Jim Wagner was teaching a Knife Survival course in Los Angles for the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers in the middle half of 1999. In his class were defensive tactics instructors from all over the United States and a few foreign instructors. At the end of class one of Jim’s students introduced himself as a Master Sergeant for the German Federal Border Police (Bundesgrenzschutz at the time, and today called the Bundespolizei). He said to Jim, “Your skills are extraordinary, and your methods are the best I have ever seen when dealing with knife attacks. I believe my unit would be very interested in having you teach them what you have taught me today.”
Jim Wagner was flattered by the compliment, but did not think much of it. “Sure, I’d love to teach your unit.” At that time he had never been to Germany. The master sergeant handed Jim his business card and walked away. Jim placed the card in his pocket and talked with some of the other students. After a couple of minutes Jim took the card out of his front pocket and took a look at it. Jim noticed the logo of one of the world’s top counterterrorist units on the face of the card – Grenzschutzgruppe 9; commonly called GSG9.
A few months later the German government paid for Jim Wagner to train the instructors of the GSG9 along with members of the BKA (the equivalent of the American FBI) and instructors of the Grenzschutzschule (Federal Border Police Academy). He was assigned his own room in the GSG9 barracks, given a meal pass, and was treated like a member of the unit. Jim trained his world class students in Knife Survival, Defensive Tactics, SWAT tactics, live-fire pistol and sub machinegun skills, and ran a few real-world live-fire scenarios in their shoot house.
After completing his teaching responsibilities Jim was asked, “Is there anything you want from us?” There were two things he wanted, and both were granted. First, he wanted to run through the GSG9 weapon systems, and second, he wanted to be trained in German building entry and searching tactics. Jim Wagner received a good education in both disciplines.
Just before leaving the base at Sankt Augustin near the old West German capitol of Bonn, the Commander of GSG9, Friedrich Eichele, invited Jim Wagner into his office and presented him with a GSG9 certificate for the training of his men. From his students he received patches, T-shirts, and beer mugs.
In 2000 Jim Wagner was invited again back to the GSG9 base to teach more Defensive Tactics; this time specifically related to Aircraft Interdiction. This was several months before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on American soil, but the GSG9 was anticipating violence on German air carriers and wanted to be better prepared. They wanted Jim Wagner to help with their new program they were forming. Much of what Jim taught them would also be used for the new German Air Marshal program after 9/11. Some GSG9 members would become Air Marshals, the Master Sergeant who first invited Jim Wagner to Germany for one, along with instructors Jim already knew from the federal academy up in Lubbeck.
After completing the training on this second trip they once again asked Jim what he wanted from them. This time Jim asked for sniper training on the HK PSG1, and again they granted his wishes. He received extensive GSG9 sniper training.
During this second trip Combat Team 2, the waterborne operators of GSG9, were working with Boker, the world famous knife manufacturer, on a new dive knife. The mechanical drawings had just been completed and Jim Wagner was asked by the sergeant of the Technical Unit (a unit in charge of equipment testing and procurement) if he would be willing to go to the city of Solingen to look over the designs and give his opinion. Jim went and met with the Boker knife designers. This chance meeting would eventually lead to Jim designing knives for Boker a few years later.
Today GSG9 continues its legacy of one of the top counterterrorist teams in the world fighting terrorism and organized crime for Germany and the European Union.
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