All MARCOS personnel are males selected from the Indian Navy. An individual can only Join MARCOS if he is part of Indian Navy. They are selected when they are in their early 20s and have to go through a stringent selection process and training. The selection standards are extremely high.
The training is a continuous process. American and British special forces assisted in the initial training, which now consists of a two-year course for new recruits. The training regimen includes airborne operations, combat diving courses, counter-terrorism, anti-hijacking, anti-piracy operations, direct action, infiltration and ex-filtration tactics, special reconnaissance, unconventional warfare training etc. The majority of the training is conducted at INS Abhimanyu which is also the home base of MARCOS.
Most MARCOS personnel are freefall qualified (HALO/HAHO). A few also qualify to operate the Cosmos CE-2F/X100 two-man subs.
MARCOS train along with the Special Forces officers of the Indian Army like the Para Commandos at the Indian special forces training school, Nahan and Army’s other schools for Unconventional warfare These include the Junior Leaders’ Commando Training Camp in Belgaum, Karnataka, the Parvat Ghatak School (for high altitude mountain warfare) in Tawang Arunachal Pradesh, Desert warfare school in Rajasthan, the High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) in Sonamarg, Kashmir and the Counter-insurgency and Jungle Warfare School(CIJWS) in Vairengte, Mizoram. These elite schools routinely host students from other countries. MARCOS are then trained at various training agencies within the navy. They are skilled combat divers and parachutists and most of the training deals with counter-terrorism, anti-hijacking and anti-piracy operations.
Generally, the pre-training selection process is made of two parts. Any Indian Navy personnel who wants to join this outfit must first undergo a three-day long, physical fitness test and aptitude test. Within this process, 80% of the application are screened out. Further screening process is known as ‘HELL’S WEEK‘. This is actually a five-week-long process which involves a high degree of physical exercises and sleep deprivation. It is only after this process that actual training begins
The total duration of training of MARCOS is between two and a half to three years.
The basic training lasts six months. The first two months is the weeding out phase. The first phase of which lasts one month, in which they undergo many rigorous physical tests of which only 50% pass. Then for the next nine months, they are taught how to use different types of weapons, conduct special warfare techniques and how to gather intelligence from the enemy.
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The cadets start with basic diving and commando tactics and skills. Those that go on are trained in every aspect of modern warfare and in every situation. This includes firing while lying down, standing, running full-sprint, even backwards and looking into a mirror – with a reaction time of 0.27 seconds. This is followed by a year of training of specialised skills. They are trained in various types of close combat including Krav Maga.
Different forms of warfare training are imparted through field operations in counter-insurgency and anti-terrorist operations within the country and are trained to operate in any kind of environment like beaches, deep sea, on the surface of the ocean, in jungles, ravines and for situations like hostage rescue, urban combat and piracy.
A notably rigorous training program is the “death crawl” – an 800-meter struggle through thigh-high mud, loaded with 25 kg of gear and after a 2.5 km obstacle course that most soldiers would fail. After that, when the trainee is exhausted and sleep-deprived, he has to undergo the final test – shooting a target 25 metres away, with a partner standing next to it.
The MARCOS are trained in every kind of weapon and instruments, from knives and crossbows to sniper rifles, handguns, assault rifles, submachine guns and bare hands. Being divers, they can reach hostile shores swimming underwater.
The further training includes:
- Open and closed circuit diving
- Basic commando skills including advanced weapon skills, demolitions, endurance training and martial arts
- Para training
- Intelligence training
- Operation of submersible craft
- Offshore operations
- Anti-terrorism operations
- Operations from submarines
- Various special skills such as language training, insertion methods, etc.
- Explosive ordnance disposal techniques
They are also trained to parachute into open water with a full combat load.
In 2013, the MARCOS have introduced a larger duck-drop system which will be fitted on Ilyushin Il-76aircraft. Each system (two boats) can accommodate 32 commandos, their weapons and fuel for the boats. Duck-drop system that MARCOS operate in the past is smaller in size which is fitted on An-32 aircraft.
Once para-dropped from the aircraft, it allows for the commandos to assemble inflatable motorised boats within ten minutes, and quickly reach ships in distress. On reaching the target, they can dismantle the boats and travel underwater to mount a surprise attack. Such rescue missions can be mounted by the commandos deployed within an hour unlike in the past when commandos took up to 48 hours to reach the targets as it involved travelling on-board ships and then being deployed on motorized boats.
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Marcos also trained for urban warfare and practice on 3D virtual models of offshore installations to ensure a swift response during a terrorist attack. The marine commandos undergo regular training sessions in this computer-generated programme to be well-prepared for a strike similar to the 26/11 attack.
A major part of their training is kept under wraps.
The average MARCOS training drop-out rate is more than 90%. The force has its own training facility, first as an adjunct of the operational company at INS Abhimanyu, in Bombay and later at the Naval Special Warfare Tactical Training Centre. For combat diving training, the commandos are sent to the Naval Diving School, Kochi.
The MARCOS in all are trained to operate in every terrain the Mission Calls for.