By Sgt. Nelson Robles, U.S. Special Operations Command EuropeMay 8, 2017
BELGRADE, Serbia -- U.S. and Slovenian special operations forces gathered here to help broaden the tactical and technical capabilities of the Serbian special anti-terrorism unit known as the Specijalna Antiteroristicka Jedinica during joint combined exchange training exercises in the Goc Mountains of Serbia from April 3-30.
"Our special operations detachment is in Serbia to facilitate this [joint combined exchange training] event with the SAJ," said a detachment commander for the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group. "They handle internal threats, high-level criminals and escorting VIPs within Serbia."
The SAJ, which serves as a special operations and tactical unit of the Serbian police, received training in a variety of tactics and techniques to increase their effectiveness in future operations in rural environments.
"They have a lot of special training, and we're here to give them basic rural tactics training at the request of their commander because of the growing terrorist threat in the rural areas of Serbia," said the U.S. commander.
The training involved a change in venue for the SAJ, which is headquartered in Belgrade and specializes in urban operations.
"A lot of the criminals are located inside Belgrade, but they are finding safe haven out in the woods," the U.S. commander said. "We want to teach the SAJ the ability to target, recon a house or compound in a rural environment and perhaps set up a raid, while teaching them the rules associated with that. You go there to show a positive presence, that the police are here to clean up, not add to the mess."
U.S. Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, visited the SAJ headquarters complex in Belgrade, April 10, to observe the training.
U.S. COMMITMENT TO EUROPEAN SECURITY
"As I travel through Southeastern Europe, my message is simple: the United States' commitment to a Europe whole, free and at peace, is ironclad," McCain said in a press release. "I hope future cooperation like this will deepen our security relationship and help to enhance the Serbian military's interoperability with U.S. forces."
Friction between political groups in the Balkans have led to increased security concerns in and around Serbia, according to U.S. Army Lt. Col. Corey Shea, chief of defense cooperation at U.S. Embassy Belgrade.
"Increases in tension in the region can lead to the greater likelihood of some sort of conflict or violence," Shea said. "[The joint combined exchange training] also gave us an opportunity to highlight to the Serbian population who are probably largely unaware that there is any cooperation between the U.S. and Serbia in the field of counterterrorism, and the senator's visit allowed us to bring this to the public forum."
"The partnership is an opportunity for both sides to show that there is a level of cooperation that exists between the U.S. and Serbia," Shea said.
The SAJ took full advantage of the training exercise to bolster its operational knowledge and tactical capabilities.
"It is really important that we continue this joint training; this new knowledge will be included in our new standard operating procedures," said Spasoje Vulevic, commander of the SAJ. "Our previous [joint combined exchange training] with the Navy SEALs focused on urban fighting, and we learned new ways to deal with that. We followed that up with the [Army] Green Berets to cover tactical techniques in rural environments to round out this valuable skill set."
According to Shea, the U.S. will provide more than $7 million in military support to Serbia in fiscal year 2017, including over 100 bilateral engagements between the U.S. and Serbian militaries and civil authorities.