Grupul Special de Protectie si Interventie "Acvila"


- The Eagle Unit -
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Terra, Aqua et Spiritus


Grupul Special de Protectie si Interventie Acvila is the top unit of the Ministry of Administration and Interior, under the direct command of the Minister.

This unit was modeled after similar units in Europe, mainly Germany's GSG-9, and was partly established due to a recommendation of the European Union, which requires all its members to have such a unit.

The "Eagle" Special Intervention and Protection Group is composed of 1 CPU team, 4 anti-terrorist teams and 1 sniper team.

US Equivalent: perhaps HRT would come closest

History
Characteristics
Admission
Training
Weapons
Order of Battle
Exercises
Operations
Stories

History

helicopter The Acvila (Eagle) unit was created in january 2003 as the top unit of the MAI. Unlike all the other units, which are under the command of the Police, Jandarmery or Border Police, GSPI is under the direct command of the Minister himself.

Before that date, two Romanian police officers have travelled abroad, meeting with specialists from various countries and discussed about counter-terrorism, special police structures, human resources and other such issues. A major contribution was offered by Walter Sperner, a German Ministry of Interior specialist which is currently a councelor to the Romanian Ministry of Administration and Interior. Walter Sperner is an ex-commander of GSG-9.

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Characteristics

helicopter Besides the two Romanian specialists and Walter Sperner, GSPI has also benefitted from the knowledge and expertise of two other ex-GSG-9 specialists, which helped organize the new structure in a similar way with their former unit.

GSPI handles a variety of operations, such as protection, special police and even counter-terrorist intervention. GSPI handles the protection of DA's, Ministry of Administration and Interior and Ministry of Justice state secretaries, as well as other employees from these two ministries which have received death threats.

 

intervention intervention The budget for the Acvila unit in 2003 was 30 billion lei (985,000 US$), while the budget for 2004 was settled at 70 billion lei (2 million US$).

The creation of the Acvila unit was highly controversial at the time. On one hand, Romania already had several similar units, who's missions and responsibilities were sometimes overlapping.

 

intervention intervention On the other hand, the very purpose(s) for the creation of the Acvila unit were still unclear due to insufficient information available to the public.

We now know that the European Union requires all its member states to have such a multi-purpose elite unit in each country's Interior structures. The official description of this unit is that it was created to offer protection to Justice Ministry's VIP's.

But it is also stated very clearly that this unit is also meant to participate in search and rescue, counter-terrorist and intercepting operations.

GSPI Acvila has around 200 combatants, divided into three main sections: a CPU (Close Protection Unit) section, a counter-terrorist section, and a sniper section. The counter-terrorist section seems to be the largest, comprising of four teams. However, GSPI is often use for special police operations, as well as interceptions. Those two types of missions are now the exclusive types performed by the top unit of the Police, called SIIAS, after CPU and CT has been taken out of their area and is now handled by GSPI. It might be a good idea at this time to disband SIIAS as a structure of the Police and transfer all its personnel to GSPI, either to the existing teams or by creating a new special police team.

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Admission

It is rumoured than a significant part of the combatants which now compose GSPI are former members of the Vlad Tepes Special Brigade.
According to GSPI, their admission standards are unique in Romania, which is something worth noting.

At first, only candidates within the right age group, with general and specific knowledge and some experience may apply.
Those canditates then join the Preselection process, which lasts about two weeks and consists of medical screenings, psychological exams, physical exams, a shooting test and a written exam.
The candidates which passed preselection then join the actual selection process, which lasts anywhere between 30 and 45 days. Selection consists of daily activities created with the purpose of bringing the candidate to his limits and pass him beyond them as well. A grueling physical training is combined with psychological beasting and AT, CT intervention, close protection, selective shooting and other types of exercises.
The training program in this stage lasts no less than 16-20 hours a day, sometimes exceeding that and bringing the figure to its maximum, of 24 hours a day (around the clock). Extreme fatigue, lack of sleep, high stress and other conditions are induced upon the candidates at this stage, as they continue with their selection courses.

Physical training consists of 2-3 tests each day, and tests the candidates' endurance, reaction speed and mobility.

AT and CT intervention training, as well as the learning of basic protection skills, comprises of both theoretical and practical exams, night and day time marches, as well as combined exercises, all of which take place under the conditions described above.

Psychological training is provided by specialized personnel and consists in various tests which the candidates have to do at different emotional and psychological stages, such as relaxation, fatigue, lack of sleep, stress, annoyance, etc.

The entire selection process is closely watched by instructors, which are experienced GSPI members. They measure the candidates' behaviour and attitude, as well as their ability to integrate in a team and reaction to unexpected situations.

For those who apply to be GSPI officers, besides all of the above, they are also tested for leading skills and the ability to manage confusing situations and high risk factors.

Across the years, it has been observed that only 15-20% of candidates pass this stage of selection.

The Final Exam comes after the Selection and takes about 3-4 days to complete. It consists of integrated physical, shooting and written exams and it specifically tests for the skills and aptitudes which the candidate was supposed to aquire during the Selection process.

The physical exam now combines endurance with response speed, attention to detail, memorizing information under stress and other specific aptitudes.

The shooting exam takes place right after the physical one, when the candidate is already fatigued, and it also incorporates hidden elements which are meant to test attention to detail and memory.

It is difficult to assess the total failure rate for those who apply to GSPI, but by combining drop-out rates from the various stages of the selection process we could speculate that it approaches or exceeds 90%.

Remember, these 90% represent candidates which were already highly experienced policemen, members of rapid intervention detachments such as DIAS, SPIR, the Arrests section, even SIIAS (although one would fairly admit that those are highly unlikely to fail), the Mobile, Mountain and Special Jandarmery battalions, as well as other units and services.

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Training

It is known that GSPI Acvila trains on a regular basis in a large variety of terrain and for several types of operations.

Physical training is meant to sustain the strength of the combatants with the help of daily exercises, for which a gym is available. Martial arts training is also envolved, for which another indoors facility exist. Psychological training takes place as well. Other types of tactical training occurs in mountaineous areas, woods, etc. Besides that, parachute jumps for airborne insertion, usage of fast boats for river or maritime operations and usage of camouflage techniques for snipers also take place on a regular basis.

GSPI Acvila also performs counter-terrorist missions if needed; therefore CT training is one of the most important areas of their training doctrine.

A disaffected bus exists inside the GSPI's headquarters, which is used for hostage rescuing scenarios. Also, GSPI combatants use a disaffected train as well as a transport plane for the same purposes.

GSPI Acvila during training
training
rappelling from a dam
training
rappelling from a bridge
training
rappelling from a mountain
training
checking the trunk
intervention
boarding an aeroplane
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boarding an aeroplane
intervention
boarding a bus
intervention
in the subway
intervention
in the subway
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in the subway
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in the subway
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in the subway
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boarding a train
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boarding a train
intervention
rappelling from a ship
intervention
reflexive shooting


Training also comprises of repeating boarding techniques, as it is known that GSPI Acvila also performs counter-terrorist missions during maritime operations.

The members spend roughly around 70% of their time training.

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Weapons

GSPI Acvila uses an array of weapons which are commonly employed by other elite units in the Romanian law enforcement system, as well as in the Romanian military and by international special forces units.

As such, the MP-5 submachinegun, the Glock 17, Sig Sauger 9mm pistols and SSG 3000 sniper rifles are usually employed by GSPI.

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Order of Battle

All the members of the Acvila unit are expected to be concentrated in a location in or at the outskirts of Bucharest.

GSPI is headed by a Commanding Staff, which controls all the other internal structures. That comprises of 4 combat groups (counter-terrorist teams), 1 sniper team, 1 CPU (close-protection) team, as well as a mission management section, a training department, a medical support team and a logistics team. Electronic Cigarette

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Exercises

As this unit is still under construction, details about exercises held by Acvila have not been made public as of now.

Despite that, photos are available which depict members of GSPI Acvila at various exercises and meetings with similar foreign units. It is unlikely that all the photos were taken at the same event, so we could speculate there have been already several international exercises held with foreign partners, some of them in Romania, and perhaps, some of them abroad.

Operatives from the United States and Denmark can be distinguished in some of the photos, as well as distinguished guests from African countries.

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Operations

Although the formation of the Acvila (Eagle) unit is not yet complete, the existing members have already participated to an entire array of missions. Here are some of them.

In the summer of 2003, members of the Acvila unit, dressed in civilian clothing, have assisted members of the Mobile and Special Jandarmery Brigades in the keeping of public order on the shores of the Black Sea. As the number of foreign tourists visiting Romania has been on a constant and drastic increase in the past years, so has the number of law enforcement agencies and personnel that is responsible for their protection. Although these facts are quite logical, I'm wondering why an anti-terrorist unit such as the Acvila has to guard 70-year old German tourists from Gypsy pick-pocketers in Constanta. Perhaps the persons which created this unit are now desperately seeking missions for it to accomplish, in a search to find/fabricate reasons for its creation.

Members of the Acvila unit have also been involved in surveillance operations, interceptions and special missions in the border areas, in cooperation with SASI.

Another mission performed by the combatants was the guarding of the sluice gates in the military port of Agigea. That port was heavily used in early 2003 by the U.S. military before, during and after the 2003 Gulf War. The entire S-E region of Romania was also used by U.S. forces for the rotation of their expeditionary troops in Kosovo. They were assisted by other branches such as the Anti-Terrorism Brigade, the SEEBRIG (a South Eastern European Marine Brigade), DIAS and the Navy's divers.

Fighters from the Acvila unit also ensured protection during the repatriation of the victims from the March 2004 Madrid bombings. Not covered by the international press, ten percent of the victims of that terrorist attack were Romanians, as their train wagon was specifically targetted by the terrorists due to Romania's involvement on the war against terror.

protection
during a protection mission

GSPI Acvila continues to provide protection for officials of the Ministry of Administration and Interior, as well as for district attorneys, organized crime prosecutors, Ministry of Justice officials and other such personalities which have received death threats of who's lives are endangered by their work. Such operations take place daily and are always under going.

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during a protection mission
protection
caught without a chance to retaliate

A large number of special police operations was also performed by GSPI, which continues to work with SRI and the MAI's intelligence unit (DGIPI) in capturing organized crime leaders, drug traffickers and money laundring groups. In fact, GSPI is so active in such operations that nearly every week a news about such an event surfaces in the media. At this time it would be interesting to see what type of operations is SIIAS performing, and most especially, how many.

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special police training session

Despite the controversy sparkled by its creation, GSPI appears to have a lot of work to do. Even during the time the unit was not yet complete, the existing members were already participating in quite a large number of operations, ranging from protection and interceptions to counter-terrorism and special police. Of course, one could always argue that all those operations could have been performed by units already in existance; however one should not forget the reasons behind Acvila's creation. Indeed, it has become obvious in the meantime that there really was a need for GSPI, that the unit is legitimate and even required through EU legislation. There remains however a questionmark next to two other units from the MAI. Their responsibilities and missions, although not overlapping with the ones of GSPI, are somewhat similar. Obviously we are talking about SIIAS, the special police unit of the Romanian Police, and the Special Jandarmery battalion, the counter-terrorist unit of the Jandarmery, which is incorporated into its Special Brigade.

Perhaps time has arrived for those two units to be disbanded, and their best men should be incorporated into GSPI, while the others should return to their original units (DIAS and the Special Brigade, respectively). With a slight change in legislation, GSPI could then become the main unit of the MAI, the only one handling responsibilities such as special police, counter-terrorism, interceptions and close protection, with the remainder three units (DIAS from the Police, the Special Brigade from the Jandarmery and SASI from the Border Police) simply representing the elite units of their respective branches. In such a scenario, the three structures could each use their own force to handle dangerous operations, while all three of them, as well as the entire MAI, could count on GSPI's contribution for only the most sensitive operations, which require highly qualified combatants.

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Stories

It was first unclear why this unit had to be created. In fact, most people thought it was already one unit too many. Its mysterious background, the large variety of operations it performs and the lack of public information didn't help much towards the changing of public opinion.

However it had become more clear in present day what this unit is all about. As it turned out, this is a legitimate unit which has specific purposes, and its creation was not only encouraged by the EU but it is almost mandatory for each member country to have such a unit.

Benefitting expert opinion and guidance even before it started to exist as an entity, GSPI has become an elite unit which rises above all other units of the MAI. The fact that it is under the direct command of the Minister can only help to bring more credit to the unit, and more importantly, funding. I was pleasantly surprized to see a well selected, finely trained unit, for which no funding was spared when it comes to equipment.

Romanian Special Forces as a whole have come a long way from where they were, let's say, in 1996, and it's true that today it is near to impossible to find elite units which do not have everything they need in regards of resources. Even so, the wide access to funding, facilities and other resources has basically made GSPI into a unit for which, as I've stated above, nothing is spared. Combined with the selection of combatants, this proved to be a key element in boosting the morale of its members, as well as a magnet in attracting young individuals from all other units.

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GSPI Acvila sniper

Rumour has it that in the MAI pretty much everybody wants to work their way into this new unit, and if we remember the high failure rate (roughly 95% as discussed in the Admission section), that brings us to the conclusion that the top notch equipment will get to be used by the right individuals.

In fact, based upon international assesments made by specialists which participated to its creation or have held common training sessions with the unit, GSPI Acvila is believed to be among the top 10 such units in Europe.

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GSPI Acvila CT training

This is not in any way a note of under-appreciation for the other high end units in the MAI (Jandarmery's CT battalion and SIIAS), which have proved their value across the years (most notably SIIAS); however we have to admit that GSPI has certain advantages over them, in most areas, such as selection, equipment, funding, training and expertise. In fact the most valuable members from the two units mentioned above have already applied to GSPI and are now active combatants there. Due to that fact, I will reiterrate, for the third time on this page, that, perhaps, time has now come for those two units to be disbanded.

Romanian Special Forces have come a long way since their early days, when lack of equipment and access to funding posed a problem for most units. Today, the situation has radically changed and all the units benefit all the resources they need.

Even so, I was pleasantly surprized to learn more about GSPI Acvila. It is obvious that no resources were spared while outfitting and training this unit. Besides that, GSPI comes with yet another surprize: it is the first special operations unit in Romania that actually has an official website. Only SIIAS could claim a website, however it comprises of a single page which defines the unit in broad terms and has no photos, no details and no contact information. GSPI however has a true website, which was made by actual members of the unit.

You can visit the official website of GSPI Acvila here.

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