New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy now allow women officers to join its special forces unit, the Garud commando force and MARCOS marine commandos, to promote gender equality within its ranks, an unnamed official familiar with the development said on Monday.
The women officers who meet the criteria for selection can join the Garud and MARCOS of IAF and Navy.
According to the official, although the development is released now, the decision to allow women into the elite wing had already been taken last year.
Women candidates can volunteer for the special forces of air force and navy. There will be no dilution in the selection or training standards, officials from the two services said.
Both female officers and sailors can volunteer to become Marcos. They will join the service as Agniveers next year, according to a second official.
The special forces of the army, navy and air force consist of some of the toughest soldiers who undergo rigorous training, are capable of mounting a swift and stealthy response in denied territories, and have thus far been a male preserve. Soldiers are not directly assigned to special forces units, and have to volunteer for it.
The Marcos have been trained for a variety of tasks and can operate on land, sea, and air. These Marcos commandos can carry out covert strikes on enemy warships, offshore installations, and other key assets, as well as specialised diving operations and observation. They also do reconnaissance missions to support naval operations.
The IAF’s Garud commando force, which was formed in 2004, was made after came three years after four terrorists, armed with Kalashnikovs and grenades, attempted to force their way into the IAF’s Awantipora fighter base near Srinagar in broad daylight. All the four terrorists were killed.
In the past, the military was basically male dominant as women are not allowed to join the forces due to physiological, psychological, and cultural factors. After much debate, the IAF decided to induct women into the fighter stream in 2015. Now, women are also allowed to serve on board warships alongside their male counterparts. They are even allowed to fly fighter jets.
To be sure, tanks and combat positions in infantry are still no-go zones for women.
The option of volunteering to become Marcos will be open to women officers, and sailors who are currently undergoing training at INS Chilka in Odisha and will join the navy as Agniveers next year. The air force will begin inducting women in the personnel below officer rank (PBOR) cadre under the Agnipath model next year onwards though the recruitment process has already started.