“The safety, honor, and welfare of your country come first, always and every time.
The honor, welfare, and comfort of the men you command come next.
Your own ease, comfort, and safety come last, always and every time…”
The psychological dimension of a conflict is as important as its physical dimension and is even more relevant today, especially when the threat in the socio-psychological domain is grave. While combating terrorism, this assumes great significance, as terrorists use violence as a psychological weapon. In a sense, they fight a psychological war also. The relevance of military psychology is much greater than the successful conduct of tactical operations.
Special Forces (SF) are extremely crucial in unconventional wars using counter-insurgency and guerrilla warfare. Smaller, highly mobile SF units with advanced weaponry can merge into a hostile environment and achieve their objectives. This article is an attempt to delve into the mindset of our elite SF soldiers to know how do they do it, in the Indian context. Like all Special Forces (SF), India’s forces to are shrouded in secrecy, especially when it comes to their operational details.
The Para SF enjoys a reputation of being the toughest of India’s armed forces and are warriors to the core. They operate in small groups of 6-15 and each one specializes in at least 2 life skills. They are heavily armed and are trained to survive on their own in hostile conditions with minimum help for many days while focusing on the operation. They are also trained in combat free fall, search & rescue, and other survival aspects. In such cases, death is always a close companion.
Every year soldiers apply for the rigorous selection test called probation in the SF. This is a purely volunteer-based force. But in almost every batch over 90% of people drop out. They are deprived of basic needs of food, shelter, sleep, etc on days together and subjected to strenuous physical and mental tests. The last days include the “hell week” – with routine runs of 20 km with 40kg loads and 1 100 km run with full battle load.
SF training is physically, mentally, and psychologically draining.
These tests are timed and you fail if not done within the time limit. 1 officer is always waiting with a quitting form to pressurise you more to quit. The very idea behind probation is to break the person and his perceptions about the world in every way – physically, mentally, and psychologically. They break you and then make you. That’s the aim.
This may sound inhuman but that’s the theme of SF – You never know how strong you are until strength is the only option left for you. the ones who stay back then go on to become India’s fiercest warriors which the enemy dreadfully calls “ ghost operatives “.
SF wants to see – what stuff are you made of; are you ready to go the extra mile to achieve the target even after complete exhaustion. So, after selection training continues. They are taught to be quick and decisive as delay can mean the difference between life and death. Discipline and punctuality are their foundational values. An SF warrior leads by example. From The front and doesn’t hesitate to take on a bullet for his colleague.
The SF operates always in buddy pairs – a group of 2 men will always be together – to care not for oneself, but each other. Buddies do everything together and it’s a lifelong bond. The SF has a policy of – leave no man behind, whether they lose or have a guy injured, he will always be carried back. Either everyone comes back or nobody does. SF training has an important lesson — 1 for all and all for 1. If 1 man makes a mistake, everyone is punished. If 1 man is sleeping hungry , none touches the food – that’s how bonds develop when you are going through pain, collectively, it makes tolerance easy – a proven psychological fact.
This kind of life requires them to be better than the best. They are completely self-sustainable in hostile terrains and always on standby. In such a case their mindset is more important than the other aspects. To survive in SF, they say, “Aapka Dil, Dimaag, Ghutne, Ek line mai hona chahiye” (what you think, speak, and do must be the same). This ability is rare to find in today’s world — that’s what makes SF different from the rest of us.
No doubt they are physically fit as hell and mentally tough also but, their mental strength matters more than the physical strength. Maslow’s s Pyramid says that humans have a hierarchy of never-ending needs and follow 1 need after the previous one is fulfilled but what would you do in a hostile environment wherein even your basic needs are not taken care of and you have a goal to achieve?
That’s where the SF stands out. as Major Vivek Jacob says: “ kaam wo karo jo karna he fal lage”(do the task which interests you more than the result/incentive). The SF teaches you to focus on the task at hand with utmost dedication and honesty without expecting anything in return. These people live far away from human contact, in jungles carrying heavy battle loads and doing their jobs secretly without recognition or craving for popularity.
They are ready to sacrifice all they have for the sake of a larger common goal and protect our nation. Many SF officers have said that everyone is as capable as they are and they are not super-humans. Everyone need not join them but still can learn something from them. “Special forces is a state of mind, It’s a way of life, How you live and think’’ says Major Vivek from 9 PARA SF.
A FEW TIPS FROM THE SF VETERANS
Since everyone cannot be a part of SF, here are a few life lessons to imbibe from them:-
( This article is not a scholarly write-up but a genuine attempt to bring out unknown aspects of military life from personal interactions and other sources and their relevance to our lives. Hope you like it. Thank You.)