India is modernising its forces continuously to safeguard the nation. In India’s defence preparedness, Special Forces(SF) play an important role. Having served in the Indian Army for glorious thirty-seven years, including six with Special Frontier Force (SFF), I can safely claim a few words about Special Forces in India, their deployment, life style, tasks and training. It is a long story but because of obvious constraints/limits, I will try to present a “Bird’s Eye View”.
Special forces for special operations
- Para Commandos is a very highly trained force of about 6,000 Soldiers specialising in operations using parachutes/ paradrops
- Garud Commandos are extremely adept at anti-hijack training, jungle and snow survival techniques and advanced diving skills
- Marine Commandos of Indian Navy are trained to engage in battle on all terrains but are super experts in maritime warfare
- Ghatak Force is a Special Operations Infantry Platoon with every infantry battalion, acts as shock troops and lead man to man assaults
- RAW which is an External Intelligence Agency of India, has standalone Specialised Forces under its control, namely Special Frontier Force and Special Group
India has a stream of Special Forces. Three branches of the Indian Armed Forces have independent Specialised Forces Units which encompass Para SF of Indian Army, MARCOS of Indian Navy and the Garud Commando Force of Indian Air Force. There are other Special Forces that are not controlled by Military Commandments but operate under other Government departments such as National Security Guard of Home Ministry and Special Groups under Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Even State Governments have their own SFs like Force One and C Sixty in Maharashtra and Grey Hounds in Andhra Pradesh. Small groups from Military SF Units are deputed by Armed Forces Special Operations Division, a unified Command and Control structure.
Armed Forces have following compliments:
Para Commandos is a very highly trained force of about 6000s soldiers specialising in operations using parachutes/ paradrops. Their Sniper Units are also best among the Armed Forces. Because of extremely fatal nature of the operations they perform, they are kept at optimum level of operational efficiency and physical fitness, and only the most physically fit, mentally robust, intelligent, and highly motivated and active and energised soldiers are inducted in the fleet
MARCOS or Marine Commandos of Indian Navy, a 2000 strong Force, are trained to engage in battle on all terrains but are super experts in Maritime Warfare.
Garud Commandos of Indian Air Force, who number 1200, are specialised in Airfield Seizure, Special Reconnaissance, Airborne Operations, Air Assault and Special Operations for Combat Search and Rescue. Garud Commandos are extremely adept at Anti Hijack Training, Jungle and Snow Survival Techniques and Advanced Diving Skills.
Ghatak Force is a Special Operations Infantry Platoon with every Infantry Battalion, acts as Shock Troops and lead Man to Man Assaults. While dealing with adversary, they specialise in raids on Artillery Positions, Airfields, Supply Dumps and Tactical Head Quarters. They are experts at directing artillery and air attacks on Targets deep within enemy lines, Heliborne Assault, Rock Climbing
Armed Forces Special Operations Division (AFSOD) is a Tri Service Command. Which is tasked and nurtured to carry out Specialised and dedicated operations. The AFSOD draws personnel from all three Special Warfare branches of the Armed Forces. It is presently under-staffed and under-positioned. The division is expected to be converted into a full sized and full-fledged Tri Service Command. It will be responsible for training of Commandos of Armed Forces in various training establishments along with coordination of future operations. These are; Commando Training School, Belgaum, Karnataka; Winter Warfare School, Gulmarg,Kashmir; High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS), Sonmarg, Kashmir; High Altitude Commando Course, Parvat Ghatak School, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh; Desert Warfare School, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan and Combat Divers Course, Indian Navy’s Diving School, Kochi (Kerala).
NSG and COBRAS
National Security Guard (NSG) and COBRAS are under Ministry of Home Affairs. NSG, also called Black Cats, was created in 1986 at Manesar (Haryana). It is a blend of commandos drawn from both the Indian Army and Central Armed Police Forces, led by a ‘Director General’ from the Indian Police Service. Comprising two units; Special Action Group (SAG), which consists entirely of Indian Army personnel; and the Special Ranger Groups (SRG); both for Counter Terrorism Activities; NSG is equipped with most advanced weapons in the world. The selection process is very brutal and challenging and those who qualify to be retained are deputed to train briskly for another nine months to mature as Phantom NSG Commandos. COBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) is dedicatedly trained in guerilla warfare to tackle the notorious Naxal groups. As a part of the Central Reserve Police Force(CRPF), COBRA commandos are masters of camouflage, jungle warfare, precision strikes and ambushes.
Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) which is an External Intelligence Agency of India, has standalone Specialised Forces under its control, namely Special Frontier Force and Special Group. Special Frontier Force (Establishment 22) was created on the November 14, 1962 at Chakrata (Himachal Pradesh) to undertake fiery operations against the People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA). It is a Paramilitary Special Force which specialises in Special Reconnaissance, Direct Action, Hostage Rescue, Counter Terrorism, Unconventional Warfare and Covert Operations. It operates in sync with RAW. These Commandos are supremely and superbly ingrained and trained in guerrilla tactics, mountain and jungle warfare, and parachute jumps.
India has a stream of Special Forces (SF). Three branches of the Indian Armed Forces have independent Specialised Forces Units which encompass; Para SF of Indian Army, MARCOS of Indian Navy and the Garud Commando Force of Indian Air Force
Training and upbringing of Commando is very tough. More than 60 per cent volunteers drop out in the three-day long, physical fitness and aptitude test where volunteers are put through extreme sleep deprivations, coupled with the most difficult physical tasks. Selection for retention process for a Commando is generally of three months. It varies from service to service. Usually Commando’s day begins with a run of minimum 10 kilometers. Rigorous physical training runs day and night with no specific routine. They get trained without food for four days, 1 litre of water for three days and without sleep for seven days. He will always carry a 10 kg sandbag on his back, affectionately called ‘Permanent Buddy’. The objective is to make the candidate realise and strengthen him so that he is far more capable than he ever imagined. The moment, he shows any weakness, he is out.
Every month he has to complete 10/20/30 and 40 km speed march/walk with full battle gears which means additional 25 kg. These speed walks ought to be completed within the stipulated time. They are taught to survive with literally nothing to eat or drink. They collect dew in the wee hours to survive. Just 300 ml of water is good enough for them to survive for two days. A normal human needs six litres a day to survive. A Commando is taught to eat anything. They know which grass, which leaf, which shrub to eat to stay alive, under dire circumstances, to complete their mission.
A Commando is required to develop skills of Jumping from high walls, walking on narrow platforms and beams, slithering from helicopters, endurance runs carrying complete battle load and personal weapons, Battle Obstacle Courses, Rock climbing, Repelling, Combat Firing and survival missions. A Commando has to master any kind of adverse situation. The most important aspect of training is to attack the enemy by ambushing them from close range. This is the most arduous and dangerous training. The enemy is ambushed and attacked, so, the training to instantly shoot and kill the enemy from close range is very important and imperative. Combat skills which they acquire, make the difference between life and death while operating on Commando Missions. He is constantly reminded of the need to be physically and psychologically fit. As the training gains momentum, a new reality dawns and the fight to survive for one more day takes hold. As days go by, the rules of the game change rapidly, with nothing known about the next moment. The psychological strain is immense, by design.
The foremost quality of a Commando is steadfast will-power, moral and physical courage, and psychological, emotional and physical fitness. A Commando has to ‘Live to Fight another Day.’ A Commando has to ‘fight to survive’ and ‘survive to win.’ He can never afford to lose. Apart from physical and mental toughness, one has to have the camaraderie to prove his worth. It’s their mindset. Come what may, they will fight till their last breath. A battle is not won by dying for your country but by killing her enemy. It’s all about Feeling for the Nation.