Garud Commando : Offence is the best form of Defence
The youngest special force of the services, Garud is a force multiplier raised with theintention of providing versatile military capability specific to the Indian Air force.Raised in the year 2003, the strength of the force is speculated upon. However, it is estimated that the strength hovers around 1000-1500 personnel. Raised and trained on the lines of the Para commandos of the army and MARCOS of the navy, Garuds have been able to carve a niche for themselves within a short period in operational specific tasks.
Garud derives its name from garuda, a divine bird-like creature of Hindu mythology. This elite unit specialises in Airfield Seizure, Special Reconnaissance, Airborne Operations, Air Assault and Search and Rescue missions, including those behind enemy lines. It is also tasked with the protection of critical Air Force bases as well as rapid response to terror attacks on such installations. In the aftermath of the Pathankot Terror Attack, Indian Air Force has decided to raise ten additional squadrons of Garud commandos.
The genesis of the IAF commando force lies in the daring attempts by Pakistan-sponsored and trained terrorist outfits against two major air bases in Jammu and Kashmir in late 2001. Even though the attacks, aimed at the main entrances to these bases, were successfully repulsed and the terrorists eliminated, a need was felt for a specialised force to protect the IAF’s vital and vulnerable assets. While the Indian Army safeguarded selected IAF airfields, especially the ones located in terror-intense areas, its units were always moved out on rotation, necessitating repeat of training for the newly inducted units. Therefore, for certain dedicated air force tasks, the IAF decided to raise an exclusive commando force.
The Air Force had felt a need to have a dedicated Special Force trained in Special Forces techniques, Combat Search and Rescue , Counter Insurgency Operations and Emergency response to terror-threats to airfields.oSo to address the need for a dedicated force, the Government of India had authorised a 1080 strong force to be raised in September 2003. Soon after, 100 airmen from the No.1 Airmen training center in Belgaum were earmarked to under go the Garud Training at Gurgaon. Not all would make it through the rigorous training. The Garuds were first unveiled as the Indian Air Force’s own Commando force on February 6, 2004, when the first batch of 62 ‘Air Commandos’ passed out of training in New Delhi.
Contrary to popular perception, Garuds are not an airfield and key assets protection force as its made to believe. The security of vital IAF installations like radars, airfields and other establishments in border areas is usually under the care of the Air Force Police and the Defence Security Corps. However in case of any terrorist attack , like the failed attempt on Awantipur AFS in October 2001, the Garuds will act as an emergency response team and will be on the scene to tackle the threat.
Their role is diverse and largely specific to the air force. During hostilities, Garuds undertake combat rescue, supression of enemy air defence and other missions in support of air operations. Their peace time role can be looked under counter terrorism, antihijacking, aid during natural calamities and military tasks in the interest of the nation.Garuds have been deployed to Congo as a part of the UN peace keeping contingent. Operating alongside the special forces of the Army in Jammu and Kashmir provide them the much needed operational exposure. Towards this purpose, teams from the flights are attached to army SF units.
Airmen Selection Process:
Unlike its counterparts in the Army and Navy, the selection of the Garuds is not done among volunteers from other branches. Recruitment to the Garuds is done directly through airmen selection centers through advertisements. Candidates found eligible for the force are put through a process of rigorous physical training.
There are no second chances to the potential Garud recruit. Either they have it in them or they dont. Those selected for training will have to make the grade during the commando training, otherwise they would find themselves back on civvy street.
Once a recruit completes training and meets the tough physical standards, he is absorbed into the Commando force and is retained in this stream throughout his stint in the IAF. Whereever he is posted in the IAF, he will be part of a Garud Unit. This approach ensures that the Commando Force retains its highly trained men for thecomplete duration of their career with the IAF.
Training The Garuds
Unlike its counterparts in the army and navy, officer candidates for Garud commandos are selected from volunteers of other branches. Recruitment of airmen to the Garud Force is done directly through Airmen Selection Centres. Candidates found eligible for the force undergo a 52-week basic training course, which is one of the longest among all the Indian Special Forces because it also includes basic airman training.
The initial phase is a three-month probationary, mainly rigorous physical training, which filters out the promising candidates for the next higher phase. The initial phase, which usually has a high attrition rate, is conducted at the Garud Regimental Training Centre located at Air Force Station, Chandinagar, District Bagpat, Uttar Pradesh. The subsequent phase of special operations training is imparted with assistance from the special group of the Special Frontier Force, the Indian Army, the National Security Group and the para-military forces. The IAF, however, is on the threshold of establishing its own advanced training facilities. Those who qualify, proceed to the Parachute Training School at Agra to complete the basic airborne operations phase. The remainder of the phases consists of other niche fields such as jungle and snow survival, bomb demolition, and so on.
Garuds also train with the Army’s Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School. The final phase of training consists of active operations on being attached to operationally deployed Special Forces Units of the Indian Army, which helps the Garuds to gain firsthand operational experience. After induction, the Garuds are required to hone their skills further by undergoing advanced training, including specialised weapons handling. A few selected Garuds have also undergone training in foreign countries like the US, and so on.
Present Status & Tasks
Aspiring to be a 1,500-strong force, at present there are around 1,080 Garuds. Garud air warriors are inducted as airmen within the IAF’s rank structure. The force is organised into 15 ‘Flights’. A Garud flight is roughly the equivalent of a ‘Company’ in an infantry battalion of the Indian Army and is commanded by ay an officer of the rank of Squadron Leader/Flight Lieutenant. The flights are individually based at various Air Force Stations, where they are operationally deployed.
Garuds are not limited to being a base protection force to safeguard airfields and IAF’s key assets which tasks are by and large performed by the Air Force Police and personnel from the Defence Security Corps. Specially trained Garuds operate more on the lines of the army’s para-commandos and the navy’s MARCOS to undertake missions anywhere, including behind enemy lines. However, even though trained to perform diverse and high-risk tasks, their role generally remains specific to the air force, including security of vital IAF installations in the vulnerable border areas.
The Garud commandos use a variety of weapons. These include Glock pistols, Tavor TAR-21 assault rifles, Galil sniper rifles and Negev machine guns. Their roles include hostage rescue and operating behind enemy lines
Jai Hind !!