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Last Updated: 13 October, 2016

This article is structured as follows:

  • Part One: Background to GSG 9;
  • Part Two: Entry Standards and Applications;
  • Part Three: Outline of GSG 9 Selection and Training; and
  • Part Four: Miscellaneous, such as useful publications and links.


1.0     Introduction

GSG 9, German Special ForcesThis article provides an overview of the German Border Guard Group 9 (Grenzschutzgruppe 9), better known as GSG 9, selection and training process.

“On average only one in five recruits will complete the entire training course.” (Armed Forces History Museum, 2012).

Candidates can apply from any branch of the German Federal Police (Bundespolizei), as well as other German police forces. After a minimum of two years’ service, the first physical hurdle for candidates is a visit to a recruitment centre to be assessed in the specific selection criteria for GSG 9.

Although GSG 9 employs a variety of personnel in Enabler and Supporter roles, there are only a small number of Operators, at approximately 250.

Training is rigorous and very demanding, and after passing a variety of physical and weapons test candidates will then train in collective skills such as tactical climbing, parachuting or specialised weapons.

From boot camp (initial police training) to fully operational, a candidate may undertake approximately two years of training.

Part One of this article looks at women and GSG 9, then discusses the difference between tier 1 and tier 2 Special Forces (SF) and highlights the general duties of special operations forces (SOF). Part Two looks at the entry standards for GSG 9, before Part Three outlines the selection and training process for a GSG 9 Operator. Finally, Part Four provides some useful links and identifies other articles the reader may find useful.

I apologise if any of the translations are incorrect/imprecise.

1.1     Aim

The aim of this article is to describe the fundamental entry requirements, selection process and training for personnel seeking to become a member of the German Federal Police’s Border Guard Group 9 or GSG 9.

The article details the selection and training process for GSG 9 Operator aspirants who will fulfil roles in the operational forces, not Supporters or Enablers who fulfil roles in the support forces.

1.2     Women and GSG 9

GSG 9 is open to women but by 2011 only a handful had applied (Bundespolizei, 2011).

1.3     Tier 1 or Tier 2 Status

If GSG 9 was a military organisation it would be classed as a Tier 1 unit. A ‘Tier 1’ SF unit is usually tasked with direct action. Other special operations forces are referred to as ‘Tier 2’ units as they, usually, fulfil a supporting role for the Tier 1 units.

1.4     General Duties of Special Operations Forces

SOF personnel are required to infiltrate and exfiltrate to and from operational areas dismounted, carrying heavy loads and manipulating personal and support weapons systems and other heavy equipment. SOF personnel perform insertions and assaults on targets by:

  • Parachuting onto ground or into water;
  • Climbing ladders and cliffs;
  • Rappelling;
  • Conducting close-quarters battle (CQB); and
  • Battle drills in varying types of terrain and climatic conditions day or night.

SOF personnel are also required to board ocean vessels while they are underway from another floating or airborne platform in all sea states day or night, and where speed and stealth are imperative. These duties are performed while wearing heavy rucksack and body armour. SOF personnel perform individual CQB and detainee handling which may require the individual to:

  • Combat and detain another person using blocking strikes;
  • Disarming;
  • Lifting;
  • Pulling;
  • Ground fighting;
  • Grappling; and
  • Moving a non-compliant person.

There is no tolerance for a lapse in attention when conducting CQB and other assaults while wearing night vision goggles as well as Special Operations Insertion and Extraction (SOIE) techniques. Accurate discrimination of non-combatants and precision engagement of enemy combatants requires extreme concentration.

Similarly, high-risk roped and un-roped insertions with no redundant safety systems require constant attention. SOF personnel require the ability for continuous analysis of the situation, environment, mission aims and unique foreign societal complexities during operations.


2.0     Introduction

Course Mud Run

GSG 9 does not accept direct entry applicants, i.e. civilians with no prior police experience. As a result, volunteers for GSG 9 may be accepted from currently serving police officers from any German police force to serve with GSG 9.

Consequently, there are three recognised pathways to become a member of GSG 9:

  1. Join as a GSG 9 Supporter/Enabler in an administration or support role;
  2. Join as a GSG 9 Operator (in-service transfer from another German police force); or
  3. Join as a GSG 9 Operator (in-service transfer from the German Federal Police).

2.1     Recruitment Centre

Recruitment for GSG 9 candidates is undertake at North Rhine Westphalia Sankt Augustin (Bundespolizei, 2016).

2.2     General Requirements and Eligibility for All Candidates

Medical, WWI (1)Subject to the requirements outlined below, all German police officers are eligible to attend the GSG 9 training programme.

General Requirements for all candidates:

  • They are German or German within the meaning of Article 116 of the Basic Law;
  • No criminal convictions;
  • Obtain approval from chain of command;
  • Have completed a minimum of two years’ service in the Bundespolizei or another German police force;
  • Pass appropriate medical examination;
  • Pass appropriate physical screening test;
  • Pass appropriate psychological screening test; and
  • Be parachute-trained or willing to undertake parachute training.


3.0     Introduction

This section of the article outlines the assessment and selection process for GSG 9, as well as outlining the training involved once candidates successfully complete the suitability selection procedure.

3.1     GSG 9 Suitability Selection Procedure

“I had a sinking feeling in my stomach and could not eat.” (Bundespolizei, 2016).

Einzelkämpferlehrgang (1)Once a candidate has met the basic requirements they, and approximately 100 of their colleagues, can apply to attend the four day GSG 9 suitability selection procedure (Eignungsauswahlverfahren), commonly known as EAV (Scholz, 2011). The EAV is located at North Rhine Westphalia Sankt Augustin (Bundespolizei, 2016). The assessment and selection process was formerly a week-long (ABC Online, 2009).

The assessment and selection process consists of (Scholz, 2011):

  • Medical examination.
  • Physical tests:
    • Run 5000 metres in a maximum of 23 minutes;
    • Sprint 100 metres in a maximum of 13.4 seconds;
    • Jump a distance of at least 2.40 metres;
    • Complete a minimum of seven heaves (chin-ups); and
    • Bench press 75% of own bodyweight five times.
  • Psychological evaluation (mental performance and personality profile).
  • Marksmanship test using:
    • Duty pistol; and
    • Submachine gun.
  • Final interview.

There is more to the EAV than the above tests. As the days pass, the process gets tougher and sleep deprivation and fatigue kick in. “In addition, the process includes tests that demonstrate your ability to concentrate, your technical understanding, and your response times.” (Scholz, 2011, p.27), for example self-defence.

Possibly the most difficult challenge for candidates is in the last hours before the decision on who is selected for further training:

“In the middle of the night we had to complete a load running and different strength exercises. Right after our characteristics and concentration was tested again.” (Bundespolizei, 2016).

Candidates receive feedback from their trainers which describes strengths and weaknesses (Scholz, 2011). For those candidates who are selected, a ten month training programme awaits. For those candidates who are unsuccessful, there is the possibility of attending the EAV again.

3.2     GSG 9 Training Outline

Candidates who successfully complete the suitability selection procedure or EAV will transition on to the intensive training programme. Table 1 provides an outline of the process.

Table 1: Outline of the GSG 9 training programme
Element/Course Description Duration
Service Requirement Meet basic eligibility criteria Varies
Suitability Selection Procedure View Section 3,1 4 days
Training Programme

The GSG 9 training programme is divided into two phases of training:

  • Basic training; and
  • Advanced/specialised training.
10 months

The training programme is ten months in duration (Bunespolizei, 2016) (formerly nine months (ABC Online, 2009)) and is divided into two phases. Training starts in May each year (formerly March (Scholz, 2011)) and includes (ABC Online, 2009; Bundespolizei, 2016).

  • Basic Training: This phase of training involves progressive shooting skills, tactical climbing and abseiling, melee (hand-to-hand), explosives, helicopter insertions and the general tactics, techniques and protocols (TTPs) used by the special operations unit. Candidates also receive physical training and development of teamwork. At the end of basic training candidates receive three weeks of well-earned holidays (vacation).
  • Advanced/Specialised Training: This phase of training involves learning the TTPs and operational training in three areas: buildings; aircraft; and ships.

Candidates will also have to successfully face ‘hardness week’, a number of marches at night with very little sleep, alone except for a compass.

At the end of the training programme candidates receive their exam scores and the reality can be bitter:

“Only eight to ten percent of applicants receive the awaited certificate and the so called ‘activity badge’ of GSG. 9.” (ABC Online, 2009).

3.3     Graduation

GSG 9, German Special ForcesFor those candidates who successfully complete the training programme, they will be awarded the badge of GSG 9 and posted to one of the three operational units:

  • GSG 9/1: The first operational unit is utilised for regular land-based counter-terrorism operations, such as hostage taking, kidnapping, terrorism or extortion. The unit may also be used to secure locations, neutralise targets, tracking fugitives and sniper operations.
  • GSG 9/2: The second operational unit is utilised for maritime operations, such as the hijacking of vessels or oil platforms.
  • GSG 9/3: The third operational unit is utilised for airborne operations, such as parachuting and helicopter operations.


4.0     Summary

The GSG 9 training programme is open to all male and female German police officers. The GSG 9 training programme seeks to attract determined, highly-motivated, intelligent, reliable and physically fit individuals to serve with the GSG 9 community. This article provides the basic information to allow individuals to make an informed judgement before applying for the GSG 9 training programme.

4.1     TV Documentaries

First aired in 2002, Special Forces Untold Stories: German GSG-9: Jihad in the Fatherland details interviews, documentary footage and re-enactments.

4.2     Useful Publications

GSG 9 by Reinhard Scholzen and Kerstin Froese, first published in 2001 by Motorbycuhverlag.

4.3     Useful Links

4.4     References

ABC Online (2009) Part 3: GSG 9 – Use The Limit. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.focus.de/panorama/reportage/tid15595/focusreportgsg9einsatzamlimitteil3gsg9einsatzamlimit_aid_437968.html?drucken=1. [Accessed: 20 September, 2016].

Armed Forces History Museum (2012) Germany’s Special Forces – GSG 9. Available from World Wide Web: http://armedforcesmuseum.com/germanysspecialforcesgsg9/. [Accessed: 20 September, 2016].

Bundespolizei (2016) GSG 9. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.kommzurbundespolizei.de/entdecken/gsg9derbundespolizei/. [Accessed: 20 September, 2016].

Scholz, D. (2011) Challenge GSG 9. Bundespolizei Kompakt: Zeitschrift der Bundespolizei. 38th Year, 1-2011, p.26-27. Available from World Wide Web: https://web.archive.org/web/20150623183708/http://www.bundespolizei.de/DE/06Die-Bundespolizei/BPOL_Kompakt/2011/kompakt_1-11_file.pdf?__blob=publicationFile. [Accessed: 21 September, 2016].