GSG 9 lives from the Landshut Myth
Updated: Feb 1
The Border Police Group (GSG - Grenzschutzgruppe) 9 is still considered one of the best anti-terrorist units in the world today. They became famous as a rapid reaction force when they rescued 86 hostages, within a few minutes on the Lufthansa Boeing -Landshut- in the night of the 17th. of October 1977, at the airport of Mogadishu (the capital of Somalia in East Africa). Most of the hostages were Germans, who were in the hands of four Arab terrorists. The GSG 9 ended a five-day hostage drama.
The task for the establishment of the special police unit had received the police officer of the Federal Border Police Ulrich Wegener in autumn 1972 by the Federal Interior Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher (FDP). That was preceded by the attack of Palestinian terrorists on Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich. It had been shown that the regular police units were not prepared for the hitherto unknown threat situation by Arab terrorists.
Fight against the RAF
Added to this was the fight against left-wing extremism. For example, it is owed the elite unit that the arrest of the two RAF terrorists Adelheid Schulz and Brigitte Mohnhaupt in October 1982 in a wooded area near Heusenstamm was successful.
The Fiasco of Bad Kleinen
A fiasco has happened by the use of anti-terrorism specialists on June 27, 1993, at the train station of Bad Kleinen. They went against the two RAF terrorists Wolfgang Grams and Birgit Hogefeld. In a firefight, the first GSG9 official Michael Newrzella was killed. Then Grams collapsed deadly on the tracks. As a result, members of the -Sonderkommando- were suspected of having killed Grams. After lengthy investigations, the Federal Government found out that Grams had been killed by his own fault. In the investigation of the mission, however, numerous errors came to light. A week later, Interior Minister Rudolf Seiters (CDU) resigned, Federal Attorney General Alexander Stahl was dismissed.
Killed in Action in Iraq
Furthermore, Tobias Retterath and Thomas Hafenecker lost their lives (KIA) during a mission in Iraq. As part of a 2004 personal protection mission, her convoy was ambushed near Fallujah. There was a heavy firefight. The body of Hafenecker was never found until today.
50 Missions per Year
In more than 1.700 missions, the GSG9 had only seven times to make use of firearms, said the then Federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich 2012 at the ceremony on the occasion of the 40th anniversary. By the end of 2017, there were about 1.900 missions, most recently around 50 per year.
The GSG 9 is responsible for internal security and the Federal Armed Forces for the outside security of Germany, Commander Wegener once said. He saw no competition between the police and the Federal Armed Forces Command -Special Forces- (KSK). Wegener assisted the Saudi government in 1988 to train of approximately 2.000 men of the -Special Security Forces- there. In Thailand, Somalia, the United States, and Switzerland, the GSG9 helped build equivalent units. Wegener became an internationally sought-after expert in the fight against terrorism. He died in 2017 at the age of 88 years.
A wider Range of Application every Year
Today, the scope of GSG 9 is no longer limited to counter-terrorism. So, the unit also takes care of drug-related crime and other exceptional heavy offenses. They are mainly used against air and sea pirates, the liberation of hostages, serious violent crime or to ward off the threat to foreign state guests. The GSG 9 also participates in foreign police missions of the EU and the United Nations and is subordinate to the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
Mission-Ready in 15 Minutes
Starting with 180 men, the GSG 9 today consists about 400 police officers - all volunteers. The exact number is kept secret. These include divers, sniper, and parachutists. Only about 15 minutes are needed to be mission ready. Within two hours they should be able to reach every place in Germany.
Second Base in the Capital City
In the middle of 2017, the GSG9 was commissioned by the Federal Minister of the Interior to set up another task force based in Berlin. At present, extensive planning and organizational measures are in progress. The goal is to be on-site with the planned nominal strength in about three to five years. From Berlin, you can react faster to threats in the capital itself. Besides, a connection to the helicopter fleet of the Federal Police in Ahrensfelde in the northeast of Berlin is possible. In connection with the construction of the second location, the increase in the number of employees is about one third.
The current commander is Jerome Fuchs (since 2014). He comes from Karlsruhe and has been a member for more than 20 years. For years, the counter-terror unit has been prepared for hostage-taking by terrorists or serious criminals. “We had time to prepare, enlighten and gather information about the perpetrators, …” Fuchs said in one of his rare interviews. These possibilities are not available in attacks such as those in Paris, Brussels, and Nice. “There we have to move immediately to the place of attack, so as soon as possible our units and stop the terrorists. This is a procedure that our forces have to internalize,…” says Fuchs.
According to own data of the GSG 9 from advertising, there were 2007 the following mission units: Sniper, specialized police divers in the maritime group, specialists for the storming of hijacked airplanes, explosives, and weaponry experts as well as observation and IT technicians in a documentation unit.
The troupe is struggling with the recruitment of new staff. Nine out of ten applicants who have previously completed training at the Federal Border Police fail in the five-day selection procedure (EAV). Of those who are taken, only one in two will complete the nine-month special education.
EAV as a high Hurdle
The first step in a GSG 9 career is an application to the mid or high level of police service. It does not matter if you do the training at the federal police or another federal or state police department. However, there are some advantages to choosing direct entry into the Federal Police. Anyone who has passed the EAV can start the training. It has grown over the years and consists of two parts, the basic and the specialized training. Each part lasts four and a half months and is separated from one another by one vacation block. The training as an official -for special use- (f.b.V.) is unique in Germany in this way. It is a mixture of modern police training with military elements. The first year is dedicated to specialization training. After about two more years of service experience, the policemen usually get the opportunity to learn another additional qualification.
The members of the GSG 9 mainly work with submachine guns from Heckler & Koch (MP5 and MP7) as well as assault rifles, also from Heckler & Koch (G36 and others). Also, there are various guns and sniper rifles. The weapons exist in numerous versions and configurations; often there are only a few of them worldwide. The helmets are made of Kevlar - for the police equipment; these models were partially taken. In addition, there are armored cars, vehicles for material transport, protective vests and weapons accessories and night vision and thermal imaging technology. The Federal States have recently strengthened the police equipment modeled on the GSG 9.
Concealed Elite Troops
Again and again, the GSG 9 is called when other forces reach their limits. Many missions were handled in secret. The elite team is also active abroad. Their myth, however, will continue to be based on the successful liberation of the Landshut hostages in 1977.
GSG-9 reenactment for Airsoft purposes can be quite interesting because the GSG-9 uses heavily tactical gear.