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Paratroopers
- former "Special Forces" -

Parasutistii
The Romanian Parachutist Brigades had many "Special Troops" battalions in the past. The 56th, 64th, the 492nd, 495th, 496th, 498th and 500th Special Troops battalions are just some examples. In the year 2003, all these battalions were renamed "Parachustists Battalions", in one of the moves which paved the way for the creation of the integrated special forces battalion. Roughly half of the para battalions have been disbanded, and one of the remaining is currently described as an "airborne light infantry" unit.

However these units are still comprised of troops with several specialities other than airborne; most of the members of these units are also graduates of mountain, communications, diving and demolition courses.

US Equivalent: Army Special Forces (Green Berets), Air Force Special Operations, Army 82nd Airborne

History
Characteristics
Operations
The 1989 Revolution
Fight against terrorism
Miners action in june 1990
The Gulf War
Somalia
Kosovo

 

The Parachutists

Being one of the first countries in the world to have a parachutists/airborne force in its military, Romania trained and developed its paratroopers since World War One.

Beside these achievements, Romania also holds many world records and many patens in this field, gained by pioneers such as Bastan G. and Smaranda Braescu.

Bastan G was one of the earliest users of this new thing called "a parachute", and Smaranda Braescu is not only the first woman to obtain a parachutist licence, but also a high performance jumper and holder of many, many, many world records and world first's.

During World War II, Romanian paratroopers held a large number of some very daring and successful operations against the Soviet invaders. Two forces represented a major threat to the Soviets, the Mountain Hunters and the Para's.

After World War II, Romania was ceded by the allied powers to the Soviet area of influence, in exchange for Greece, which was to be under Western influence. The Soviets have chopped off one third of the country, while also deporting hundreds of thousands of Romanians to concentration camps in Siberia, where they would find their end. Factories were disassembled and sent to the Soviet Union, democracy and free trade were forbidden, military hardware such as tanks, planes and so on were also shipped to the USSR. Beside all this, the country had to pay "war damages" to the USSR for the following 20 years. From the military point of view, the Soviets made up a plan which would forbid Romania to become a regional power again for the forseable future. Beside scrapping its aircraft industry, which produced some of the best aircraft in the world early during the war, the military was also to be kept under tight control. A new Soviet military doctrine was to be implemented, and the "empire" was to keep troops and aircraft on Romanian soil. One of the many conditions imposed to Romania was to completely disband its Para formations and never have them again. Faced with such a severe and non-negociable condition, the Romanians desperately tried to hold on to their airborne formations, regardless of their designation. As such, the Romanian military created its "special troops" formations.

In fact, these were the parachutists from before. They were fully airborne, and most of them had other qualifications as well. The "special troops" designation fitted perfectly with the Soviet concept for their secret Spetsnaz units - which were also drafted from their Para divisions and were composed of people with several qualifications. As such, the Soviets regarded them as, perhaps, Romania's "Spetsnaz" units, and they were allowed to exist.

This situation was to exist for 45 years, until the fell of communism in Central Europe.

In the 30th of November, 1990, after the whole Eastern Europe gained its "independence" from the Soviet influence, Romania re-established its Paratrooper Command, now called Comandamentul Trupelor de Parasutisti.

As such, the 1st Paratrooper Brigade "Lieutenant Ioan Pop Cluj", the 2nd Paratrooper Brigade "Major Dobre Teodor", the 495th Special Operations "Major Stefan Soverth" battalion, the 498th, 492nd and 482nd Special Operations battalions, as well as the 500th Special Missions battalions were established. Romania already had the 64th Special Operations and the 56th Special Missions regiments as independent units in their own Divisions, however the re-establishments of larger units at brigade level, especially an entire Paratrooper Command, was only possible after the death of the Warsaw Pact.

The Nineties

In the 30th of November 2000 Romania celebrated 10 years since the transformation of the "Paratrooper Section" from the Air Force Command, initially into the Paratrooper Inspectorate and later into the Paratrooper Command. The event was celebrated with medium altitude jumps with freefall and pinpoint landings, martial arts demonstrations and static equipment displays.

In its 10 years of existence, the Paratrooper Command was the specialized structure of the Air Force to plan, organize, command, control and evaluate the entire activity of the paratrooper units.

The 21st century

At the turn of the century, roughly six Para battalions existed in Romania, grouped in two, and then a single brigade. The 2nd Airborne Brigade "Major Dobre Teodor" was to see its strength severely diminguished, as several units were disbanded within a short period of time.

The 56th Para battalion in Caracal-Deveselu was disbanded. Famous throughout the country, this unit had sent troops to several conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. Also disbanded were the 64th Para battalion at Titu-Boteni, which was called upon during the 1989 Revolution and the 1990 miners attack of Bucharest. The 64th had also sent troops to several conflicts in Europe. One of the first units to be disbanded was the battalion from Campia Turzii.

A very interesting decision affected the 495th Para battalion "Captain Stefan Soverth" from Bucharest. This unit is to keep its airborne training for the moment, however it is currently classified as an "airborne light infantry" battalion and is scheduled to participate in peace keeping and military assistance operations in the future.

Characteristics

The Seniors of Gravity


Romanian Parachutists performing a group jump at the Ground Forces Day

The 2nd Paratrooper Brigade "Major Dobre Teodor", with its headquarters in Bucharest, is the largest paratrooper structure in the country. Commanded by colonel Ion Chiranescu, the 2nd Brigade passed in september 2002 from the control of the Air Force, under the command of the Ground Forces.

Almost all the members of the Brigade are navigators, and most of them also have other licenses and specialities, such as mountain, demolition or divers.

The spring of 2003 found the paratroopers in their training sessions. Beside the heat, spring also brought high velosity winds. Although under dangerous conditions, the jumps continued.
&quotAny jump involves risks, that are actually calculated. Paratroopers have landed on houses before, or got stuck in trees or high voltage power lines, but all that happened because of extremely high winds or unfavorable weather conditions&quot, says Lt-Col Eugen Bita, S-3 chief of the 2nd Brigade.

Over 2,300 lives
A typical example of the 2nd Brigade's men is captain Mugurel Uta, from the 495th airborne light infantry battalion, located in Domnesti, a few kilometers E-S-E of Bucharest.

Cpt. Uta started his parachutism career at the age of 15, in the Romanian Air Club. The Romanian Air Club was the only structure in the world where children between the ages of 15 and 21 can jump with a parachute, fly a glider or an acrobatical propeller plane for free. Cpt Uta's mother was actually a parachutism instructor. Mugurel Uta entered the national senior jumpers lot in 1989-1990, and afterwards he gets to be a national fixed landing champion, and later a national parachute acrobatical champion as well. Even today, he continues his career in performance jumping, and with remarcable results as well. In 1999, 2000 and 2001 he obtained the national champion title in the acrobatical jumping section, and in 2002, he obtained the vice-champion title. Besides his military and sports career, he is also an unpaid instructor in the Aurel Vlaicu air club.

Cpt. Mugurel Uta is a graduate of the "Nicolae Balcescu" Infantry and Chemistry Military Institute in Sibiu, promotion 1995. His speciality there was "infantry - parachutists".

Today he is the commander of a paratrooper company in the 495th battalion, with more than 2,300 jumps in his flight-book.

Another example from the 495th battalion is major-platoon leader (pl-maj) Gabriel Bituna. Today, he just finished executing another jump. With this one, his total jump number hit the 300 mark.

Cpt. Mugurel Uta and Pl-maj (SM/Sgt) Gabriel Bituna, the first with 2,300 jumps and the second with 300 jumps, have participated together to many international exercises, such as Cooperative Bear 1998 in Great Britain, Cooperative Bear 1999 in Cracow, Poland, etc. In Poland, the results have exceeded expectations.
"The idea is that at the limitations we have, which are only 25 jumps/year, we are just as good as them, or perhaps even better, especially that they do 200-300 jumps/year", says cpt. Uta.
"In our units, personal training is the key, but their parachutes are better, because they can carry up to 50-60 kg extra weight. Their chutes also have certain facilities, such as weapons attachments, a lighter container, and their reserve chute is situated on their backs, leaving the front side free to observe the altimeter, compass and GPS", adds SM/Sgt Bituna.

(Note: since this article was first published, the Para's have been issued a new parachute model)


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A Romanian Paratrooper jumping from a RoAF An-26
RoIAS 2001 airshow, Mihail Kogalniceanu, 26 august 2001
Photo by Robin Polderman

But the Romanian paratroopers are not only infantry-men who jump out of airplanes, such as is often the case in similar foreign structures. The Romanian Paratroopers have multiple specialities, and in many ways they resemble the SEAL or Green Berets forces we see in movies.

SM/Sgt Bituna for example, is also a mountain climbing instructor, he graduated a ski training course, he also graduated a demolition course, and he is also a licensed NBC Scout. Besides all these, he is also a licensed combat diver.

Every team member has several specialities, plus one in which he is an expert, and thus, although they all know each other's trade, they can also teach each other and form an integrated group.

They can execute special operations missions in small groups, behind enemy lines, and they train for these missions in their survival training sessions.

Each country chooses a model for its airborne units. Some countries decide to adopt the "airborne infantry" model. Other countries have adopted the model where the airborne unit is composed of members with a variety of qualifications. Such examples are Russia's Spetsnaz units, Belgium's Para-commando's, UK's Para regiment, and indeed, Romania's Para's as well.

Interestingly enough, the US has both models into active service, incorporating "airborne infantry" battalions as well as airborne units with multiple qualifications, such as the 82nd AB brigade.

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Combat Operations

The 1989 Revolution

The paratroopers of the 64th Special Operations battalion, located on Titu-Boteni Air Force Base, some 25 km North-West of Bucharest, were called upon during the 1989 Revolution.

The misinformation and media intoxication at that time were severe, and rumour had it that Bucharest was invaded by terrorist elements which were opening fire on the population. The members of the elite 64th Special Operations battalion came to Bucharest and defended the headquarters of the Romanian Television, which was heavily fired upon by the "terrorists". Later it was found that some of those "terrorists" were in fact Communist Party activists which had been previously armed by Party committees in order to defend the same area within the chaos.

Still in december 1989, the members of the 64th Special Ops bn. secured the area around the tribunal which convicted former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

Nevertheless, several members of the unit were KIA during those operations. It has to be mentioned that the activists represented only a part of the individuals firing their weapons during those events.

The fight against terrorism

March 1990, Targu-Mures, central Romania. Only a few months after the 1989 Revolution, which topped the former dicator Nicolae Ceausescu and returned Romania to its traditional democracy.

Foreign interventions have managed to spur an artificial conflict between bonus argent casino en ligne the Romanian population and the ethnic Hungarians within the city. Some members of the ethnic Hungarian population were keen on installing an ethnic Hungarian mayor in town, and were infuriated when they were told elections must be organized in order to change the mayor. For several days in advance, groups of workers have built white weapons for themselves at their workplaces in factories and preparing for a street conflict. A large number of ethnic Hungarians crammed the streets of downtown Targu-Mures and became violent towards anyone who didn't speak Hungarian. Caught by surprize, the authorities dispatched several police task forces to calm the situation, but they were completely outnumbered by the protesters.

Hungarians came to Europe in the 9th century and settled in an area currently in Northern Croatia and South-Western Hungary. They also settled in Romania starting from the 13th century. During the Austro-Hungarian annexation of Transylvania, many were colonized there and they represented up to a quarter of the total population.

Various foreign intelligence services acted in the region and spread rumours to both sides according to which the other ethnic population is going to create a large scale conflict downtown.

15,000 Hungarians and 3,000 Romanians clashed in the streets, the latter being butchered and unable to flee the scene. Many Romanians were held hostage, but as situation deteriorated the crowds started to lynch them. The tank garrison that was stationed just outside Targu-Mures at that time, sent its tanks to the city center. But the tanks were welcomed with stones and sticks. In any other country, the Army and Police would have opened fire against the crowd, but in Romania, they did not.

By nightfall, several Romanians laid dead on the streets, some of the ethnic Hungarian protesters urinating on their dead bodies. These events were entirely filmed by a Norwegian film crew, barricaded on the roof of a hotel which had a view towards downtown. However, when the film was presented on CNN, it was stated that "Romanians are killing minority Hungarians", which created an international outrage.

The next day, the entire Special Operations (Parachutist) battalion from Campia Turzii Air Force Base arrived in the city, re-establishing order. No ethnic Hungarians were arrested, and furthermore, some of the organizers of those terrorist acts are today in the Romanian parliament, as members of the Hungarian Rights faction.

Several Romanians were killed, and another one, severely injured in the "events", was sent to Germany for treatment. He also died three years later. He was also featured on foreign television broadcasts as being an "ethnic Hungarian" which was paralized and then died from the injuries.

CNN never corrected its mistake.

The june 1990 miners attack

Just 6 months from the Revolution and 3 months after Targu Mures, yet another clashing took place in a major urban area. Unlike the previous one 3 months before, sources state the june miners attack might have been organized by Romanian elements trying (and succeeding) to topple the government.

The paratroopers from the 64th Special Operations battalion in Titu-Boteni were called upon again. Tens of thousands of miners came to Bucharest, in their words to support at that time President Ion Iliescu.

However their unwanted "intervention" brought chaos on the streets and the savage beating of anyone who looked like an intelectual. People with glasses, in suits and so on were beaten to death, as stores, buildings and parks were also devastated. Several students have been killed, others have been severely injured, regardless of their age or gender. The miners suggested they intend to take control of the television tower and lynch all the employees inside.

It was at that time when the 64th had arrived, restoring order in Bucharest for the second time in less than a year.

Maintaining constitutional status quo was, among search and rescue, humanitarian and peace-keeping missions, one of the attributies of that battalion in peace time.

The Gulf War

Not many people know, but it was Romania who gave the go-ahead for the 1991 Gulf War.

Unfortunately not stated in mainstream media, is the fact that in 1991 Romania was the president of the UN Security Council, and thus the only country which could approve or reject a possible invasion of Iraq. Considering the international situation, the invasion of its smaller neighbor, Kuwait, and the fact that the agressor did not want to recall its troops within its own borders, Romania approved Operation Desert Storm.

Also, Romania participated to the operations in the Gulf with plenty of forces, starting with MASH and scouting units and continuing with liason officers and an entire Special Operations battalion. The 56th Special Missions battalion from Caracal was dislocated to Saudi Arabia and put on disposal there for the Allied forces, should they need it. Remarcably, most of the members of the 56th battalion were conscripts. However, the war went much better than anyone had anticipated, so they were never needed for actual combat.

The "special troops", as they were known locally, were very famous in Romania during the 1990's. Their training resembled the one of the Navy SEALs or the Green Berets. They were well trained in the fields of martial arts, hand-to-hand combat, hostage rescue, observation, intractions, extractions, ambush and many other skills specific to special operations forces.

It therefore comes at no surprize that the Paratrooper Command had the apparently insane 'guts' to send conscripts to a war theatre. They were well prepared.



A Romanian Paratrooper jumping, equipped with gear identical
to the one owned by the 56h Special Missions battalion in their deployment to the Gulf in 1991.
Somalia

The US forces suffered a heavy defeat in Somalia, while attempting to capture a local warlord. Douzens well-equiped soldiers died at the hand of the local farmers, which came in all ages and in a large number. After the event, the US requested an international stabilization mission there. Romania responded by sending the 56th Special Missions battalion, as well as a MASH unit (about 150 doctors plus support crew). That MASH unit also included female doctors, and stories from one of them are available in some Romanian women's magazines.

At the moment when this article was written, commander of the now renamed 56th Paratrooper battalion was colonel Sorin Dediu, while Chief of Operations for international deployments was Major-General Sorin Ioan.

Note: the 56th Para battalion is now disbanded.

Kosovo

Romania is one of the largest contributors to international peace-keeping missions.

May they be in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Angola, Ethiopia, Eritreea, Congo, Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, may they be under the command of the United Nations, NATO, Partnership for Peace or the European Union, Romania is always present with a large variety of forces.

The Paratroopers did not get the chance to perform a large number of peace-keeping missions, as their type of force and their skills are usually needed for other kind of operations. However, even if these well-trained soldiers would probably be better fit for combat rather than peace-keeping, the Romanian Paratroopers also participated in various peace-keeping missions. However, peace keeping operations have always meant platoon and detachment sized units for the Para's.

Usually at a sub-unit level, the Romanian Paratroopers were also present in Kosovo, where their missions were patrolling, building a connection with the local population, observing as well as neutralizing the large number of criminal organizations which were stealing the food and medicines sent by the UN, or asking the locals for a so-called "protection fee".

The detachment- and platoon- sized force soon won the respect and admiration of the other peace-keepers, which first looked at them with a certain uncertainty and even a slight feeling of superiority.

Because they were from a neighboring country, Romania, the way to solve problems, mentality and lifestyle were closer to the ones in the Balkans compared to peace keepers from other countries. The Romanian paratroopers were well received by the locals and built a close connection with them very easily. The Serbian population in particular have asked for the protection of the Romanian forces, as trust in other countries was low soon after the war.



Romanian Paratroopers preparing for deployment to Kosovo, just before the RoAF C-130 flight to that provence


One of them was even intervied by Belgium's "Military Channel", a TV station that emits news, stories and documentaries about the Armed Forces a few hours a week.

"I have only 157 jumps as of now, but I am still very young. I have collegues in my unit that have 200, 300, 500 and even 1,000 jumps", he stated.

"Our mission here is to build a connection with the locals and ensure them that we are here to help, not to destroy. We came as friends, not as agressors", he continued.

The peace-keepers are usually perceived as invaders or even traitors. American, British, German and French troops were not well received, because the Serbs viewed them as invaders, while the Albanians viewed them as traitors of their cause.

Therefore is was better to send Eastern European forces, such as Romanian and Polish ones, together with peace-keepers from other Balkan nations, such as Bulgaria, to attempt to build a relationship with them.



Romanian Paratroopers planning a mission in Kosovo

The paratroopers sent to Kosovo were platoon and detachment sized forces
 

For usage during combat operations, the Paratroopers, as well as the Scouting formations, rely on the 100% Romanian concept, designed and manufactured Hamster vehicle.

The Hamster all-terrain vehicle can be employed in swamps, forrests or unpaved roads and can function in extreme temperature differences, weather in the desert, in winter or in rain.

The Hamster 3.2 vehicle can also be parachutted from an An-26 or a C-130 Hercules plane.

The King of Jordan tested this vehicle in desert conditions when he was in charge of the Jordanian Special Forces, and Hamster was also employed and presented to various exercises in the United States, Island, etc.

Most jumps take place from An-26 and C-130 aircraft; however a fleet of An-2 aircraft also exists, located at Boboc air force base. The 203rd squadron located there now incorporates a douzen or so aircraft which used to comprise small detachments in several air force bases in the 1990's.

The Antonov An-2, a remarcable Soviet design, first flew in 1946. Almost sixty years after that moment, thousands of such aircraft are still widely employed around the world, from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary to Germany, Australia and even the United States.

Romanian Paratroopers usually jump from An-2, An-26 and C-130 Hercules aircraft, although at international exercises they are known to have jumped from C-160 Transall, C-160G Gabriel, CASA C-295 or Fokker aircraft. Until the late nineties, Romania also operated a squadron of An-24 aircraft.

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For combat operations however, the paratroopers are deployed with the Romanian Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft.

Nine years after its first acquisition, Romania remains the only country in the former Eastern Bloc to operate such an aircraft.

Its fleet of 4 aircraft was enlarged in january 2004 with a 5th C-130.

Romania plans to expand its C-130 squadron to anywhere between 9 and 12 aircraft by 2012.

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Romanian C-130 Hercules tail 6166 preparing for deployment to Afghanistan

But that's not the only reason that makes Romania's C-130 Hercules fleet unique. Because Romania was on Allied side in World War II, and because after the war it was drafted without its will into Soviet influence for 45 years, Romanian Air Force aircraft have never actually crossed the Atlantic.

That changed however, when in october 2002, a Romanian C-130 Hercules crossed the Atlantic on its way towards United States, where an international conference of Hercules operators around the world was taking part.

Celebrating 50 years since the project has started, the C-130 Hercules is currently in service in dozens of countries, and more have already opted for using it in the future.

And so, the first Romanian Air Force crossing of the Atlantic, a 10,000 kilometers road from Romania to USA coincided with the anniversary for the extraordinary Hercules.