The Predators Who Protect: Going Beyond Limits
By Anantha Krishnan M | Published: 26th January 2014 08:10 AM |
It was 5.45 am at the Special Forces (SF) unit of the Indian Army, an elite group, operating out of one of the oldest erstwhile military farms in the country. The SF boys were all lining up for the roll call.
“We are called Predators, a very fascinating nickname. In 15 minutes, we will begin the Predators’ PT,” the unit’s Commanding Officer (CO) told Express.
At 6 am, with no sign of sunrise yet, the Predators began their PT sessions. “You cannot be a passenger in SF. It is a voluntary job, but we demand the best out of the boys. We push them beyond their limits,” says the CO.
The training is split into three modules: physical, skill (basic/ advance) and collective. “Our main job is to convert a soldier into an SF operative. We have a really tough three-month probation capsule. We also focus on the soldier’s knowledge level. Only soldiers can volunteer to join SF, and we don’t recruit civilians directly,” says the CO.
A soldier has to go through a mutual assessment process, Hell’s Week and weapon training. Hell’s Week is the most-dreaded seven-day training period. “Only 10 out of 40 are finally selected. The best of the best are earmarked for Special Operations. We also give exposure to the training patterns of armies of other countries as well.”
The rejection rate in SF is high. “Last year, we had 12 officers who volunteered to be in SF and only three fit the bill. The selection process happens every quarter ... it depends on the quality of the batch. On an average, 30-40 per cent is our selection rate,” the CO said.
When asked about the minimum height to become an SF operative, an officer said: “Our limit is normal (157.5 cm). And the hill tribes get further relaxation.”
The most unique part of the training is the Tyre PT, where huge truck tyres are lifted by a buddy pair a number of times. There are no set rules here. There are certain mandatory tests specific to arm strength (vertical rope, horizontal rope) which he needs to pass. A soldier under 30 years needs to run 5 km with battle load (rifle + 3.2 kg load) in 23 minutes. Two minutes are added for those between 30-40 years and five minutes for those above 45 years.
A soldier needs to sprint 60 metres with same load in less than 13 seconds and also climb 10 metres vertical rope and traverse a horizontal rope. He also needs to clear a nine-foot ditch in battle gear. Finally, he needs to run 20 km with rifle and 18.5 kg load in less than 2 hours 20 minutes; 30 km in less than 3 hours and 40 minutes and 40 km in less than 5 hours and 40 minutes to fulfil some of the selection criteria.
Once selected, a soldier gets advanced training in urban operations, room intervention and weapon firing. Even the physical training modes gradually get on to the toughest grades. Soldiers who have passed the SF route said that the most-advanced style of firing is taught. Training is given in firing with both hands, and using different kinds of weapons simultaneously.
An SF squad constitutes six members, including specialists in demolition, navigation, communication, medicine and weapon, with the sixth man being the commander with outstanding leadership qualities. Every SF soldier needs to be proficient in martial arts and they are trained in self-defence aggressively. Training never stops in SF.