GENDARMERIE DIVING UNITTweet
HISTORY AND PURPOSE
The beginning of the police diving in the Republic of Serbia goes back to 1975, when the first group of 5 officers of the then 22nd Militia Station from Belgrade`s City Secretariat for Internal Affairs (Srb. Gradski sekretarijat za unutrašnje poslove), the present River Police, completed diving training, with the establishment of the first police diving department following up. After that, during 1979, a group of officers of the State Special Actions Unit (the former State Special Anti-Terrorist Unit) completed the diving training, while amid the nineties another group of the former Republic SAU completed the training. At the end of 1999, within the Special Operations Unit of the State Security Direction a selection of the operators underwent, in order to establish a diving team, becoming operational in January 2000, at the then Marina 232 base.
In May 2003, after the disbanding of the Special Operations Unit (SOU) at Marina 232 base at Bežanijski Zmovnik in New Belgrade, the Diving Center was established as a logistic base of the Gendarmerie, merging the Diving Police Department and the SOU Diving Team, hosting the 7th platoon of the Gendarmerie Counter Terrorist Unit. In April 2007, with the segregation of the Counter Terrorist Unit out of the Gendarmerie organization, the Diving Center continued to operate as an independent Gendarmerie element. After several Gendarmerie organization changes in the upcoming years, the Diving Center changed its name to the First Diving Center, but the location and purpose of the unit remained the same.
Until 2010, the divers` titles and trainings followed the CMAS program, with the Gendarmerie diving club as a member of the prestigious international school. After small-scale systematization changes during 2010, the management of the center has turned to the SSI Association, impacting the new training plan and program for the Serbian divers. However, in the upcoming period the unit became independent — out of all the civilian associations, due to the assessment that their nature is not suitable for the purpose and professional activities of the unit.
In November 2015, with the decision of the Government of the Republic of Serbia the Gendarmerie Diving Unit was formed from the First Diving Center and today, together with the four detachments, constitutes the operational part of the Serbian Gendarmerie.
Today, operators of the Serbian Gendarmerie Diving Unit are specially trained and equipped to:
-fight all forms of security threats, especially terrorism, extremism and organized crime in water surroundings and waterside
-carry out the most complex diving tasks to search for crimes items, persons deemed missing, underwater counter-diversion inspection etc.
-all forms of protection on surface, including the VIP protection and escort whist on the surface, protecting manifestations and gatherings taking place on the water surface
-engaging within the Search and Rescue Service in case of the accidents in water or aerial traffic, in cooperation with the Helicopter Unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
-engaging in case of state emergencies and natural disasters, in rescue operations, providing assistance to the population and eliminating harmful consequences
The Gendarmerie Diving Unit is of an independent battalion formation strength today, and consists of the commanding element and operational units, having four diving and two nautical teams, the Protection and Overwatch Team, the Operational Logistics Team and the Medic Group. Specialists of the operational element of the unit could be effectively used to carry out special operations, such as reconnaissance-intelligence tasks, breaches and raids, as well as tasks of searching, defusing, extracting or performing controlled detonation of mines and explosives, escorting vessels with hazardous substances etc.
The Diving Unit continuously provides the on-duty diving-nautical teams and groups, ready to carry out all the tasks within the jurisdiction of the unit, whilst within the Search and Rescue Service, along with the Helicopter Unit, has an on-duty pair, trained for water rescue, and an overwatching vessel for search and rescue in case of river and areal traffic accidents.
For a diver vacancy at the Gendarmerie Diving Unit only Gendarmerie operators are able to apply, all of whom had previously completed the Gendarmerie selection training and later the basic training for Gendarmerie units. After diving medical examinations, candidates are called for a testing of their physical and motoric capacities. Also, swimming and snorkeling tests are conducted as well.
Those who successfully complete the testing start with the basic diving training, being carried out according the curriculum enacted by the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs. The basic diving training is carried out for the period of 6 months, during which the divers candidates familiarize through the theoretical and practical lessons with the basics of diving, physics and chemistry of diving, impacts that water surroundings have on human body, diving devices and gear, diving injuries and diseases, decompression sickness, diving environment, diving history, the basics of diving activities planning and execution and diving documentation. Moreover, during the basic training, they undergo several diving courses, from dry suit diving course, low-visibility diving course, diving accidents prevention and diver rescue, to diving in rapids, under ice, at higher altitudes, night diving, underwater sweep, diving at 60 meter depths, cargo extraction, operation of diver lifts, underwater investigation and the like. The basic diving training is carried out in pools, lakes and rivers of Serbia, as well as at the sea in Montenegro.
With the completion of the practical and theoretical lessons of the basic diving training and exams passed, the candidates take the final exam in front of a commission. Those who successfully complete the basic diving training attain the rank of the Diving Unit diver. In order to be inducted to the diver vacancy they are to complete the water rescue course lasting for 21 days, as well as motor boat driver course, lasting for 16 days. By doing so, they become qualified to conduct tasks and jobs of a gendarm-diver.
After certain years of service as a diver, those operators who express the inclination and potential for further development are dispatched to some of the specialist diving training, such as technical diving course, diving using autonomous diving apparatus with an oxygen closed breathing circuit, or man-made gas mixtures, cave diving course, counter-diversion diving course, or a surface-supplied diving course. All the programs through which specialist training is carried out, have been defined by Minister of Internal Affairs, in accordance with the legislations.
The specialists training of the Diving Unit divers is carried out throughout the country and abroad, independently and in cooperation with other domestic and foreign units. It includes the practice of water special operations, while the specialists especially practice rural climbing. In addition, the specialists learn to carry out dives and tactical tasks in more complex situations, such as deep dives, dives with nitrox and trimix gas mixtures and the like. An important training part are the so-called air insertions, carried out with helicopters of various types.
The gendarmes diving training is being carried out at unit`s base in Belgrade, as well as throughout the centers in the country, at Zlatar Lake (Srb. Zlatarsko jezero) and Kokin Ship (Srb. Kokino brdo), Zaovine Lake (Srb. Zaovinsko jezero) on Tara Mountain etc. Joint training and missions are conducted with the Helicopter Unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and Gendarmerie divers have a good cooperation with the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit colleagues, divers of the 72nd Special Operations Brigade, as well as divers of the 63rd Parachute Brigade. As for the units in the region, continuous professional relations are maintained with the Republica Srpska Special Anti-Terrorist Unit divers. Training at sea is organized in Bečići, Montenegro, independently and in cooperation with the Montenegrin SAU divers, while a cooperation has been established with the elite divers of the Czech Police Department for Special Activities and Training.
With the effort of the Gendarmerie management, as well as the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, Diving Unit has reliable gear and armament at hand, being one of the prerequisites for effective task execution.
The largest part of gear in use is purchased from the ScubaPro and Aqua Lung manufacturers. As for the wet and semi-wet suits models Aqua Lung SolAfx 8/7 mm are used. Buoyancy compensators (stab jackets, stabilizers) are worn over the suits and are used to attach weights needed for a dive, along with other diving gear. They are purchased for the needs of the unit from ScubaPro. The basic diving gear is also consisted of hydrostatic regulators and tanks with compressed air. Regulators in use are Apeks XTX (first stage) and ScubaPro MK 17 (also 1st stage), as well as the Apeks XTX 50 2nd stage and ScubaPro S600, R190, D400, G250 and G250v, all 2nd stage, while tanks, usually with 15-18 liter capacity, are purchased from the well-known Mares and ScubaPro. Dive computers are exceptionally important, because they measure and process data important for a dive. For the needs of Diving Unit are purchased from the Suunto producer, and the same company manufacturers diving watches worn by the unit`s operators. Diving masks are purchased from Kirby Morgan.
For the needs of tasks in more complex conditions specialist gear is being used. Therefore, for deep dives, as well as dives in polluted and/or contaminated waters dry suits are being used, and Serbian gendarmes have models purchased from Ursuit, Poseidon and Aqua Lung. On these occasions, divers mount full-face masks, or helmets, such as Kirby Morgan 37 that also allow the use of the underwater communication systems through which divers communicate underwater, or with operators on the surface. Systems OTC Buddy Phone are purchased for the needs of the unit. In addition, in conditions like these, autonomous diving apparatus with closed breathing circuits could be used. For the needs of, for example, underwater demolition, light apparatus, with a 100% oxygen closed breathing circuit, Aqua Lung M.O.D.E. is used, in configuration with the Aqua Lung Fusion Tactical dry suit. For the needs of rescue missions, Ursuit dry suits are available, while on the occasion of climb-rescue operations diving specialists trust to the high-end US-made gear from Buckingham Manufacturing.
For the needs of combat tasks, Diving Unit divers use infantry weaponry from the domestic and foreign producers. The criteria that these systems have to meet primarily regards to the reliable operability in water surroundings, with compact size and total weight also being very important. As for the handguns, the primary model in use is the Austrian Glock 17 Gen 3 9 mm. On the occasion of land or water surface tasks, operators holster their sidearm in drop-leg BLACKHAWK! Serpa Tactical Level 3 holsters in black colour. When it comes to submachine guns, models produced by Heckler & Koch are in use, in MP5 A3 version, with a telescopic buttstock, in MP5 SD3 suppressed version, as well as in compact MP5 K, all of which in 9 mm caliber. Depending on the outer conditions during tasks execution, firearm systems could be modified for the needs of the shooters by mounting Aimpoint CompM3 red dot sights, and if tasks are being conducted in low light, tactical lights could be attaches, along with laser pointers. Moreover, divers also have Zastava M84A Scorpion models available, chambered in the specific 7,65×17mm. Scorpions, produced by the Zastava Arms national producer, could have been deemed as personal defense weapons. Models Zastava M92 are purchased from the same manufacturer in 7,62×39 mm rifle caliber which could have been, according to many, labeled as carbine weapons.
In the assault rifles category, the East-German AK 47s in 7,62×39 mm stand out, being a common choice of the divers, due to their relatively low weight. Besides these, divers are equipped with the US-made Colt M4 A4 Commando carbines in 5.56×45 mm NATO, fitted with CAA FGA assault handgrips and CAA TC1 tactical lights. The American systems are the primary 5.56 mm caliber armament of the unit`s specialists.
When a greater fire power is needed, combat groups and teams are reinforced with Zastava M84 light machine guns in 7,62×54 R. The weapon manufactured by the national producer features a reliable work in all weather and terrain conditions, good precision and could be effectively used as a support weapon by mounting onto the patrol boats, used in the Gendarmerie Diving Unit.
As for the means of transportation on the water surface, the unit has Wolf 1 and Wolf 2 boats, both of which were succeeded after the disbanding of the Special Operations Unit. Fast personnel and gear transportation is achieved with Zodiac 730 rubber boats. On land, besides Land Rover Defender vehicles, being suitable for personnel and equipment transportation, quads 4×4 are also used, especially when a greater mobility is needed.
During 2016, with the effort of the state leaders and Gendarmerie Command, Diving Unit increased its operating capacities with Premax 39 special purpose boat, produced by Yugoimport SDPR.
The boat`s significant fire power is achieved with six gun “turrets” that all together allow full-circle observation and shooting. Two turrets are installed on both sides if the boat and are intended for heavy support weapons, such as automatic grenade launchers, or machine guns. At the front side of the boat, a 20 mm canon is installed, while a heavy 12,7 mm Serbian-made machine gun at the rear.
When it comes to tactical specialist gear, gear used in other Gendarmerie specialist units is used here as well. Head protection is achieved with JOBE helmets, as well as Aqua Lung Bump ones, in FAST design. Fragment eye protection is achieved with ESS tactical goggles, which also allow comfort during intensive daylight. The ballistic head protection is secured with CGF Gallet S.A. helmets in matte black colour, in PASGT design, and since 2017, the green MICH 2020 Mile Dragić helmets have been introduced. Body armors in black are also produced by the national Mile Dragić producer, allowing mount of holsters and pouches of various types vie MOLLE system. The SHARK body armors, in a camouflage green shade, produces the same manufacturer. For the needs of water surface or land actions, two-piece tactical uniforms in black are used, manufactured by Mile Dragić and in Dragon Tactical cut, along with two-piece digital rural camo from the same producer and in the same cut. Monochrome green shade uniforms are in use as well, produced by Yumko ad, in Dragon Tactical cut.
 Fra. Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques, the first international association gathering national diving associations and clubs.
 Scuba Schools International.
 The dry suits prevent the water penetration, therefore keep the diver`s body dry. Hence their name.
 For which the manufacturer claims are operational underwater to a depth of 45 meters.
 Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment.
 The manufacturer has developed the camo pattern especially for the needs of the Serbian Gendarmerie.
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