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Batalionul 610 Operatii Speciale "Vulturii"
- 610th Special Operations battalion -

Batalionul 1 Operatii Speciale Vulturii patch

"The Eagles"

The Romanian Armed Forces already had several special operations forces which belonged to different branches of the military. After a study which spanned several years, a decision was taken in 2003 to keep some of them in the future, but disband other and establish an integrated special forces battalion which will have a response time of 72 hours, similar to Delta Force, SEAL DEVGRU or the 22nd SAS Sabre squadrons.

The new battalion represents the main SOF unit of the military and members of the unit have been involved in combat and assistance operations abroad since 2005.

US Equivalents:
Army Special Forces

History
Characteristics
Admission
Training
Weapons
Order of Battle
Exercises
Operations
Stories

History

The real story begins in the 1990s, when after the fall of the communist regime, some commanders in the armed forces pushed forward the idea of creating a new, integrated special operations unit, which would become the country's most elite unit and comprise of the best men in the military. At the same time, others wanted to keep the existing order of battle. At that time, the Mountain, Airborne, Marine and Diving structures each had several SOF capable units, ranging from detachment to battalion size.

In the end, the only country in the former Eastern Bloc to adopt the integrated unit model was Poland, but the creation of its GROM or Thunder unit meant the disbandment of all the Scouting structures. However Poland remained alone in its choise and the other former Eastern Bloc countries kept and modernised their scouting units, while at the same time postponing the dream to create an integrated, cross-branch SOF unit.

In the late 1990s, the idea of a single, above-all unit resurfaced, but its advocates became less noisy after DSPI, an elite detachment composed mostly of world champions, grew in size and importance. Being a secret unit, few knew about DIR so most people assumed the Romanian military has no special forces at all, and the matter was dropped again.

Two major events would bring the old ideas back to life. One was the certain NATO membership which at that time was expected to become a reality within the next 2 years. The other was September 11th.

There were talks in the Defence Ministry and the Armed Forces around the year 2000, about what to do with Romanian's Special Operations Forces. Several ideas surfaced, but two main currents would distinguish themselves from the rest: one was to disband all the current SOF components that were present in the year 2000 and make a single fully-integrated structure, and the other one was to continue with the existing order of battle.

In the year 2000, Romania had at least six Scouting battalions, at least 6 airborne special operations battalions, one marine battalion, one combat divers company and one special operations company.

In the end, the specialists decided to take a hibrid solution. One SOF structure was created in each one of the three major branches. Namely, the integrated special forces battalion was created within the Ground Forces, one small CSAR detachment was created in the Air Force and the existing combat divers detachment was improved and expanded, becoming today's GNFOS.

In Romania the term "Army" refers to the entire armed forces, so the term "Ground Forces" is used to describe units active mainly on hard ground.

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Battalion commander during the ceremony

Targu Mures, 17 october 2006

Thus, three out of six airborne special operations battalions were re-named "paratrooper battalions" and three remained "special operations". A few years after that, two of them were renamed "paratrooper" as well but retained one SOF company. By 2005, four out of the six para battalions no longer existed. The 56th Para bn in Caracal-Deveselu, 64th Para bn from Titu-Boteni and the battalion from Campia Turzii were disbanded, while the 495th SOF bn in Bucuresti-Clinceni was redesignated as a common infantry battalion.

The scouting section was next to be reorganized. The 101st in Roman, 119th in Oradea, 121st in Craiova, 169th in Timisoara, 185th in Constanta, as well as the 117th and the 422nd Scouting battalions were disbanded. Added to those, the famous 404th Scouting Center (previously independent battalion) became today's HumInt battalion and no longer retains combat capabilities. Thus, no less than 8 scouting battalions have been disbanded as well, two of them being elite units (119th and 404th) with a long list of international exercises in their logbook. The last commander from 119th, col. Constantin Stiop was later to become the Eagle battalion's first commander.

The Marine battalion remained an elite unit, however the rest of the former Marine Regiment is now disbanded and the subunits which remained are incorporated into the 34th Light Infantry Brigade.

The special operations company from the former 30th Guard Brigade "Mihai Viteazul" was transfered from the 30th Guard Brigade "Mihai Viteazul" to the same J-2 that used to control the ex-404th scouting center and was later downsized back to a detachment. After this movement, the 30th Guard Brig. lost one of its three battalions and was downsized to the nowadays 30th Guard regiment "Mihai Viteazul". The detachment today is called DSPI and its under the command of the Military Intelligence Brigade.

...and finally, no less than four out of the six Mountain brigades were completely disbanded, reducing the Mountain Hunter combatants number in the military by a staggering figure of 10,000 troops.

The Special Operations Command

The Special Operations Command was created on October 14th, 2005, and was intended to represent the 4th major branch of the Romanian Armed Forces. More than eight decades after the modern Romanian military was organized into three major branches, Ground Forces, Air Force and Navy, the dream to create a fourth major branch was closer than ever. The Special Operations Command was intended to function on a similar way with its correspondent structure from the US Army, after which it was modeled. The personnel was planned to have its own logistics and support capabilities, its own salary grill and will use its own facilities, which would be closed for any other branches.

The Special Operations Command was supposed to comprise of the Special Forces battalion, subject of this article, DSPI, an elite counter-terrorist detachment composed at the time mostly of world champions, and PSY OPS. Added to those, logistics, signals and medical structures would be incorporated as well.

However the Special Operations Command remained only a dream, as a clear law for its existance was never passed by the Parliament. Almost a decade later, the Ground Forces have their own Special Operations Brigade but no exclusive signals, artillery, aviation and medical facilities, making the structure significantly different than its much larger American counterparts.

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Typical Eagles battalion operator in the Romanian countryside

The end of all disbandments

Almost a decade later, the massive disbandment process has ended and the road paved for the new integrated special forces battalion.

Basically, 4 Para (former SOF) battalions, 8 Scouting battalions (2 of them independent), 4 scouting companies (for each Mountain brigade), one CT company and no less than 16 Mountain battalions have been disbanded and replaced by a single SF battalion.

This massive, almost unprecedented disbandment process paved the way for the creation of the military's largest and most experienced special operations unit, the 610th Special Operations battalion "Eagles".

Batalionul 1 Operatii Speciale "Vulturii", or the 1st Special Operations Battalion "Eagles" received its combat flag according to Presidential Decret no. 1011 from 25 july 2006. The combat flag was handed to battalion commander, col. Constantin Stiop, by President Traian Basescu during a ceremony on 17 october 2006, at the unit headquarters at UM 01010 in Targu Mures. Also present at the ceremony were the new General Chief of Staff Vice-Admiral dr. Gheorghe Marin, general-lt Sorin Ioan, Corneliu Dobritoiu, MoD secretary of state for defense policy and planification, and Targu Mures mayor Dorin Florea.

General-lt Sorin Ioan, at that time commander in chief of the Ground Forces, can be called the "father" of this battalion. Viceadmiral dr. Gheorghe Marin had been very recently appointed after the dismissal of the former general chief of staff, general Badalan. Secretary of state Corneliu Dobritoiu was a somewhat mysterious presence, one of his very few public appearances at the time. He graduated the US Ranger course and was to become defense minister 6 years later. Battalion commander, col. Constantin Stiop, was the former commander of the 119th Scouting battalion in Oradea, now disbanded. The 119th was a spearhead of the Romanian scouting community and had participated in a large number of international exercises prior to its disbandment.

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Col. Constantin Stiop receives the combat flag of the 1st Special Operations Battalion "Eagles" from President Traian Basescu

Targu Mures, 17 october 2006

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Characteristics

The battalion has an estimated strength of 500 men and incorporates several modules, including but not limited to a mountain module and an airborne module.

Another module is modeled after the US Army Special Forces, commonly known as the Green Berets. Dozens of Romanian soldiers have attended and successfully graduated the US Army SF selection process, in its entirety, and they, together with several SF advisors, have been conducting a selection process in Romania to increase the number of members for that module. The US SF officers are rotated every 6 months during their stay in Romania. A colonel in the US SF stated: "I am extremely priviledged, [... pause ...] let me repeat that, extremely priviledged, to have worked with the Romanian Special Forces, and I am very confident in their skills and capabilities".

By 2006 the first company was declared operational and by 2007 the battalion was complete. Operators however have been detached to war theatres for combat operations since as early as 2005.

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Eagle rappelling into a building. First time we can see this exercise being performed through narrow windows, out of which only the middle section is opened.
17 october 2006

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Admission

The selection process for the battalion started in 2003. For the first batch, soldiers which had just returned from duty tours in Afghanistan and Iraq were allowed to attend. After the pre-selection, which had an initial pool of 1,500 men, only 400 were selected to attend the true selection process. Out of those 400, 220 remained after the first phase, and only 20 have graduated. Thus, the first batch, even though comprising of a pool of older troops with combat experience, had a failure rate of 95% during the selection process, and 98.7% total failure rate (including preselection). Such a high failure rate is encountered in Tier 1 units across the world, such as Delta Force.

But the US Army Special Forces were not the only advisors which helped create this battalion. At least three other countries are known to have participated with instructors and expertise. Israel, which always had close ties with Romania, sent instructors and advisors throughout the selection process of all the batches. Turkish Special Forces also sent instructors, as it is known that the Romanian and Turkish elite units have been holding common exercises on a yearly basis in the past decade or more. British Special Forces are also known to have helped, with instructors, advisers and expertise. Other countries' contribution is rumoured to exist, but has never been confirmed.

Vulturii selection

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cold water immersion during the selection process

Two Romanian SF officers were sent to the US to study at various military institutes and gather expertise. Each one of them has obtained a master's degree in studying Special Forces methods, characteristics and capabilities in the 21st century. They received their master's degree in the US, according to American standars.

Several other RoSOF personnel benefitted from slots in foreign specops training processes. As such, several graduates of US Army Special Forces (Green Berets), US Army Rangers, US Army Delta Force, US Marine Force Recon and apparently British SAS are now full time members of the Eagles battalion.

The first batch of recruits suffered from a staggering 98.7 percent failure rate, while the next few batched were selected at a 95% failure rate. Roughly by the 5th batch, the failure rate "dropped" to 92% but was later found to climb back towards 95%.

Troops which have been to at least one tour of duty in a war threatre (Iraq or lately, Afghanistan) are favored for participating to the selection process. For the first batch, a few students from the Ground Forces Academy in Sibiu have participated amongst other volunteers. Nowadays, combatants from the airborne, mountain and marine units have the best chances of passing the selection course which spans 6 months. Some members of light infantry battalions with several tours in Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq or Afghanistan have found their way into the unit as well.

Admission is allowed only to professional soldiers, preferably with at least one operational deployment abroad. The unit does not recruit from civilians, however waivers have known to be given to experienced parachutists from private or civilian structures.

US instructors were heavily involved in the selection process, basically organizing it altogether for the first batch of graduates. US advisors remain in close contact with their Romanian counterparts and it is a common habbit to send Romanian operators to the US Army's Special Warfare Center and School, as well as to the Ranger course.

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Training

The training methods of the battalion are obviously classified.

Judging from video sequences and interviews, it can be said however that the battalion trains on all possible terrain and for a large variety of missions. Direct action, special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, intelligence gathering, hostage rescuing, sabotage, airborne insertion, intractions, extractions, close protection, as well as other operations are expected to be performed by this unit so the training is up to standards.

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Eagle rappelling into a building. First time we can see this exercise being performed through narrow windows, out of which only the middle section is opened.
17 october 2006

The country has a variety of terrain and climate. Except jungle, every other terrain can be simulated there. Mountaineous regions pose a challenge for climbers, some climbing tracks being rated at 10 or 10++ (nowadays called 11), which is the maximum difficulty level. During winter, in some mountaineous depressions temperatures can drop to -30 degrees Celsius and when you add the 60-100 km/h wind you can almost simulate an arctic region.

Four seasons provide for all sorts of environment and needs for various camouflage colors. Drought and heat happen mostly in august, when temperatures in the south of the country will topple 40 degrees Celsius. After 2005 drought became omnipresent in summer and you can have 2 months with little or no rain in some regions. The same regions have started to resemble desert areas, with no water, high temperatures and a lot of sands. Autumn provides for a cool and windy atmosphere, winters are cold between january and february and springs are usually rainy, making you feel you're in Ireland.

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Eagles training in Transylvania's woods during autumn

Since many of the members of this unit have completed selection courses and training sessions abroad, they have also participated to training sessions in various circumstances which could not have been emulated on national soil. As such, the men which have undertaken the SF courses have been to jungle environments, while others have been close to the arctic region, etc.

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Weapons

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Eagles training in Transylvania's woods during autumn

There is little information available regarding the weapons employed by the battalion.

Members of the battalion have been known to employ the M-4 Call Commander 5.56mm assault rifle, which is used in the US and UK as the primary weapon of choise for special forces.

However, the battalion's favorite assault weapon is the German-made G-36. Several variants are employed, such as the G-36K or the shorter barrel G-36C.

In a smaller number, the UMP is also employed.

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General major Sorin Ioan, at that time chief of staff of Ground Forces (right), showing some of the weapons of the 1st bn Eagles to Corneliu Dobritoiu, state secretary for planning and defense policy (left) - 2006

In 2012 Corneliu Dobritoiu became defense minister while (now) General-lietenant Sorin Ioan became commander of the Ground Forces (the term "Army" in Romania refers to all branches)

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Eagles training at their headquarters

After the first serious batch of imported assault rifles, the military continued ordering smaller batches of various models . Such came the Steyr AUG, which in its longer barrel version could be seen in Eagles public videos after 2010. The battalion also employes Sig 551 assault rifles and an array of pistols, including Glock 17, Glock 19 and the Sig Sauer P226.

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Eagles

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Eagles during a demonstration at their headquarters

The Eagles also used brand new Humvee's, at least 8 of were already in the arsenal of the battalion by the end of 2006. By 2012 the unit employes more than a dozen HMMWV M1113 and armoured HMMWV M1114 with 50 caliber submachineguns (12.7mm NATO standard). A smaller number of URO Vamtac vehicles are also employed.

In 2006 Romania ordered 16 Humvee's, number which was later increased to 24. Not all of the vehicles were delivered to this unit, 8 arriving to the Eagles battalion, 8 at the Humint battalion and 8 at the 265th MP battalion in Bucharest.

Officially it has been stated that the Humvee's would only be used in the interior of military camps during deployments abroad, however fitting them with high calibre machineguns would seem to suggest otherwise. It has been rumoured that some military commanders are unhappy with the idea of sending Romanian troops to combat in Humvee's, knowing they are so lightly armoured. In threatres of operations such as Iraq and Afghanistan, the US soldiers have constantly been under attack from insurgents and hundreds have died due to lack of proper armour protection. On the other hand, the Romanians were seldom attack while patroling in their Romanian-made APC's (TAB C-79 and B-33 Zimbru). Those APC's weight 3 times more than an armoured Humvee and pack a 12.7mm and 14.5mm automatic cannons respectively. Furthermore, those cannons are within a turret, thus leaving no one outside in order to operate it.

On the other side of the debate, newer, improved Humvee models can be armoured up to level 5 STANAG compared to level 3 of an older Romanian 8x8 or 4x4 APC. Today, SOF operators use armoured Humvees in Afghanistan exclusively.

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Order of Battle

While preparing for its creation, two Romanian MoD specialists were sent to Fort Bragg and other locations in the US to study the organization and training methods of the US Army. They produced a master's degree in which they recommended, between other things, that the Special Forces battalion should have anywhere between 3 and 5 locations. By 2006 speculation was that one of them would be in Buzau, a place well known for harboring elite units across the decades.

Buzau was the place where the Paratroopers were re-established in the 1960s after being disbanded by the Soviets at the end of World War II. The military basis there have included across the decades a Paratrooper school, a battalion, later a regiment and even an airborne brigade, a special reconaissance battalion and later a reconaissance center. All the clues pointed to Buzau as at least one of those locations, if not indeed the main one.

Other centers could have been the port city of Constanta and its combat divers facilities, or a military base in Domnesti, near Bucharest, where the ground and air forces had long established training facilities, shooting ranges and have bases paratrooper and CT units as well.

Amazingly, the headquarters of the battalion is located in Targu Mures, a county residence in central Romania. The location is that of a former armoured brigade, at the outskirts of the city.

Rumours regarding the existance of an elite unit in that location have been around since at least 2003. Some would talk about an SF battalion, others about a new scouting company. Speculations also included a new paratroopers battalion, a NATO sf unit and a light infantry battalion.

The battalion's PR was counterdicting itself as well, inviting the press in what they described as a "paratroopers" battalion, a year later the press was informed regarding the elite NATO unit while a few years back they have been assured about the existance of a light infantry unit. Reporters asked themselves why is the designation and purpose of the unit changing every year and have asked access into the base but were refused.

One of the most interesting rumours going back and forth in the early 2000s was that the former tank unit will be disbanded and transformed into a prison. Some people would swear they have already attended interviews and got hired at the future prison, while promising work will start soon to transform the former barracks into prison cells. It really is amazing how a few people, backed off or not by a few official counterdicting statements, can create such a mist of misinformation.

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Eagles at their headquarters in Targu Mures

The location was secret until a press release from the US Embassy in january 2006 has sparkled an outright scandal. The document stated that a visit from the US General Chief of Staff will visit two military locations in Romania during the next few days: the 1st CIMIC battalion in Bucharest, and the Special Forces battalion in Targu Mures. The press was quick to react, and within a matter of hours, dozens of articles were published, in all the major newspapers, online publications, as well as news statements. The Romanian Defense Ministry, as well as the Government have both denied such a unit exists there, until they were shown the print of the Embassy's official statement. After reading it, the baffled and visibly annoyed officials stated no comment and quickly rushed out of the ad-hoc press conference which came to life on the corridors of the Defense Ministry.

The Romanian authorities have asked for an explanation from the US Embassy, as well as the US Government, but no explanation was offered. That evening, the US Ambassador was summoned to the office of President Traian Basescu.

It is of no apparent reason why the US has done such a "mistake", as it is well known the act was done on purpose. It is even more curious to watch the reaction of the delayed Romanian officials, which were publishing statement after statement "confirming" there is no SF unit in the location even 2 weeks after the first articles were published.

Half a year later, the MoD has finally admitted the existance of the 1st SF battalion Eagles, with its headquarters at UM 01010 in Targu Mures. Prior to that, several incidents happened on the Internet, where military webmasters have deleted topics and banned users which brought to discussion the name, location and/or any other information about the unit.

It had then became clear that there is indeed an elite unit in the respective base, that the unit is a special forces one and its name was Batalion 1 Operatii Speciale "Vulturii" or the 1st Special Operations Battalion "Eagles".

Getting back to the HQ in Targu Mures, the site has started to suffer improvements a few years prior to the misfortunate press event. Each year, 6 or more buildings have been completely refurbished, and the conscripts which once guarded the HQ of the armoured brigade from wooden towers have been replaced with high resolution cameras, each with at least 4 different sensors. New towers and facilities appear to have been built there, while dozens of T-54, T-55 tanks, TAB-71 APCs and well over 120 pieces of 120mm mortars have been taken away, by train or by truck. The refurbishments ended however by 2008 when the world financial crisis hit the Romanian military quite hard and repainting buildings stopped being a priority.

IAR-330 Vulturii ceremony

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An Eagle rappelling from an IAR-330 Puma helicopter during the combat flag awarding ceremony

17 october 2006

Although the site of UM 01010 may seem inadequate at first sight, several new structures have been built for CQB training, while the old warehouses are being refurbished for an unknown future use. Access to press has been denied until 2010 despite dozens of requests, mostly from local newspaper.

But the order of battle story does not end there.

Regimentul 1 Operatii Speciale

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Regimentul 1 Operatii Speciale patch (2009-2011)

On the 1st of august 2009, the battalion was transformed into Regimentul 1 Operatii Speciale or the 1st Special Operations Regiment, adding one more chapter in the re-organization of SOF units for the Ground Forces. The Regiment was composed of the 1st Special Operations Battalion "Eagles" and two Paratrooper battalions as support, in context with recent SF/SOF changes around the world.

By that time, only two out of six Para battalions existed in the military, namely the 60th Paratroopers Battalion "Baneasa-Otopeni" located in Buzau and the 498th Paratroopers Battalion "Smaranda Braescu" located in Bacau.

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Brigada 6 Operatii Speciale - activation ceremony

Photo: Mures News, 25 october 2011

The regiment however was to be short lived. Soon after the structure was expanded once again.

In the 25th of october 2011 the 1st SOF regiment became the 6th Special Operations Brigade, creating a true special operations structure with capabilities to run as an independent unit.

Brigada 6 Operatii Speciale

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Brigada 6 Operatii Speciale - activation ceremony

(at the time) Defense Minister Gabriel Oprea handing the Brigade's battleflag to (at the time) General-major Adrian Ciolponea, Brigade commander

Photo: Mures News, 25 october 2011

The Brigade kept the SF battalion Eagles but renamed it the 610th due to the new brigade designation. The two Para battalions were also kept and a new logistic battalion was added. The designation of the brigade is the same as the one of the former tank brigade, the 6th Tank Brigade was one of the three tank brigades which existed in the country and was also the last of the three to be disbanded in the early 2000s. The 6th SOF Brigade hq is using its former location today. The structure of the Brigade is as follows:

Brigada 6 Operatii Speciale "Mihai Viteazul"
Batalionul 60 Parasutisti "Baneasa-Otopeni" (Buzau) Batalionul 610 Operatii Speciale "Vulturii" Batalionul 498 Parasutisti "Smaranda Braescu" (Bacau) Batalionul 640 Logistica

It was rumoured that the battalion might incorporate a few Delta Force type of detachments. That rumour however was never backed by any claims, clues or statements.

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Exercises

Since its creation as a recipient detachment in the early 2000s, the battalion has participated to national and international special operations exercises.

The unit participates to NATO Jackal Stone annual SF exercises, as well as to international exercises organized by the US military on US and German soil.

On a regular basis, various numbers of US Army SF operators are detached to the unit's headquarters in Targu Mures as well.

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Eagles at an exercise with US SOCOM instructors

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Eagles at an exercise with US SOCOM instructors

Since the battalion is built in the very image of the US Army SF, multiple annual exercises take place on a regular basis with their US counterparts. Some of them are on Romanian soil, other are in the US, Germany, Croatia and other partner countries.

Beside the reggular exercises with their US counterparts, the Eagles participate in an array of international exercises with NATO and PfP partner forces. International exercises with similar forces from Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, the Ukraine, Lithuania, Norway and other countries are a yearly occurance for the battalion.

RoSOF and Hungarian SOF medics

A Romanian SOF medic (left) and a Hungarian SOF medic (right) during an exercise with US counterparts

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Operations

In 2006, the first company of the battalion has become operational. However it is now known that members of the 1st SF bn have long been deployed to combat missions abroad, sometimes in small detachments as instructors, and most of the time as individuals incorporated into light infantry battalions. The latter tactic has also been used to deploy Mountain Hunters, Humint, Para's and Marines to real combat missions.

Afghanistan

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Eagles training the National Afghan Army

One of the first missions for the Eagles in Afghanistan was to train the local army in their fight against the Tablian.

Apparently, the Eagles' participation in the ANA Training program begun sometime in 2003, three years before the first company was officially declared operational.

By 2007, Romania was rotaring a 39-member SF detachment in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom, ISAF and ANA Training. It is unclear how many of the 39 operators were participating in each one of the three operations.

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Eagles training the National Afghan Army

The participation for the ANA (Afghan National Army) Training Program would probably continue beyond 2013.

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Eagles training the National Afghan Army

It has been admitted publicly in late 2006 that several of the KIA and injured troops in Afghanistan have been in fact members of the 1st bn Eagles.

On the night between the 19th and the 20th of june, 2006, a Romanian patrol was returning to base near Kandahar, in SE Afghanistan. The official story is that the first vehicle, a Romanian made TAB-C 79 hit a landmine and was heavily damaged. Wanting to rescue his team mates and also fearing an ambush, sgt-major Laurentiu Serban, which was in a Romanian made B-33 Zimbru armoured personnel carrier (APC) jumped out and ran towards the flaming TAB C 79. As such, he stepped on a landmine which severely injured his legs and other parts of the body.

It has to be reminded that there were several incidents prior to this when Romanian APCs have hit landmines in Afghanistan. Being upgrades of similar Russian design (BTR, BRDM), the Romanian indigenous TAB series have, surprisingly for some, survived all the previous hits. Although the mines were anti-tank, the Romanian APCs have been targetted in 3 explosions, all of which resulted in minor damages to the vehicles and little or no injuries to the men inside. The Talibans have tripled the explosive quantity for this latest of explosions, according to sources.

The incident ended with the death of cpl. Ionel Gheorghita Dragusanu (38, unknown unit), and the injury of the following: sgt-maj's Costinel Valerica Slaniceanu (28) and Laurentiu Serban (27), 2nd lt. Dinu Razvan Manoila (25), as well as platoon leader Iosif-Adrian Luca-Micu (37). At least the first three are confirmed members of the 1st SF bn Eagles.

The men were deployed within the 341st Light Infantry battalion "White Sharks" from Topraisar.

Valerica Slaniceanu Laurentiu Serban

Photo from Evenimentul Zilei newspaper

Sgt-major Costinel Valerica Slaniceanu and sgt-major Laurentiu Serban

Laurentiu Serban deocrated by the President

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Sgt-maj Laurentiu Serban being decorated by the President

According to sources, although severely injured and having lost at least one foot, sgt-maj Laurentiu Serban took care of his own injury (having his right leg blown off by the blast) and then tendered for his mates. When the US helicopters arrived, sgt-maj Serban made sure his team mates were the first to be transported back to the back. Serban was the last one to be picked by the helicopters.

When the battalion was officially awarded its combat flag, President Traian Basescu decorated sgt-maj Laurentiu Serban during the ceremony. Sgt-maj Slaniceanu could not be decorated at the same time due to the fact he was still in a medical facility in Germany.

Sgt-maj Laurentiu Serban is also a graduate of the US Army Ranger course.

Batalionul 1 Operatii Speciale Vulturii

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17 october 2006, UM 01010 Targu Mures, 1st SF bn Eagles HQ

After 2006 the SF detachments for Afghanistan constantly grew in size, and operators stopped being sent there embedded into infantry units. Since 2006 the operators are sent in small SF teams to operate with their US counterparts.

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2 Romanian and 1 US Special Forces operators in Afghanistan

capture from Realitatea TV documentary in 2010

The US and the Romanian Special Forces battalions are virtually the same. They have the same selection and training methods, same order of battle and some of the equipment is the same as well. US instructors were heavily involved in creating the Romanian unit from scratch. It makes all the sense in the world that the two types of units would go to combat together. One of the largest common deployments is taking place in Afghanistan, where Romania started to secretly send operators prior to 2006. In small numbers at first, the Romanian detachments grew from a few members to an ODA size and got to be at four ODAs by 2012.

Master Sgt Joe Dickinson was awarded the Robert T Frederick Award in August 2010. The Award is given to US and Canadian Special Forces operators who show a level of outstanding professionalism.

Master Sgt Joe Dickinson was the commander of an ODA in Afghanistan in that same year. His ODA was joined by a Romanian ODA and soon enough Sgt Dickinson found himself in command of 24 operators instead of 12.

"Working with the Romanians was an excellent set up; instead of 12 guys on an ODA, now you have 24 guys on a team", said sgt Dickinson. "There are some incredible Romanians who were with us. We were able to accomplish a lot by working with them in our area of operations", he continued.

Mixed US-Romanian SF teams have been operating in Afghanistan since the mid 2000s.

US and Romanian Special Forces

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Master Sgt Joe Dickinson (center), 1st battalion, 10th Special Forces Group with partner countries operators. A Romanian Eagles battalion operator can be seen at the left.

face not blurred / name given on source (Photo by: US EUCOM)

Another very interesting fact is the trust that the US partner has shown towards this unit. US Special Forces have worked with more than a dozen foreign SOF in combat theaters such as Iraq or Afghanistan. Even during the 1991 Gulf War, the Delta Force and the Navy SEALs have performed combat operations with the Polish GROM unit, so going to war with foreign SOF partners isn't something new.

What is new however is to send foreign operators embeded into US detachments to combat. Afghanistan was the start of that and roughly starting from 2008 that kind of order of battle is no longer a curiosity there. Initially, the Romanians were embedded into American ODAs, but as their numbers begun to grow, entire Romanian ODAs have been put under the command of a US lieutenant who found himself running a 24-person ODA instead of the regular 12-person one.

But then something amazing happened. For the first time since World War II, the US Special Forces have put their own operators under the direct command of foreign personnel, during combat missions.

By 2012, the only country to be allowed to directly command of US special operations unit in combat was Romania.

Such an example was the hybrid ODA which was bumped by the enemy on the morning of April 3rd, 2009 near Kabul. A mixed team of US and Romanian SF operators was under fire from a taliban group, during the exchange fire (at the time) lieutenant Tiberius Petre, 33, was shot and severely wounded by the enemy. A MEDEVAC helicopter managed to airlift him after the firefight and transport him to an emergency hospital in Kabul; however the officer deceased on the way.

Unbelievably, it was later reveal that (at the time) lieutenant Petre was the commander of the hybrid Romanian-American ODA, showing a very high level of trust that the US SOCOM display towards the Romanian 610th SF battalion.

After the incident in 2009, hybrid US-Romanian ODAs continue to perform combat operations in Afghanistan, usually under the command of a US SF lieutenant and sometimes, as it was found, under the command of a Romanian SF lieutenant.

Iraq

Romania has since 2003 a "special detachment" in Iraq. The detachment comprises of 56 men, grouped in a comand and analysis team, three intelligence teams, one mobile team, and two Shadow 600 UAVs. While the three intelligence teams might be Humint, the mobile team might be from the 1st bn Eagles. Sources have long stated that members of the 1st bn Eagles participated in combat operations in Iraq.

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Stories

One company of the battalion has now become operational (2006)

Vulturii Humvee

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Eagle on top of an armoured Humvee

17 october 2006

In october 2004, the 404th Scouting Center was transormed in the Humint battalion. The location in Buzau also houses the 2nd Joint Center of Operations (Centrul 2 Intrunit) which coordinates all the Romanian troops deployed anywhere in the world. The event was celebrated with a demonstration of tactical abilities, hostage rescuing, assault of a terrorist camp and others.

The battalion is now a reality, and it will become fully operational in 2007. However, the first company of the battalion has already become operational in 2006. Even prior to that event, small size detachments of the unit took part in combat operations in various parts of the world, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Special Forces battalion represents one of the best special operations unit in Romania. Thanks to its selection process, which has an extremely high failure rate, as well as to the multi-national cooperation which for the past 5 years has helped create this unit, the battalion could also be considered one of the best special operations units in the world.

Beginnings in Afghanistan

Who the hell are you ?

Rumour has it that during their first deployments to Afghanistan in the early 2000s, the high ranking military officials in Bucharest did not really know what to expect prior to their troop inspection on the war theatre. During one inspection, after shaking the hands of the infantry battalion's commander and other detachment commanders, one general found himself standing infront of a tall man with a thick beard who was wearing Afghan clothing. "Who the hell are you ?" asked the general, and the man replied promptly "I am the commanding officer of the special detachment".

Clean yourselves boys, it's inspection time. That's an order

Still during the first years, a would-be high ranking officer trying hard to impress his bosses in Bucharest heard about an incoming troop inspection. He ordered all Romanian troops in the threatre to clean up and shave completely, including the special detachment. The men conformed and after the officials' visit they had to wait for several weeks for their beards to grow again before they could get back on to their usual duties. You can guess the impression the senior rank made to his superiors after his inovative order.

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