathers national diving federations and clubs.
[2] Engl. Scuba Schools International.
[3] Dry suits prevent water from filling out the suit and keep body of a diver dry. Hence their name.
[4] For which manufacturer claims that can be operative at depths of 45 metres.
[5] Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment.
[6] The manufacturer developed this camouflage pattern especially for the Serbian Gendarmerie, deeming the needs of the unit.

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