IAF Garuds in Valley for on-the-job training

After the terrorist attack on the Pathankot airbase, IAF commandos are embedded with the Army

The two Garuds killed on Wednesday in Kashmir were from the first batch of the Indian Air Force (IAF) commandos embedded with the Army for live situational training in Kashmir, a decision taken in the wake of the terrorist attack on the Pathankot airbase in 2016.

“Garuds were with the Army for live situational training. They came in August,” a defence official said.

Sergeant Khairnar Milind Kishor and Corporal Nilesh Kumar Nayan lost their lives in a gunfight during a combined cordon-and-search operation at Hajin village in Bandipora district of Kashmir. Two militants were killed in the operation.

Six heavily armed terrorists from Pakistan attacked the Pathankot base in the early hours of January 2, 2016. Seven security personnel lost their lives in the ensuing operation.

Two Garud squads, each consisting of one officer and 13 other ranks, have been deployed in Kashmir. They had undergone a four-week pre-induction training before being deployed for counter-insurgency operations with 13 Rashtriya Rifles.

In-house role
The Garuds were formed in 2003 towards providing specific in-house role capabilities to the Air Force. They are specially trained to be a quick reaction force at important IAF bases and protect its high-value assets.

“Garuds were raised for a different mandate for special Air Force tasks and not anti-terror operations,” the former IAF chief Fali H. Major told The Hindu in the past.

A Court of Inquiry into the Pathankot attack conducted by Air Vice-Marshal Amit Dev found serious lapses in the base security and the handling of the incident. The report noted that had the terrorists been pinned down by the Garud commandos, the lives of five Defence Security Corps personnel could have been saved. The report also faulted the Garud commandos for their failure in handling the situation, and said they were ill-prepared for the task.

As a result, the government decided that Garuds would be deployed in counter-insurgency operations with the Army in Jammu and Kashmir to gain operational experience.