MARCOS: India’s elite line of Defence
India ranks at No. 4 in the list of most powerful militaries in the world. According to the Military Direct’s ultimate military strength index, India scored 61 out of 100 points on parameters like budget, personnel, and equipment. Much of this credit should be attributed to our nation’s special forces. These are relatively small military units, but truly ferocious to stand against any deadly mission without breaking a sweat. One of these special forces is the MARCOS or Marine Commandos.
The MARCOS was raised in 1987 by the Indian Navy. Dubbed the ‘Dadiwala Fauj’ due to the beards the commandos grow as a disguise, the unit carries out intense operations relating to direct action, surveillance & reconnaissance, and recovery. Although it specializes in maritime warfare, it is also skilled to operate on land and in air. It operates under extreme secrecy and is lauded globally for its professionalism.
Source: DNA India
The marine commandos’ initial role was to defend off-shore assets in Bombay High. Soon they had greater responsibilities and accomplishments. Some of them include:
Operation Pawan (1987)
The MARCOS joined the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) to fight the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) in Sri Lanka. LTTEs were operating in lagoons around Jaffna. Our commandos swam 12 km towards them without being detected, made explosions in their area, engaged in firing with them, and swam back without any casualties. It was a highly successful operation that earned the commandos gallantry awards including the Maha Vir Chakra and Vir Chakra.
Operation Cactus (1988)
The Marine Commandos helped the democratic government of Maldives stop a coup. They also caught the mercenaries who tried to escape after the coup ended and saved the hostages they had held.
Operation Tasha (1991)
On the Tamil Nadu coast, the MARCOS were deployed to restrict the movement of LTTE militants between Sri Lanka and India and the smuggling of arms.
United Nations Operation in Somalia II (1993)
During the second phase of the UN’s intervention in Somalia post the civil war, Indian Navy’s marine commandos provided maritime support to the Indian contingent in Mogadishu.
Operation Rakshak (1995 till today)
In 1995, the militants in Jammu and Kashmir used the Wular Lake to reach Srinagar. Going through the lake saved them a distance of 100 km that they otherwise had to travel additionally through the mountains. When the MARCOS team was deployed at the lake, the militant activity ceased within weeks. In the following years, they were also positioned on land to interdict and kill militants. To date, they continue to deal with those militants, and have recovered many weapons.
Kargil War (1999)
The MARCOS have assisted the Indian Army in carrying out covert operations during the Kargil War.
MARCOS performing at the Defence Exhibition Organization 2020
Operation Black Tornado (2008)
During the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks on Trident and Taj Hotels, the MARCOS were the first to respond. The terrorists created havoc in at least 10 places in Mumbai, killing about 125 people and injuring more than 300. The marine commandos along with the National Security Guard commandos stormed both luxury hotels and took control by November 29. It was at this point that the MARCOS came into the spotlight both nationally and internationally.
Operation Rahat (2015)
When Yemen was devastated by a full-blown civil war in 2015, the Indian Navy decided to evacuate Indian and Foreign Nationals. Amid the continuous bombing, airstrikes, and rigorous patrolling by heavily-armed Houthi rebels on harbours, the Navy tasked the MARCOS with the safe evacuation of people through boats. The commandos successfully evacuated thousands of people.
Apart from the above operations, our marine commandos have undertaken various anti-piracy operations. Reports also suggest that since 2020, some of them have been deployed in Eastern Ladakh, accompanying the Indian Army in a stand-off with the Chinese military.
MARCOS Motto: “The Few, The Fearless”
Only the bravest of souls can be a part of MARCOS. It has one of the world’s toughest selection and training programs. All applicants have to be qualified in HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) and HAHO (High Altitude High Opening). HALO means to be able to jump from 11 km above the earth, and the parachute opens when the person is close to the ground. HAHO is a jump from 8 km above the earth, and the parachute opens 10-15 seconds after the jump.
About 80% of the applicants are screened out in the pre-training procedure itself. It consists of a three-day-long physical fitness and aptitude test. This is followed by a hell’s week that is similar to the US Navy SEALs’ hell’s week. Each day, an applicant has to undergo over 20 hours of continuous physical exercise, and suffer extreme sleep deprivation. After the applicants pass this, the actual training begins.
Source: India Today
The training lasts between two-and-a-half and three years. Initially, the aspiring marine commandos are made familiar with the basics such as using different equipment i.e. weapons & explosives, battling unarmed, para jumping, diving, kayaking, photography. They are trained to fight in all kinds of environments - high-altitude warfare (for the cold), jungle warfare and mountain warfare. They are taught to fire while lying down, while sprinting forward and backward, and while looking in a mirror.
Furthermore, the MARCOS are expected to be responsive at all times. Hence, they are trained to have a reaction time of 0.27 seconds in any situation. Also, owing to the covert nature of their job, the commandos have to behave like the general public wherever they are deployed. This requires them to be well-trained to gather foreign intelligence. As a result, they are proficient in various languages including Mandarin and Arabic. They also possess one of the most coveted feats by Special Forces around the world: para dropping into the sea with a full combat load.
The trainees then pursue advanced training in their specialization and join respective groups on probation. These may include counter insurgency, amphibious operations, clandestine operations, hostage rescue, surveillance & reconnaissance, or anti-piracy.
With such stringent training, the marine commandos are trained such that they can withstand any circumstance, irrespective of however physically or emotionally straining that may be.
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Saksena, A. (2015, May 2). 15 Reasons The Indian Navy MARCOS Are The Best In The World. Indiatimes. https://www.indiatimes.com/culture/who-we-are/15-reasons-the-indian-navy-marcos-are-the-best-in-the-world-232296.html
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