Having tasted major success by eliminating around eight terrorists during their brief stint in Jammu and Kashmir, Garud Special Forces of Indian Air Force are raring to go and want to be given more exposure to direct counter terror operations.
Youngest Special Force of country, which encountered one of its first major operations during the Pathankot air base attack by Pakistan-backed terrorists, is also expanding its numbers to meet its requirements during peace and also war-time roles assigned to it.
“Two of our teams are already in operation in Hajin area of Jammu and Kashmir and they would be replaced by two other units soon. This is going to help more and more of our troops get exposure to real action,” a senior Garud officer said.
In the aftermath of Pathankot operations, the IAF and Army had agreed to give exposure to the Garuds in counter-terror ops in the Valley and two teams were attached to the 13 Rashtriya Rifles. After a few weeks, they started operating in close coordination with the Army, but also kept developing their own intelligence network.
In the first major operation in Rakh Hajin area of Bandipore in October, the Garuds tasted big success in a direct encounter against Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists. While tackling a team of six to seven terrorists who were trying to escape from a house even before the cordon could be established, Sergeant Milind Kishore and Corporal Nilesh Nain killed two of them before attaining martyrdom.
The injured terrorists managed to escape but the rattled Garuds started pursuing them. Gathering intelligence, the Special Forces traced a group of terrorists hiding in a house in Chandargeer area. During the subsequent encounter, the Garuds eliminated six terrorists, majorly due to the bravery of Corporal JP Nirala who used his Negev LMG to kill three of them while pinning down the rest of the group.
“The troops are highly motivated by the acts of valour of our fallen buddies and want to be given more roles in counter-terror ops in Kashmir,” another officer said. “More than 30 per cent volunteers return within weeks of training. Most find it tough to survive the 16-18 hours-a-day life during which they are prepared both physically and mentally to earn their Garud badge,” an officer said. A Garud instructor said that due to tough selection standards, only 26 officers from different branches have been able to join the elite force in the last 13 years of its existence.