EZAPAC Escadron Parachutiste d'Intervention de la Gendarmarie Nationale
Within the Spanish Air Force lies a small, but highly trained group of elite special operations troops known as the Escadrilla de Zapadores Paracaidistas ( Parachute Combat Engineer/Sapper Squadron ), or EZAPAC. The squadron is a company sized force of approximately 300 troops that is trained in executing several types of missions. These missions include the following:
EZAPAC, which operates under the direct control of the Air Force Reaction Forces, is divided into several sections each of which specialize in conducting a specific type of mission. The unit is completely air transportable and all of its personnel are airborne trained; with many of it's operators attaining HALO/HAHO parachute qualifications.
Formed in 1946 as the Primera Bandera de Tropas de Aviacion del Ejercito del Aire (1st Airborne Troops Battalion of the Air Force), the unit was organized in the image of the German Assault Group, a highly successful World War Axis parachute unit. Unit personnel conducted their initial training in the Four Winds and Culvert aerodromes, and at Alcala de Henares, performing their first parachute jump in September of 1948.
In 1952 the unit moved its base of operations to Alcala de Henares, where it was once again redesignated. Beginning in 1957 the unit participated in the Ifni conflict, and in 1958 returned home to its new base at Madrilenian.
On September 9, 1965 the unit was disbanded, reformed and assigned its current name, the Escadrilla de Zapadores Paracaidistas, or the Parachute Combat Engineer Squadron. EZAPAC inherited the previous unit's mission, and absorbed its personnel, material, and weapons. The unit then transferred to its current headquarters at Culvert and was placed under the operational control of the Headquarters, Tactical Aviation, with logistical support being provided by the Parachute School. Between 1971 and 1974 the unit transferred to Cobut, but returned to its former base in Murcia, due to logistical and material problems created by deficient facilities on the Cobut base. In 1975, the unit deployed to the Canary Islands during the evacuation of the Spanish Sahara.
In 1989, EZAPAC was deployed to Namibia as part of a UN peacekeeping force operating in the country. EZAPAC operators provided security for a Spanish Air Force detachment flying humanitarian relief supplies to refugees in the country.
Since August of 1993, EZAPAC has supported both of NATO's IFOR and SFOR missions in Bosnia. In addition to their other duties, EZAPAC teams have deployed to the Balkan's providing tactical air control parties (TACPs) to Spanish units deployed their. Between September of 1994 and April of 1995, detachments of EZAPAC operators were deployed to the war ravaged African nation of Rwanda. At that time the country was involved in a brutal civil war, with both sides committing various atrocities against each other, and anyone who happened to get in their way. EZAPAC personnel were tasked with escorting cargo planes bringing in humanitarian relief supplies, and searching for the locations refugee camps scattered throughout the country side.
Prospective unit members undertake a four year period of instruction that they must successfully complete before they are considered fully qualified operators. Training for the candidate begins at the School of Parachuting. Students must mater a series of common tasks, such as survival, communications, first-aid, defensive infiltration's, etc. They are also provided training in military free fall parachuting, forward air control techniques, air traffic control, and other pathfinder related skills. Upon successful completion of the basic instruction course, the new operators are awarded the Spanish special operations forces green beret and then integrated into an operational team where they continue their specialized training.
EZAPAC regularly conducts training exercises with similar allied units such as USAF Special Tactics teams, French Commando de l'Air teams, and Portuguese RESCOM CSAR teams.