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- Scouting -

The Scouting/Reconaissance structures were the Romanian over-all SOF units, until the establishment of the integrated special forces battalion.
Each battalion has a scouting platoon, each regiment has a detachment, a brigade has a company, while a division or army corps has an entire battalion. There is also an independent scouting centre in Buzau.
A Scout has a parachutist license, a diving license and a mountain climber license. Scouts are used for all the array of special operations missions, as well as counter-terrorist, counter-insurgency and hostage saving situations. Their training resembles the one of the SEAL, Green Berets and Delta Force, and they can be deployed to perform a wide range of missions.
The Scouts have won many international competitions and have successfully participated in NATO exercises with special forces from United States, Great Britain, France, Poland, Germany, Canada and Spain.
One day after the september the 11th, 2001, the Scouts begun anti-terrorist training, and they were soon offered to the US Armed Forces for deployment to Afghanistan. An armoured scouting unit is currently present there, while smaller scouting teams were sent to Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania and Angola.
A Scouting platoon and several UAV's have also been deployed to Iraq in 2003, and they are still there, being rotated once every 6 months.

US Equivalents: Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, Army Rangers

Cercetasi

History
Characteristics
Admission
Training
Weapons
Order of Battle
Exercises
Operations
Stories

History

The Scouts - Intelligence specialists

The great victories in the history of warfare were only possible thanks to correct decisions made on the battlefield. These decisions were based upon recoinassance missions in enemy teritorry.

Called Recon in the US doctrine, and Scouting in Romania, this form of gathering field intelligence with the usage of elite soldiers, specifically trained and equipped for this type of missions, has become a must in today's combat scenarios.

This tactic of gathering information about the enemy before attacking it has been in history for a long time, and in many different shapes.

Ever since the ancient state of Dacia, which covered half of Europe and was the highest military power in the continent, many centuries before the Roman Empire, the military power of the Dacs (nowadays known as Romanians) was recognized around the known world.

Several thousands of years later, Romania had lost much of its territory to a large number of nomadic tribes, the same ones that have crushed the Roman Empire. The former Dacia has been stripped of more than 60 percent of its territory, while the remaining land was split into three main regions, Transylvania, Muntenia and Moldova.

In the 24th of january 1859, colonel Alexandru Ioan Cuza was elected leader of Muntenia and Moldova alike, thus uniting the two territories and re-establishing, in part, the country of Romania.

This event had particulary favorable effects on the Romanian military. Before that event, during 1857, a special tiraliori company was established inside the infantry regiment in the city of Iasi. This was the first specific scouting unit in the Romanian Armed Forces.

In the 12th of november 1859 however, by the High Daily Order No. 83 of the leader Alexandru Ioan Cuza, the first structure to handle military intelligence was established, under the designation Section II of military statistics and the study of foreign armies. This structure was under direct command of the General Chief of Staff.

The final administrative modifications of this structure took part under the Daily Order No. 123 from the 14th of december 1859, and its command was given to (then) 2nd lt. Gheorghe Slaniceanu, which was to become a general and then a Minister of War.

The Independence War of 1877-1878, in which Romania crushed a Turkish invansion and obtained its complete independence from the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, proved the importance of the scouting capability of Romania in military operations. It is however to be noticed that Romania was not incorporated into the Ottoman Empire, like its Southern neighbor - Bulgaria, but it had to pay high yearly taxes to the Empire.

In the 6th of july 1877, the General Chief of Staff emitted a document called Instructions regarding the main ways used in a campaign in order to get news about the enemy, in which there were mentions of classified informations, and how they should be obtained, handled and used against the enemy.

However, having Section II at its disposal did not neccesarely meant that the Gen. Chief of Staff will also use it. And as it is always the case, same as it happened in two world wars, Korea, Vietnam and in other wars, the command structure ignored the reccomendations of Section II before the Battle of Grivita I and II. Known today as "the battles of Red Grivita", due to the bloodshed that happened there, the Romanian military suffered more casualties than were neccesary in the conquering of Bulgaria. In the end, Romanian forces did gain control of Bulgaria and its capitol city, Sofia, but the price in human lives could have been a lot smaller.

This fact is also true for the first months of the 1916 campains (World War One).
The reconaissance missions were executed by the Cavalry squadrons of the Infantry Divisions and the Cycling company, as well as the Scouting subunits, of the Calarasi Brigade.
But lessons were learned, and finally, during the 1917 campaigns, the role of scouting units were acknowledged by military commanders, which led to better intelligence about the enemy, as well as less casualties in the war.
During World War Two, the scouting forces passed thru a series of restructurings. A scouting company was established then for every infantry regiment, and a Scouting Group, for every infantry division. The Scouting Group was formed by a Cavalry Squadron composed of 3 platoons and a Weapons platoon. To be noticed that the Cavalry was an elite branch in Romania's WW II Army, second only to the Mountain Hunters.
After World War II, further restructurings took part, but the Scouting formations have always kept their status as an elite force.
In today's world, Scouting/Recon will have a determining role, in both classic combat operations, as well as in missions specific for the third wave: information warfare, economical warfare, psychologycal warfare, anti-terrorist operations, guerilla warfare, etc.

Characteristics

A Scout has to be able to perform missions in any terrain, and under any circumstances.

May it be on water or on land, at the mountains, in the forrests or in the swamp, in winter or in summer, he must be ready for action whenever called upon. Therefore, members of the Scouting units are rigurously trained and well-equipped for all the nature's landscapes.

Although the scouting formations are under the control of the structures to which they belong, there is also a separate Scouting center in Buzau, which is under the control of the General Chief of Staff's J-2. Read about that in the Order of Battle section.
The Scouts' mission is to gather information about the strength, equipment and intentions of the enemy, information that is extremely necessary to the commanding officer for taking decisions during a war. Entire wars were won or lost, depending on how correct the information about the enemy and environment was and how much of it was available (or not) to the commanders.

A Scout has a parachutist license, in case he needs to be inserted into enemy teritorry by air. He also has a diving license, in order to be able to fight in underwater conditions or to perform an amphibious attack. The Scout also has a mountain climber license, as mountains are often present in war theaters. After all these, he must also acquire a transmissionist license. What is a man present in enemy teritorry good for, when he can not send information back to headquarters. After these four licenses, which are compulsatory, there are dozens of courses for Scouts, ranging from anti-terrorist and closed quarters battle, to mountain special operations and combat divers. As all the Scouts must be specifically trained for all fighting environments, they also have to chose a number of specialities in which they would become experts. Every Scouting team is composed before an operation of men with skills best fitted for the specific needs of that operation. One transmissionist, one doctor, two mountain climbers and two anti-terrorist experts would be chosen to form a team of six men which has to rescue hostages from a mountain resort, for example.

They are the men of the shadows, never seen, never heard, never felt. Any shot fired by a Scout is equivalent with the failure of the mission, but trust me, I've seen them, and when they do open fire, you don't want to be the enemy.

There are two types of scouting missions, the first is the observation of the enemy before an engagement, and the second is the observation and assesment of an enemy during combat, which is often called "combat scouting" or "contact scouting".

In the past, the Scouts were infiltrated into enemy teritorry by air (aerial infiltration), but that method is seldom used today because it is very risky and the teams can easily be discovered by the enemy. Scouts can also be infiltrated by land or by water, and once inside, they are virtually impossible to detect.

They have a special physical and psychologycal stature, and when in enemy teritorry, &quotyou step on him, you pass over him, and you don't even feel he's there&quot, says General Decebal Ilina, former chief of the Information Directive.

Once in enemy teritorry, the Scout has to transmit as much data as possible, therefore they are all expert transmissionists. For a Scout, the communication devices are even more important than weapons; besides when in observation missions, most of them only carry white weapons. He can not make fire, and he does not leave residues or traces of any kind.

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Two members of the 404th Scouting Center in Buzau during an application, 30.10.2001

It takes seven to eight years to train a Romanian Scout, but when that training is complete, he worths more than an entire army.

Admission

What does it take to become a Scout

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Everybody had seen movies and documentaries about Special Forces recruiting procedures in the United States or Great Britain. And everybody started to make comparisons, write articles and make web pages, emitting opinions and editorials. It has to be said from the start that comparing the recruiting procedures of the Western world and the ones of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet space is a wrong approach.

Even more so, comparing the failure rates in order to decide who is &quot the best in the world&quot, an expression used so often by the western media, is a mistake from its concept. Various units may have various failure rates but what also matters is what kind of volunteers built up those failure rates in the first place. It is not the same if you have a 70% failure rate when your volunteers are already from an elite unit or if you have a 95% failure rate when your volunteers are teenagers or civilians. In such a case, the first unit would have a much better selection process and personnel than the second, even though its admission failure rate is smaller at first glance.

In order to compare the recruiting procedures of two different worlds, you first have to compare the worlds themselves. For example, the United States is a typical developed country. The population in such countries is increasingly overweight (over 40% of the citizens are overweight/obese - 2003 statistic), the feeding habbits are bad (fast food, cholesterol and nutrient disorders), while the high living standards make even going out to the supermarket a daily &quoteffort&quot for the average American. In such an environment it is easy for the average Joe to believe he can be a superhero and machine-gun hoards of enemy troops without much of an effort, or an aim, for that matter. As a result, one would have a very large number of applicants for Special Forces units. The problem is that most of those people are not fit enough for a regular infantry unit, let alone an SF one, thus resulting in high failure rates which are not necessarely an index of a crushing selection processs.

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In the Gresu forrest, 25 km off Soveja (Buzau county) Professional soldiers from the 404th Scouting Center

The SEAL failure rate

An active service U.S. Navy SEAL once stated: "I saw guys on my BUD/S class that didn't even know what they were doing there. Their wives, sisters or parents told them to get a life for themselves, so they came to join the SEALs, seeking to become superheroes like they saw in the movies". A Navy SEAL statistic says that in the past 20 years, the failure rate for SEAL applicants (recruits) was no less than 90% !! Ninety percent! And it comes at no surprize. When you think about it, most of the applicants don't really want to become SEALs, or they don't have the neccessary qualities. That is why BUD/S usually has a 70-90 percent failure rate, while the total SEAL recruitment system (which lasts from 6 months to a year), has a 90 percent failure rate or more.

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Simply because the selection course had shed off all the people that didn't belong there. And since only 10 percent of the applicants were physically and mentally fit to become SEALs, they were the only ones to pass, while all the others were sent home.

On the other hand, in Eastern Europe things used to be totally different. In Romania, the Scouts do not have public selection courses, where anyone could apply and which make the article material for newspapers and TV news shows. Soldiers who want to become Scouts are either sent there by their commanders, who saw the capabilities and potential of those men, or they are people who have specific skills in civilian life, and now want to apply for Special Forces.

For example, if a teenager in Romania starts taking martial arts classes at the age of 12, and then body building classes at the age of 18, while at the same time taking a lot of hiking trips at the mountains, by the time he gets to be 21, he can apply to become a Scout, if that's what he wants. With a degree, nine years of martial arts and four years of body building training behind him, plus countless climbs in the mountains, he would surely be allowed to take the selection course. On the other hand, if a fat man, 45 years of age, goes into a Military Center and tells the officer there that he wants to become a Scout, he would not be taken seriously.

However with the turn of time, the obesity percentage in central European countries is slowly but surely increasing. Perhaps in a decade or so, pressured by a lack of recruits and lack of interest for the military profession, those countries would also turn to movies and TV shows to gain publicity for their elite units, receiving in exchange a large number of obese of oblivient wannabe-SF volunteers. Perhaps in the future, a 95% failure rate would be a common thing in any elite unit in Europe.

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Scouts from Buzau Scouts from Buzau
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Scouts from Buzau Scouts from Buzau
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Scouts from Buzau Scouts from Buzau

Training

The life of a Scout is sometimes beautiful and most of the times hard
Scout from the 119th Scouting battalion, Oradea

And how true that statement really is! Life as a Scout can be full of rewards: you get to climb difficult mountain peaks, jump from an airplane, dive, and learn a lot of things. But at the same time it can be very rough, when you have to camp out in the snow at -25 degrees and spend weeks at a time hunting the "enemy" in war games, while normal people stay in the warmth of their houses, watching TV. You also spend weeks of survival sessions in remote areas, feeding with whatever is available, while being harassed by mock enemy forces and performing undercover missions, while your civilian friends are out at a barbecue or visiting the seaside.

Survival sessions, mountain climbing, para-jumping, diving, anti-terrorist operations, hostage rescuing, reconaissance, and many more, are repeated over and over again, until they are mastered by the members of the Scouting formations.

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Scouts from the 404th Scouting Center in Buzau
training in the Calnau forrests, 30.10.2001
Photo by: Petrica Mihalache

One day after the September 11th attacks, the General Chief of Staff of the Romanian Armed Forces emitted an order, according to which the training of all the Scouting formations will also incorporate anti-terrorist elements.

As they need to act in any environment, training takes part in all the extremes that nature can provide.

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Scouts from the 528th Scouting Battalion in Braila
training in the Danube Delta, onboard Romanian-made B-33 Zimbru amphibious armoured fighting vehicles, july 2000
Photo by: Petrica Mihalache

May it be a cold winter or a hot summer, a dangerous mountain peak or a swamp, a parachute drop from 10,000 feet or a dive at high depths, the Scouts must be ready to perform and successfully complete the mission.

That is depicted in the left picture, in which a Scouting platoon from the 528th Scouting battalion, located in Braila (Eastern Romania) is patrolling the Danube Delta, onboard two Romanian-built B-33 Zimbru vehicles. The B-33 Zimbru, an armoured amphibious vehicle integrally developed and manufactured in Romania, has been deployed to operation theaters in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, where it impressed the personnel of the other participating countries. During the winter of 2002, Romanian B-33's dragged American tanks from the roadside, where they were stuck in the snow, proving that the B-33 is a robust vehicle which can be successfully employed in any conditions, from desert to winter, and from mountain to swamp regions.

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Scouting on a training session in the Danube Delta
Photo by: Petrica Mihalache. Date: july 2000

In the winter of 2002, a platoon from the 119th Scouting battalion from Oradea (Western Romania) was performing a typical forrest survival and observation training session.
The platoon, composed of both younger and older soldiers, camped out near a famous tourist resort. But they weren't there to relax; the Scouts roamed the forrest for two weeks, and groupped in two separate teams, hunted each other and tried to observe each other's camps and capture mock documents they each held.

As all this action was going on very close to a resort which was crammed with tourists, no civilians ever saw them, or even noticed what was going on.
"This is easy", stated one of the Scouts. "In a real situation, we would have to cope up with injured team members and enemy special forces which would try to anihilate us", he continued.

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A Scout has to keep a certain capability level at all times, otherwise he will be transferred to other types of units until he can get to the necessary level again. Therefore, once every few months, all the Scouts are tested for their capabilities.

Swimming for 200 meters upstream a river, carrying a 40 kg backpack, sharpshooting and hand-to-hand combat are parts of that test. Every winter, the Scouts take to the mountains to confirm their mountain climbing licenses, and every summer they spend a few weeks at the seaside, in order to confirm their combat divers license. Parachute jumping and hostage rescuing exercises are mingled between the other requirements above.
After September 11, 2001, a higher accent was set on anti-terrorist training, however it is to be said that the Scouts are primarely scouting formations (obviously), that perform observations and analysis. And although they are also used for hostage rescuing and special operations, they are not primarely an anti-terrorist force. That mission is given to forces like the Armed Forces' DSPI, and the SRI Anti-Terrorism Brigade.
That is why, for the 2001-2004 period at least, entire Scouting battalions were not sent to Afghanistan.

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A professional Scout from the 404th Scouting Center in Buzau, winter, 2002 Professionals from the 404th Scouting Center during a winter exercise, 2002
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Conscripts from the 404th center, detailing a mission plan Combat patrol through the mountainous region, north of Buzau
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Until 2003, conscripts were also drafted into the major Scouting formations. The process of hiring more professional Scouts was under way, but obviously one can not hire a thousand professional Special Forces personnel in one year, and then stop the hiring for the next five years. Therefore, the hiring and professionalization process took years.

As seen in the pictures to the left and right of this text, the conscripts took more or less the same training procedures as the professional soldiers. This concept, of Cold War origin, in which the two sides (West and East) both had large armies formed of conscripts, can not work anymore in today's security requirements. So the Romanian Armed Forces started a major hiring process around the year 2000, process which inevitably incorporated the Scouting formations. The downsizing and profesionalization of the Scouting formations can only help to soar their capabilities, as Romania started to send more and more troops abroad in support of UN, NATO, EU, PfP and US operations.

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Recruits (conscripts) from the 404th Scouting Center in Buzau, during a winter exercise, in 2002 Conscripts from Buzau, planning a mission, 2002
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Conscripts from the 404th center, detailing a mission plan Combat patrol through the mountainous region, north of Buzau

Romanian reconaissance formations often train with foreign recon units. A large number of these common training sessions are taking place each year, and therefore I will only mention a typical one. In the year 2000, 7 members from the 404th Scouting Center, 11 members of the 528th Scouting battalion (Braila) and 11 members from the Turkish Luleburgaz Mechanized Brigade trained together for several days in the Gresu woods of the Vrancea mountains. Mixted teams cooperated with each other in sharing information about the target during a CTR and send it back to HQ, they escaped a mock ambush, made fire without matches and other survival and tactical applications. The Turkish Scouts knew how to make fire with a glass magnifier, but the Romanians taught them it can also be done using the battery wires from the mobile communication station.

Weapons

Scouting formations around the country use the AKM, a Romanian improved version of the classic AK-47 Kalashnikov, as the main weapon of choice. However, Romanian-made Dragunov models, as well as 9mm Glock pistols, PSG-1 rifles and MP5A3's are employed by the Scouts.

Also, at the end of 2003 Romania announced the beginning of an acquisition program which will replace the AKM/Dragunov models for Special Forces with a new and improved Israeli-Romanian-Swiss weapon, called Tavor. Tavor, which comes in many variants, such as the TAV-21 Tavor, Tavos and M-203, has a higher firing rate, IR viewing mode and sniper lens incorporated, as well as a lantirn, a laser designator and can be fitted with a 40mm grenade launcher.

The Harris mobile communications stations have been received by the Scouting formations during 2002 and 2003 and are now an integrate part of the standard gear. Also, the Romanian Hamster vehicle, as well as the Mowag Eagle vehicle are employed by the Scouting formations. An acquisition plan for the special forces, spanning between 2003 and 2020 has been voted and initiated in 2002.Unfortunately, by 2012 the Tavor purchase was canceled, the Hamster program was buried and the Scouts are no longer a priority for the cash-strapped Romanian military. Today, equipping the Special Forces battalion became a priority instead.

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The Hamster terrain vehicle, fully designed and produced in Romania, parachutable from An-26 and C-130

Order of Battle

Each battalion has a scouting platoon. Each regiment has a scouting detachment, while each brigade has a scouting company. Respectively, each division or army corps has one scouting battalion. For example, the IVth Territorial Corps "Marshall Constantin Prezan", which is assigned with protecting Romania's Northern territory, has the 119th Scouting battalion which is located in Oradea. The last information I have about it stated the battalion commander was colonel Constantin Stiop.

The higher the scouting formation is, the more professional its members are. For example, since any infantry battalion has a scouting platoon, the best men of the battalion are chosen to form that platoon. Of course, they receive mountain, air and diving training, as well as scouting and anti-terrorist training, but they could not be compared with an elite team of special forces.

That changes however, when talking about larger units. And the scouting battalions, which are the largest scouting structures in the country, have very professional soldiers, which have participated in many international exercises and operations and won a lot of titles.

There was also an independent scouting battalion. The 404th Scouting Battalion was located in Buzau, and the command of that battalion was always rotated so its members would benefit from the experience of each battalionn commander. Gheorghe Trutulescu, now convicted for orders that he allegededly gave during the 1989 Revolution, commanded this unit in the late 1980's.

During the nineties, the commanding officers have rotated as often as every 6 months. The last commander known to be in charge of the 404th Scouting Center was colonel Mihai Androne.

In the year 2001, the 404th Scouting Battalion was disbanded and a new structure was etablished in Buzau, namely the 404th Scouting Center. The Center will keep its elite combatants, while gradually eliminating recruits (conscripts). Also, the Center was intended to be a specialization center for Scouts around the country. While the number of the combatants has gradually decreased, the quality and training they receive there is on the increase. The 404th Scouting Center has been disbanded in october 2004.

All in all, Romania had 10 Scouting battalions in the late 80s and early 90s, plus two armoured Scouting battalions (on APCs). By the early 2000s most of these units have been disbanded.

  • The 121st Cc bn in Craiova was established in 1996 and disbanded in the mid 2000s
  • The 422nd Cc bn was established in 1995 and disbanded in the late 90s
  • The 185th Cc bn in Constanta was established in 1995 and disbanded in the mid 2000s
  • The 117th Cc bn was the scouting unit of the former 57th Tank Division. This was probably an armoured scouting unit composed of APCs and not the typical Scouting unit composed of elite troops. Disbanded probably during the 90s
  • The 169th Cc bn in Timisoara was the scouting unit of the former Vth Army Corps. Disbanded in the late 90s
  • The 101st Cc bn in Roman was one of the last units to be disbanded, in 2004.

Between 2007 and 2011 the military had 2 Infantry Divisions, namely the 1st Infantry Division "Dacica" located in Bucharest and the 4th Infantry Division "Gemina" located in Cluj-Napoca. Respectively, they were served by the 528th Scouting battalion "Vlad Tepes" in Braila and the 317th Scouting battalion "Vladeasa" located in Cluj-Napoca/Someseni.

In 2011 the 2nd Infantry Division "Getica" was established, probably with its headquarters in Buzau or Focsani. Serving this division is the 313th Scouting battalion "Burebista", located in Bucharest.


Exercises

The Scouting formations in Romania have yearly and seasonaly internal competitions. Usually, the winners are from the 404th center in Buzau and the 119th battalion in Oradea, but many times the members of the 528th battalion in Braila had very good results as well. Also, the Scouting formations participate in the Ground Forces yearly competitions.

Besides these frequent internal competitions, the Scouts have a large number of experience changes with Scouting formations from friendly countries, which include common exercises and applications, and the exchange of members which finish each other's courses.

In an international scouting competition which took part in Hungary in 2002, the lot formed of scouts from Romania and other countries won the 3rd place, while on the nation-to-nation competitions, the Romanian team won the 1st place in combat patrol.

Besides that exercise, good results were also obtained in the Force 2000 exercise in Romania, the largest exercise at that time since the 1980's. 10,000 soldiers participated at that exercise, and the Scouts and Special Forces present in Cincu, near Sibiu, were enthuziastically photographed by foreign military attache's.

Also, at the major international exercise that took part in Szczecin, Poland, in october 2002, which was the largest NATO exercise in history until that time, Romanian scouting teams, incorporated into multi-national teams together with French Special Forces, had good results as well. All those results were obtained by separate or combined teams from Buzau and Oradea.

Internal applications, such as the combined application Nord 2002, specifically designed for observation and early warning forces, are often staged in Romania. Between the 14th of october and the 14th of november 2002, Nord 2002 had special phases, designed only for the scouting battalions and subunits. Nord 2002 included demonstrations of the detection and anihilation of terrorist training camps, and the countering of terrorist threats within the national teritorry. Nord 2002 was organized together with DSPI and the Jandarmery Special Intervention Brigade.

Operations

30.10.2001, Buzaucercetasi
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Photo by Petrica Mihalache

The 1989 Revolution

During the 1989 Revolution, members of what was then the 404th Scouting Battalion from Buzau were sent to Timisoara and Bucharest, to observe the situation.

The major street demonstrations that took part in the Western city of Timisoara were met with live fire, and many demonstrators were killed. As it was not clear who fired the shots, on december the 17th, a special forces team of 48 Scouts from Buzau was sent to Timisoara to observe the situation and report to Bucharest.

&quotIn those days, various ideas appeared, according to which the country was invaded by foreign special forces elements from the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Hungary&quot , states General Decebal Ilina, the former chief of the Information Directorate of the Armed Forces. &quotAnd since military people trust each other more than they trust civilians, General Guse gave the order to Admiral Dinu, who was General Chief of Staff at that time, to send some Scouting teams in those environments&quot , he continues.

So, a team of 48 Scouts, most of them conscripts (!!), and all dressed in civilian clothing, mingled up among the demonstrators and reported to Bucharest that the events are not a diversion, and that the population really wants to overthrow the communist leadership.

The teams did not carry any weapons during the observation mission, because their weapons were turned in to the Mecanized division in Timisoara. The registry that records the ammunition that was taken from Buzau, and the registry which recorded the ammunition that was returned, are the same, which means there were no shots fired, explained colonel Margarit.

It is remarcable that the Armed Forces sent teams composed mostly of conscripts, to counter-act the possible attack from foreign special forces. After being to Timisoara, the team composed of 48 men was sent to Bucharest. Its mission: to search and destroy foreign scouting teams. In other words, to anihilate any foreign special forces teams that have infiltrated into the country.

Albania, Angola, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq

Albania

A Scouting team was sent to Albania during the conflict in that country in the early 1990's.

Angola

Another team was sent to Angola, during the 1994 civil war.

Bosnia

Also in 1994, several teams have been sent to Bosnia-Herzegovina, and they have been under constant rotation ever since.

Kosovo

Starting with 1999, several teams are also being rotated in Kosovo. All the missions of those teams are still classified.

Afghanistan

A scouting team was sent ahead of the first Romanian deployment for combat operations in Kandahar, in march 2002. A scouting platoon has present in Afghanistan ever since.

Iraq

An NBC Scouting detachment numbering 70 men was sent to Doha, Kuwait, before the Second Gulf War. After the end of the war, a scouting platoon is always present and rotated with the rotation of the infantry battalion to which it belongs. (Romania has 700 men in Iraq).

Besides that platoon, a Scouting team composed of 48 people, namely a Scouting special forces platoon from Buzau (24 men) and several UAV's (Shadow 600) have been sent to Iraq under the request of the United States.

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Stories

The 404th Scouting Center

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A team from the 404th Center
Date: 30.10.2001
Location: Buzau
Photo by: Petrica Mihalache
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Carrying out a wounded team mate, using only improvised devices

In peace time, one of the many missions for the Recon teams is to test the vigilence of fellow Armed Forces personnel. Thus, Scouts from the 404th Center are known to be sent in various military units and perform specific tasks. Such was the case once when a member from the Center was sent to a unit in Piatra Neamt (North-Central Romania), where, posing as an officer, he took a whole platoon on the field "for instructions". After 10 minutes, a unit commander realized what was going on and his cover was blown.

In such exercises, the Scouts are usually prevented from accessing ammunition dumps.

The 404th Center also had a combat diving team between 1992 and its disbandment in 2004. Although brand-new communication equipment was purchased, such as the Panther and Jaguar mobile stations, they often do not work in mountaineous regions. "You couldn't even imagine what it would mean for Romania to have its own satelitte", says an officer from the Center.

Members of the 404th Center have various skills, such as explosives and demolition training, boobey-traps, making and using hide-outs, or making a delicious meal out of a snake or a frog that's been jumping around too much. "We're training with things and methods known ever since Decebal", says a soldier.


(Decebal - Dacian leader around 100 AD; fought four wars against the Roman Empire in a time when Dacia was the only country in Europe that could not be conquered by it)

Frog meat tastes good, better even than chicken, but it's also best to eat it raw, that way it has more proteins. Hedgehog meat is also known to be delicious, however a solder stated that after he had one at home as a pet, he can't eat hedgehog meat anymore.
Besides the usual stuff, Scouts also carry 7 condoms around. Not for "the usual purposes", but for combat needs. Two are for holding and transporting precious water and five are for surgical needs.

- The best 100 -

Between the 12th and the 23rd of june 2000, a special training exercise was staged in Buzau. The best 100 Scouts from all the Scouting battalions, Airborne, Mountain and Naval brigades, as well as the special forces from what was at that time the Guard Brigade gathered here for a unique training session.

This special detachment was composed of the best men in all of the Scouting formations in the Armed Forces. They were heavily selected according to their skills, training, IQ and tactical abilities. The detachment performed infiltrations, rapelling from helicopters, parachute jumps, hand to hand combat and other such tasks together. In addition, live firing exercises, mountain climbs and survival sessions were also executed.

Several foreign military atachees were invited to witness these training sessions, as well as a mock mission in which members of this detachment attacked a "terrorist camp" and recovered a "stolen Romanian ground-to-ground missile" from the "terrorists".

According to the scenario, a rebel base was located in the Calneu Valley; the rebels were also holding hostages and a stolen ground to ground missile. An advance reconaissance team was rapelled from an IAR-330 Puma helicopter in order to perform CTR on the base. The following day, an unmarked IAR-330 H Puma helicopter, identified by the terrorists' as being their own supply helicopter, approached the camp. But instead of supplies, several Scouts rapelled down from the helicopter and killed all the terrorists before they could launch the missile. No hostages were harmed, and the whole operation lasted only 3 minutes from start to end.

After the end of the rescue operation, the same Scouts drove the hostages away in captured APC's and tanks from the rebels, which proves that they are also qualified to drive that type of vechiles. After this demonstration, the detachment will hold another application, which would last three days.

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Carrying for the wounded member, after evacuation from the combat area
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Conscripts used to be drawn into the 404th Scouting Center, but not anymore.

This conscript is performing a mission during the winter
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Carreer officers now make up for 100% of the composition of the Center.

Unlike in American movies, nobody jokes around when dealing with terrorism
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The special detachment, composed of Romania's best 100 Reconaissance troops in the year 2000
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Members from the former 404th Scouting Center in Buzau, during a winter application

The 404 Family

They can not be seen nor heard. Although they are extremely mobile, they don't leave any traces behind. "Nil mortalibus ardui est". That means Nothing is impossible to the mortals. The men from the 404th center keep away from the curious eyes of the public. Some say its a bad habbit, however, the special forces consider they are not movie stars.
In february, the men from the 404th Scouting Center, commanded by that time by colonel Vasile Cerbu, were in Soveja. But not in the famous tourism resort there, but a few kilometers away, in a military camp. February in Romania is extremely cold, however interestingly enough, the men were at the seaside at this time last year, again, not for fun but for the confirmation of the combat diver license. And the water then, was freezing...

Tea from tree cones

The company lead by captain Bogdan Dumitru is specialized on gathering information. Obviously, during a crisis, the missions are very dangerous because they have to operate far behind enemy lines. Therefore they must not leave any traces behind, they carry with them any residues, of any kind. Living in isolated conditions may pose a problem to civilians, however for a Scout it is day-to-day life. In a winter exercise, the company soldiers built an iglu in the snow, and even made a small fire inside, on which meat could be cooked. A single candle provided for both heat as well as the light in the iglu.

Experience taught pl-maj (SM/Sgt> Jenel Danil that a tea made of tree cones, although bad, can be a real moral booster. Their iglu is very difficult to spot between the snow and the trees, even at close range, and even if you know where to look. As for food, the scouts hunt for animals. But not with a fire arm, as that might attract the attention of the enemy, only with traps. And it works!

The Group - A second home

Group cohesion and trust are essential, say 2nd lt. Florin Dragomirescu and 2nd lt. Daniel Leonte, as commanders of the two company groups. Each member knows exactly what he has to do, and he masters one or more specialities, in case any of them gets injured. Although the two 2nd lt's only came here in 2001, they already realized that the group is a family.
Even when they give out the holiday permissions, they give them by groups, so that the soldiers would spend their free time together, same as in the unit. "That helps keeping the team spirit", says colonel Cerbu. "Besides when they are in training, it assures me that I don't have half of the group here and half on vacation", he continues.
Obviously many of them came here because they wanted to become special forces. And obviously, television had a tremendous effect on that. But for all of them, the Center has become a second family.

Youth and age, established by the new Guide

The new Scouting Guide of the General Chief of Staff has brought improvements but also ambiguities. Very experienced members have been retired. According to the new Guide, a high-standards Scout requires 7-8 years of training. However, the same Guide, through its retirement procedure, states that at a certain age, the combatants should be retired.

"As soon as I start having high performances with a Scout, I already have to replace him from the group, due to his age", states cpt. Dumitru.
However the results are there for the members of the 404th Center. "In the latest application, four out of five special forces groups have accomplished their missions 100%, while the fifth group accomplished only 85% of their mission due to a misfortune", says cpt. Dumitru.