GSG9: Meet Germany’s most elite special forces hunting down terrorist worldwide!

One of the most respected counter-terror unit in history!

The training, the selection process and GSG9 most dangerous operations!

Author Thomas Lojek

GSG9: Germany‘s Champions League SOF

The protagonist of my new novel is a former member of a special operations unit.

For months, I did a lot of research in the world of tactical training and SOF to understand how these modern elite warriors think and act.

And of course, I did some research on the well-known German counter-terrorism unit GSG9.

When I talk (or write) about GSG9, there is some bias. I won‘t deny it.

As I German, I am not 100% objective.

Talking about the elite unit of your own country, is a bit like starting a conversation about Real Madrid vs. Manchaster vs. FC Bayern Munich.

Just with flashlights and H&K.

Nevertheless, the German GSG9 has a worldwide reputation as one of the most effective counter-terrorism units.

And there is some reason why.

GSG9: A worldwide respected counter-terror unit

In retro perspective the German GSG9 did a lot of pioneer-work in developing modern counter-terrorism tactics.

Especially, during its early years, 1972 and into the early 80s. 

Yes, there was the SAS long before.

Okay, Navy SEALs have more movies and books, today.

And the Israelis have a brave and reckless reputation.

But GSG9 always had a very special image of dedication to detail, elegance and efficiency.

Like most products „Made in Germany“.

And there it is: My bias as a German native.

But this is, what we felt as kids, when we were talking about GSG9 on the schoolyard.

This is what Germans feel, while watching documentaries about „Landshut“.

Special operations units are not the European Champions League, I know.

But for Germans our GSG9 is our Champions League.

That‘s why I present you this article on my webiste.

Following my (again to long introduction) you will find an extended article about Germany‘s elite special operations force GSG9.

History, details, training, selection: This article will give a solid update for everything to know about GSG9.

Okay, ready?

Let‘s do it!

Grenzschutzgruppe 9: Germany’s finest Special Operation unit!

Only one in five make it through the training phase of what the commander of the Israeli Border Police in 1977 called „the best anti-terrorist group in the world.“

The German Grenzschutzgruppe 9 (Border Protection Group 9) is one of the best known anti-terrorist forces in the world.

At the SWAT World Challenge in 2005, GSG 9 won seven out of seven events, beating 17 other teams, including the USA.

The unit successfully defended its title the following year.

(c) Deutsche Bundespolizei

GSG9 Formation

It was 1972 and Germany was about to have egg on its face.

Two Israelis were summarily killed and nine more held hostage when Black September stormed the Olympic Village during the Munich Olympic Games.

To make the situation worse the German Federal Police had no unit to deal with a terrorist situation and German law forbade the use of the German Army on German soil.

In the end, all nine hostages were killed together with a German policeman and the five hostage takers when the police tried to free the Israeli athletes.

It was a major disaster, especially for a country that had executed six million Jews a mere thirty years earlier.

Enter Oberstleutnant Ulrich Wegener and the creation of the GSG 9 on 17 April 1973 to counter situations exactly like the one in which the Israelis were killed.

Its tactics were based on the popular British SAS and the Israeli Sayeret Matkal.

The operatives of GSG 9 were not recruited from the military as is the practice in other countries, but from the police force in Germany.

Memories of the SS and the Nazi Party were too fresh in the minds of Germans.

GSG9 Organisation

The GSG 9 is structured into eight sub units so to speak.

These sub units are:

Regular Operations. The main sub-unit of GSG 9 is used for regular actions against terrorism on the ground.

Maritime Operations. The second sub-unit of GSG 9 is used for operations at sea. These may include the hijacking of ships or oil platforms and anti-piracy operations.

Air Operations. The third sub-unit of GSG 9 is used for air operations, including parachuting and helicopter operations.

The Technical Unit. This sub-unit supports other GSG 9 sub-units to enter target areas and is responsible for obtaining, analysing information and issuing of equipment other than weapons. Members of this sub-unit are also involved with EOD operations.

Central Services maintains the arsenal of GSG 9 and is involved in testing, repairing and purchasing weapons, ammunition and explosives.

The Documentation Unit does everything involved with communications, including testing, repair and purchasing of communications- and surveillance equipment.

The Operations Team controls the administration of GSG 9 and lastly the Training Unit trains existing members as well as selecting, recruiting and training of new members of GSG 9.

(c) Deutsche Bundespolizei

GSG9 Training

Any member of the Bundespolizei and other German police services with at least two years’ service can attempt to join GSG 9.

The 22-week training course includes thirteen weeks’ basic training and nine weeks’ advanced training.

Besides having to pass stringent medical tests there are many physical requirements potential GSG 9 members must comply with, for example running 5 km in 23 minutes and jumping a distance of at least 4.75 meters.

Then there is a 100m sprint, chin-ups, bench presses and the completion of an obstacle course.

GSG 9 recruits also must pass at marksmanship with their duty pistols and sub machine gun followed by the final interview.

Only one in five potential members pass the training course.

They also train with units like Hong Kong’s Special Duties Unit and some of the United States‘ SWAT units.

GSG9 Historic Operations

The exploits of GSG 9 is more open to public scrutiny than those of other countries, again due to the memories of the secrecy surrounding the SS and Gestapo during World War 2.

What makes the GSG 9 more unique is that from 1973 to 2002 they executed around 1 500 missions and discharged their weapons on only five occasions.

GSG 9 gets involved in sniper missions as well as countering hostage-taking, kidnapping, terrorism and extortion. Some of their missions include:

In 1977 from October 17 to18, a Lufthansa Flight 181 was hijacked by four terrorists demanding the release of members of the Red Army Faction. The officers of the GSG 9 stormed the aircraft on the ground in Mogadishu, Somalia, and freed all 86 hostages in an operation they are still best known for.

In 1993, the detention of terrorists from Red Army Faction, specifically Birgit Hogefeld and Wolfgang Grams in Bad Kleinen.

Grams was killed during the mission and there was a popular theory that Wolfgang Grams was executed in revenge for the death of GSG 9 operative Michael Newrzella, who had been killed during the mission. The fact that Grams had attacked Newrzella was apparently never considered by the investigator.

The case was fully investigated by several independent institutions that all confirmed that Grams has killed himself.

Later in 1993 GSG9 ended the hijacking of a KLM flight from Tunisia to Amsterdam, redirected to Düsseldorf, without firing a single shot.

In 1995 they formed part of Operations Flash and Storm in Croatia for the liberation of a territory occupied by rebel Croatian Serbs.

(c) Deutsche Bundespolizei

GSG9 Historic Operations Year 2000+

In 2001 they arrested two spies in Heidelberg.

In 2003 they ensured the safety of four members of the German Technisches Hilfswerk (THW) (a government organization from antidesastres Germany) in Baghdad, Iraq. The THW’s mission was intended to repair the water distribution network.

Then in 2004 the GSG 9 were responsible for protecting employees and property of the German Embassy in Baghdad Iraq and took part in other operations in that country.

On Tuesday September 4 2007 three suspected terrorists were apprehended by GSG 9 for planning bomb attacks on major targets in Germany.

The bombs would have been even more powerful than the explosives used in terrorist attacks in Madrid and London. They wanted to build a bomb to detonate in Germany that was capable of killing as many people as possible.

Fritz Gelowicz (29), Adem Yilmaz (29) and Daniel Schneider (22), were accused of involvement in a terrorist organization, preparing to commit a crime involving explosives and in the case of Schneider, attempted murder as well.

In 2009 the GSG 9 were on the verge of boarding a German freighter, the Hansa Stavanger, which had been hijacked by Somali pirates.

More than 200 GSG 9 members, equipped with helicopters, speedboats and advanced weapons, had been secretly brought, via Kenya, to a location 80 kilometres from the German freighter.

The Americans had loaned the Germans one of their ships, the USS Boxer, to use as their flagship in the planned attack and a small fleet of German Navy vessels flanked the helicopter carrier.

The ships had been patrolling near the Hansa Stavanger for days, waiting just beyond the horizon to evade detection by the pirates.

The well-planned and rehearsed mission was however called off before the rescue effort could begin due to politics.

On 22 July 2016 when a lone gunman, David Sonboly killed nine people and wounded 36 others during a shooting spree in Munich the GSG 9 were seen on the scene of the crime with German police. They were armed and masked, but not in uniform.

There are many more missions in which GSG 9 were involved about which we do not know and there will probably still be many more with ISIS targeting Europe lately.

(c) Deutsche Bundespolizei

GSG9: The Future

With fundamentalism on the rise and Europe a prime target by groups like ISIS and whoever will follow in their footsteps, one can imagine that forces like the GSG 9 will always have a job and probably be at the top of most defence budget lists.

Not only will the GSG 9 force have ISIS terrorism to deal with, but as has been proven in the past many criminals also pose the kind of threat that GSG 9 will have to be involved with.

When a force has the kind of record that GSG 9 has one can be sure that they very likely have a bright future ahead of them and that they will probably still safeguard many Germans and others from the rising threat of terrorism.

(c) Deutsche Bundespolizei

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