1st Special Forces Regiment, Special Forces Group, Commando Military Unit
Let’s start from history.
The history of special units formed in Poland after the Second World War goes back to the year 1951 when the first two subunits were formed in Sztum and Opole. Main tasks were UW (focused on sabotage and subversion), DA and SR. According to Warsaw Pact standards their identity was hidden under term of Reconnaissance Unit and all activity was described as Special Reconnaissance.
In 1954 19th Independent Reconnaissance Battalion was formed. Among subunits consisted of the conscripts fully professional teams were concealed. In 1961 as a consequence of intelligence work conducted by NATO special service, the battalion name was changed into the airborne battalion.
At the same time in 1961 26th reconnaissance battalion was formed in Krakow. Three years later the battalion was relocated to a small town of Dziwnów at the Baltic and was renamed 1st Assault Battalion. Later unit was moved to Lubliniec in Silesia district.
The battalion activity was described as special operations in strategic and operational areas of interest of the Commander–in-chief of the Polish Armed Forces. The emphasis was put on missions conducted in urban area, both enemy and homeland. This approach paid back when such operations were ordered and successfully conducted by the unit.
On 15 August 1993 the 1st Assault Battalion was transformed into 1st Special Forces Regiment (1 PSK).
It was assumed that SF teams would operate “separately and in complete isolation from their own troops, in the area controlled by the enemy troops or in the enemy’s rear with his quantitative and technical superiority.”
In 1995 1st SFR was given the distinctive name of “Commando” and adopted traditions of special units operating during the Second World War. PSK was common acronym describing the regiment.
(Every subunit has a different patron: SOTG A- Polish Independent Special Battalion and 1st Assault Battalion, B- 1st Independent Polish “Commando” Company, 2nd Special Motorized Battalion and 62nd Special Company, C- Polish Home Army Battalion “Parasol”; HQ Support Squadron- Polish Home Army “Zośka” Sabotage Battalion.)
Due to situation in the country first, still limited contacts with the western units started in 1994.
In 2001 the 1st Regiment sent its first independent contingent to mission in Macedonia. Team was responsible, among other things, for the protection of international observers and VIPs, surveillance, assigning and securing LZs for rotary wings aircraft and stayed in readiness to conduct hostage rescue operations.
In 2005 element from the PSK conducted wide spectrum of tasks to provide security for polish contingent deployed to Pakistan as part of the after earthquake “Swift Relief” operation. Team was responsible for polish forces, VIPs visiting contingent AOR, and cooperated closely with NATO and Pakistani security forces.
Next year PSK supported another polish military involvement, in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Irak operation was significant engagement for the unit. First squadron size element from Lubliniec was sent there as a part of polish led Multinational Division Central-South. It was demanding challenge both for SF operators, their leaders and conventional commanders serving for big structures, which were not prepared for dealing with unconventional subunit trained mostly to conduct irregular warfare.
First deployment in 2003 passed on establishing contacts with other NATO SOF elements subordinated to combined, joint SOF command and showing to conventional commander’s unique capabilities and assuring them, that more independence in some situations means more effects. Conducted SR missions and highly effective combined raids complemented PSD tasks most often ordered to PSK teams. Another issue was equipment issued to the operators, which effected with interesting modernisations and plenty of headache making requests sent via logistic channel.
During next deployments training and tactical cooperation between PSK SF and Iraqi elite security forces gave new potential for the Division.
In 2006 MD C-S mission changed its profile to assistance and advisory, what also influenced SF team still subordinated to this conventional unit. Despite previous hundreds of DA, SR and UW missions conducted unilaterally and with NATO or Iraqi forces, dozen commandos were ordered to focus on PSD for the commanders and VIPs. One year later situation in the Iraq dramatically changed, what caused reinforcement and gave more freedom in conducting offensive operations. After short time SOTF subordinated to division CG was created. TF was to conduct independent operations in polish AOR and provide Military Training Team for Iraqi SOF. In July 2008 polish conventional contingent finished its activity in Iraq, three months later PSK element also returned to Poland.
Another place where PSK operated was Afghanistan. In 2004 responsibility for security of polish contingent in Bagram Base was took over from GROM unit and PSK SF team continued providing base security, convoy operations and randomly VIPs PSD. One year later those tasks were hand over to conventional element.
PSK returned to Afghanistan in 2006, when one SOTU was tasked with PSD duties for Polish and American generals, who assisted and advised Afghani government officials. Polish commandos were responsible also for the protection of military and civilian VIPs from different countries including the US v-ce President and the President of Afghanistan. Highly valued professionalism of the operators was awarded with high military decorations by NATO representatives.
Next order sent PSK soldiers to Mazar-e-Sharif, when they conducted HUMINT operations, cooperated with the local authorities supporting Afghan security forces and led “hearts and minds campaign.”
In 2007 Regiment was ordered to send one SF team as a reconnaissance element for Polish Battle Group operating in Paktika province. With main focus on HUMINT activity in Paktika, team supported many direct actions conducted by Afghan forces and conducted PSD duties in different locations in Afghanistan. This mission took one year.
Directly after that PSK deployed numbers of soldiers as a part of TF 49, polish SOF Task Force operating in Kandahar province. Their most important task was to improve combat capabilities of Afghan Security Forces. The second priority was to disrupt rebel forces logistics and fight against their “safe-havens.”
The commandos were also to collect Intel from their AOR. The last task was to conduct “hearts and minds campaigns”. In February 2009 they returned to Poland. A year later, soldiers from the Regiment deployed to Afghanistan again to form an independent ISAF SOF TF 50 operating in Ghazni province.
From the very beginning they conducted SR, DA, VIP PSD. However, their main task was to train Afghan police to be able to carry out the tasks independently.
First big success for this deployment was input in creating all country system of SWAT type police units, PRCs (Provincial Response Company).
For almost two years TF 50 partnered also ANSF (Afghani National Security Forces) in Paktika province. Main focus was to train PRC and coordinate cooperation among other local security forces, what led also to training NDS (National Directorate of Security) strike force- Wakunish.
Focused on creating, training and advising their Afghani Partnering Units, TF 50 achieved many significant successes including detention of numerous JPEL targets, elimination of many enemy fighters, reduction of dozens of tons of the explosives materials and loads of different weapon. Other operations included highly complicated Hostage Rescue Missions conducted in Paktika province, when PSK team on request of Afghani officials and US Battle Space Owner, gained unique experiences fighting inside the complicated buildings against hostage takers wearing suicide vests. Both operations led to rescue all of the hostages and elimination of all terrorists.
Symbolic appreciation of their professionalism was Meritorious Service Medal awarded to one of the TF 50 commanders, who was the first Polish soldier who received such a distinction.
PSK among other polish SOF units got subordinated to POL SOFCOM, which was established in 2008. Shortly after units name was changed to Jednostka Wojskowa Komandosow (JWK).
Today unit’s structure consists of staff, three combat squadrons, C2 support squadron, logistic squadron and training branch. Every SF team in the squadron has different specialisation: MFF, mountains, scuba, combat support.
Unit is appointed to conduct of the full spectrum of SpecOps in versatile environment, during peacetime, crisis and wartime. Operations can be conducted independently and as a part of joint and combined structure.
The oldest Polish SOF unit encountered many problems throughout long years of its existence and only the hard work of the soldiers, their commitment and stubbornness let built current character of the unit visible in modern system of international SOF community.