By: Warren Gray

Copyright © 2023

“GROM remains Poland’s top special forces unit, and one of the world’s

best, as well…their training by Delta and the SAS propelled them to be

comparable to both forces. Continuously innovating tactics and training,

they remain ahead of the curve as an elite and specialized force.”

— Wes Martin, for Grey Dynamics, July 29, 2022.

The Republic of Poland, a member of the NATO military alliance since 1999, guards NATO’s eastern flank in Central Europe, bordering the heavily-militarized, Russian exclave region of Kaliningrad to the north, with the Russian Baltic Fleet, Russia’s staunch ally, Belarus, to the northeast, and war-torn Ukraine to the southeast. In the event of any Russian aggression against NATO, Poland will surely bear the brunt of the first wave. But due to Article 5 of the NATO charter, they will definitely not be alone.

The United States maintains a rotating military presence of approximately 10,000 troops there, including the permanent, U.S. Army Garrison–Poland (Camp Kosciuszko, or “Camp K”) in Poznań since March 2023, a missile-defense base in the far north, two U.S. Air Force detachments (one with MQ-9A Reaper Block 5 ER attack drones), and a large, paratrooper contingent of the 82nd Airborne Division at Mielec Airport, with 5,000 American troops, only 75 miles from the Ukrainian border.

Poland’s Special Troops Command (STC) in Kraków, in the southern region of the nation, founded in 2007, consists of more than 3,840 soldiers in five special forces units and one Special Operations Aviation Unit. These are designated as Jednostka Wojskowa (Military Units, or JW), followed by a unit name. JW GROM is the elite, counterterrorist unit, based in Warsaw and Gdańsk, while JW Komandosów, or JWK, from Lubliniec, is the Army Commando unit, similar to U.S. Army Rangers.

Next, JW Formoza, from Gdynia, is the naval special operations component, like U.S. Navy SEALs. JW AGAT, based in Gliwice, is a specialized, light, airborne/infantry assault unit, also similar to Army Rangers, and they graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger School. JW NIL, based in Kraków, is a special operations support group. Finally, the Special Operations Aviation Unit (SOAU) in Powidz, part of the Polish Air Force, is equipped with specialized helicopters to support the STC.

JW GROM, which stands for Grupa Reagowania Operacyjno-Manewrowego, or Operational Maneuvering Response Group (the Polish word Grom also means “thunderbolt”), was originally founded as JW2305 in July 1990, and was formed with initial training provided by the U.S. Army’s Delta Force and the British Army’s Special Air Service (SAS). GROM specializes in counterterrorism and special operations, as well as unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, sabotage, and subversion.

It has an estimated 250 men, deployed in four-man teams, and about 75 percent of them are trained as medics or paramedics,  so one of their nicknames is “The Surgeons,” which could also apply to executing hazardous, special operations missions with surgical precision. Their land element is based in Warsaw, and they have a maritime element in Gdańsk, on the Baltic Sea. GROM troops have extensive combat experience in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other world hot spots.

Since 2008, most of the Special Troops Command units, including GROM, wear MultiCam camouflage uniforms, or a local copy known as “Suez,” except for the JWK Army Commandos, who sometimes wear commercial, ATACS-pattern, camouflaged uniforms. GROM operators wear a light-gray beret in garrison, whereas JWK and JW AGAT soldiers wear dark-green berets, like the U.S. Army Special Forces.

JWK (also known as JW4101) commandos are thoroughly trained in special reconnaissance, unconventional warfare, direct action, personnel recovery, combat search-and-rescue, counterterrorism, hostage rescue, military support, close personal protection, foreign internal defense, mountain warfare, urban warfare, sniper warfare, and airborne operations. They’re organized into four commando squadrons, and a Special Forces Training Center. Many are graduates of the Special Operations Combat Medic Course at Fort Bragg (now Fort Liberty), North Carolina. The JWK unit structure and missions are similar to those of the U.S. Army Special Forces.

Polish JWK Army Commandos in Afghanistan. Photo credit: Reddit

JW AGAT carries out offensive tasks aimed at slowing down enemy forces, subversive operations, and operations behind enemy lines. Compared to the other STC units, AGAT is equipped with heavy weapons, such as heavy machine guns and anti-tank rocket launchers. The unit consists of three assault groups, support teams, and a medical group, and they also have considerable combat experience in Afghanistan and Iraq.

JW Formoza is the naval commando element of the STC, based in Gdynia, and tasked with marine sabotage, personnel recovery, and emergency evacuation by sea. These are Poland’s Navy SEALs, wearing black berets in garrison, organized into six special operations sections.

JW Formoza naval commandos in action. Photo via JW Formoza (JWF)

JW NIL is a special operations support unit, including a logistics security team, an information support team, and a medical security group.

Finally, SOAU, formerly the 7th Special Operations Squadron, based in Powidz, provides aviation support to the STC, equipped with four Mi-17TU Hip-H and four Mi-17-1W attack helicopters, and four Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawks since December 2019, with four more on order. The Polish-manufactured (under license) Black Hawks are painted matte black, inspired by the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

Polish SOAU S-70i Black Hawk special operations helicopter. Photo credit: Polish Ministry of National Defense

Each of these specialized Black Hawks cost $20 million, including upgrades to add various special operations sensors and equipment. They’re each armed with two Garwood Industries M134G 7.62mm Gatling guns, and two FN M3M (GAU-21/A) .50-caliber, heavy machine guns.

Polish SOAU S-70i Black Hawk special operations helicopter. Photo credit:

Now, let’s examine the weapons and equipment of the Polish Special Forces:

Pistols: The H&K USP9 (some fitted with suppressors) is the standard, service handgun in 9x19mm for GROM, JWK, and NIL, although JWK, NIL, and AGAT also use the Glock-17 Gen. 3. GROM prefers the FN Five-seveN pistol in 5.7x28mm for close protection missions, while JW Formoza uses the SIG P226, which was formerly the standard handgun of U.S. Navy SEALs (recently replaced in SEAL units by the Glock-19).

Assault carbines: The HK416A5 carbine in 5.56x45mm, with either an 11-inch or 14.5-inch barrel, is the preferred weapon for GROM, JWK, AGAT, and NIL. Some are equipped with H&K 40mm grenade launchers. JW Formoza still uses the older, H&K G36KV assault carbine, with a 12.5-inch barrel.

HK416A5 carbine with 11-inch barrel. Photo by Heckler and Koch

Submachine guns: The H&K MP5A3 and MP5SD3 in 9x19mm are the standard SMGs for GROM, JWK, ASAT, and Formoza, but GROM also utilizes the ČZ Scorpion Evo 3 in 9x19mm for direct-force operations, and the FN P90TR in 5.7x28mm for close-protection missions. The SIG MPX submachine gun in 9x19mm is also employed as a compact, personal-defense weapon.

Sniper rifles: Various sniper rifles are used, including the H&K PSG-1, Mauser SP66, Mauser 86 SR, Sako TRG-22, and Accuracy International AW, all in 7.62x51mm. GROM also employs the Accuracy International AWM-F in .338 Lapua Magnum, the Sako TRG M10 SWS in .338 LM, CheyTac M200 Intervention in .408 CheyTac, PGM Mini Hécate II in .338 LM, PGM Hécate II in .50 BMG, and Barrett M107A1 in .50 BMG.

Light machine guns: The FN Minimi Para and TR in 5.56mm or 7.62mm NATO are the standard LMGs of Polish STC units.

Heavy machine guns: The Browning M2HB or Polish WKM-B machine guns in .50 BMG are standard, heavy weapons, usually mounted on vehicles.

Rocket launchers: Saab Bofors 84mm M3 and 84mm AT4 weapons are carried.

Combat knives: Polish forces employ the wz.92 (M92) or updated, wz.98A/Z (M98) combat knives.

Combat vehicles: The STC special operations units drive five M1165A1 Humvees (including two for GROM, armed with Nexter P20 20mm cannon on pintle mounts), 10 Land Rover Defender 90/110 vehicles, 16 Mercedes-Benz G290 Wolf jeeps, some Toyota Land Cruiser Hilux trucks, Tarpan Honker Scorpion 3 4×4 off-road vehicles, and other equipment. Yamaha XT660 motorcycles are employed, as are Polaris Sportsman 500 EFI and 800 EFI all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). STC units also use the Israeli-made, Defense Orbiter miniature reconnaissance drone.

In conclusion, the Polish Special Forces units rank among the very best in the world, because of their intense training, especially with their U.S. and European allies, extensive combat experience, superb weapons and equipment, and constant modernization and innovation.

On Saturday, June 25, 2022, The New York Times (NYT) officially blew the lid off of NATO’s covert involvement in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, with their stunning article entitled “Commando Network Coordinates Flow of Weapons in Ukraine, Officials Say.” The article detailed “a stealthy network of commandos and spies rushing to provide weapons, intelligence, and training…commandos from other NATO countries, including Britain, France, Canada, and Lithuania (and probably Poland), also have been working inside Ukraine…training and advising Ukrainian troops, and providing an on-the-ground conduit for weapons and other aid.”

According to Chris King of Euro Weekly News on December 3, 2022, “Polish special forces have allegedly entered the Ukrainian city of Marhanets, with the task of identifying residents who are helping Russia…a combined detachment of intelligence officers and Polish special forces has arrived in the city of Marhanets (along the Dnipro River, near the front lines), in the Dnepropetrovsk region of Ukraine…these men were dressed in Ukrainian uniforms, and subordinate to NATO command…Polish mercenaries are (also) participating in hostilities on the side of Ukraine.”

Considering that the vast majority of all NATO military aid to Ukraine passes through southeastern Poland, mostly on Routes E40/M10 and E372/M09, it’s literally inconceivable that Polish Special Forces groups are not secretly involved in training, equipping, and advising Ukrainian forces on both sides of the border during the most brutal, high-intensity war of the 21st century.

Polish JW GROM operator with HK416A5 carbine, 2015. Photo credit: Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum

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Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism. He served in Europe (including a military liaison trip to Warsaw, Poland) and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author and historian.