The youngest special force of the services, Garud is a force multiplier raised with the intention 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.
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. While the Army might have provided some Special forces units to the Air Force, its units were always subject to being posted out on rotation to other areas as per the Army’s requirements. It was felt that the specialized training the air force would have provided such units would have to be repeated again and again for the replacement units. So to address the need for a dedicated force, the Government of India had authorized 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, suppression of enemy air defense and other missions in support of air operations. Their peace time role can be looked under counter terrorism, anti-hijacking, 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 is 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 don’t. 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. Wherever 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 the complete duration of their career with the IAF.
The first batch of Officers for the Garuds were volunteers from the Cadets of the Ground Duty Officers Course being trained at the Air Force Academy Dundigal. These officers on successful completion had been absorbed into the Garud Force and will be permanently assigned to the force till the point they reach senior ranks and go for higher postings.
Officers Beret Cap Badge. Flight Lieutenant Rank slides on shoulders. Disruptive Pattern Uniform. 9 mm Pistol in Holster.
The officer on left has removed all of his force identification badges and titles. However, the velcro patches can be seen. He is wearing the Sleeve title and patch in the picture on the right.
The Training regime to qualify as a Garud is extremely rigorous and lengthy. The 72 weeks of Basic training makes it the longest and most difficult.
The initial phase is conducted at the Garud Regimental Training Centre located at Hindan, near New Delhi. The first batch of 100 recruits arrived from the No.1 AirmenTraining Center at Belgaum, Karnataka. The three month probation filters out those who would go into the next phase. The attrition rate is very high. The subsequent phase on special operations training is imparted by the Special group of the Special Frontier Force, the army, NSG and the paramilitary forces. A few officers have also been trained by foreign militaries like that of the United States of America. Those who qualify, proceed to the Parachute Training School (PTS) at Agra to complete the basic airborne phase. The remainder of the phases concentrates on niche fields like jungle and snow survival, demolition etc.
Garuds also train at the diving school of the navy and the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) of the army. The final phase of training is active operations on being attached to Special Force Units of the army.
The Garuds are organized into a ‘Flights’, roughly the equivalent of ‘Company’ in an Infantry Batallion. Each flight will be under the command of an officer of Flt Lt rank.The force will be organized into fifteen flights with a total strength of 1080 soldiers.The entire force is currently under the command of a Wing Commander rank officer.
Unlike their counterparts from the navy MARCOS and Army Para-Commandos who sport maroon berets, Garuds are distinguished by the Black berets on a disrupted pattern uniform. They sport the operational paratrooper’s brevet on the right breast.The formation ensignia is worn on the left shoulder. The Garuds are also entitled to wear ‘IAF GARUD’ titles on the sleeves.
All Garuds sport the 9mm pistol as personal armament. Most of the airmen are issued with the INSAS rifle, as observed during Aero India 2005.