Principle

From 1962 until the beginning of the 1980s, training of the NVA paratroopers was geared to the operating principles applicable at that time. These were based on the stipulations set out in regulation 30/4 „combat engagement for task groups”. However, this document was not really the combat manual for NVA paratroopers, but rather more universally applicable. It was also a fundamental document for the 1st Companies of the MSR (Motorized Rifle Regiments), which were also trained for combat behind enemy lines, up until the late 1960s. It was not until 1987 that the NVA airborne infantry received a combat manual of its own, following restructuring to form an Airborne Assault Regiment. Incidentally, tongue-in-cheek: throughout all those years, the unofficial „manual“ for NVA paratroopers was Harry Thürk’s novel „Die Stunde der toten Augen“, which recounts the experiences of a group of German paratroopers during WWII.

The purpose of the airborne battalion at the time was to be deployed as a tactical air assault force for seizing key sectors, objects or areas behind enemy lines. This included in particular deployment as a vanguard for the formation of bridgeheads to enable the crossing of major water obstacles.  A further task was seizure and defence of vital terrain against rupturing enemy forces.

During this time, the focus gradually moved toward deployment of small task groups (EGs), numbering approx. 10 men. These groups operated independently on orders from a superior, in tactical or operational/tactical depth behind enemy lines. The main aims of their deployment were:

–    detection and destruction of  nuclear weapons as well as vital elements of the enemy combat structure
–    disruption of supply routes and diversion operations against  institutions of national significance.

With these objectives in mind, the NVA paratroopers underwent an extensive and specialized training programme during their 3-year term of service. Esprit de corps within the units was promoted, starting from the group via the platoon, the company up to the battalion and intensive combat survival training was carried out.

At all times, physical training and especially close combat training, was paramount.  But there were also specifically tailored training courses for sniper rifle specialists, explosives experts, signals operators, medical personnel and for those with language skills. A major part of the training was devoted to studying the enemy background. Absolute top priority was on firing practice which, along with more than 500 hours of tactical training during a course year, formed one of the chief elements of the training. It was a fundamental principle that all snipers should be able take out enemy forces with precision up to a distance of 400m. The destruction of armoured targets, using the first grenade fired from an RPG-7, was imperative.