National Security Guards (NSG Commando): Are you tough enough ?
Popularly known as Black Cats because of the black nomex coveralls and black balaclavas they wear, NSG commandos are on deputation from the Army and paramilitary, including the Central Reserve Police Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Border Security Force and Sashastra Seema Bal.
Three of their 14 months of training in Manesar, Haryana, are devoted to the basics.The basic training period lasts 90 days. Physical fitness training has 26 elements, ranging from an crosscountry obstacle course to jumping from heights and across divides and scaling different kinds of terrain. One endurance test involves target shooting at the end of an obstacle-ridden cross-country run. This is meant to gauge the candidate’s performance under conditions of stress and exhaustion. Those who successfully complete the tests are sent for nine months of advanced training. Only those who complete the entire course successfully are inducted into the NSG and given further specialised training.
The training trains the commandos to handle sophisticated communication equipment, combat gadgets and different kinds of arms/specialized weapons such as AK-47/74s, Browning hi-power 9mm pistols, 9mm Uzi sub-machine guns, 5.56mm M-16A2s, 9mm H&K MP5-A2/A3s and locally manufactured 7.62mm SLR and 5.56mm INSAS rifles. Sniper rifles such as the semi-automatic H&K 7.62mm PSG-1 and MSG-90, the SIG 7.62mm, SSG-2000 and the bolt-action Mauser SP66/86SR are also used to train members of the Special Action Group, which is specifically deployed for anti-terror/anti-hijacking operations.
The probation grind saps the toughest of recruits and the drop out rate is 50 – 70%. For starters there is a 26-item, 780-metre obstacle course, with a qualifying time of 18 minutes. If a person completes the course in 25 minutes, he is deemed fit. The best do it in less than nine minutes. The obstacles have to do with heights, horizontal gaps and vertical scaling and are difficult to tackle in sequence. As if this is not enough, there’s a target shooting session at the end of the obstacle course meant to test the aspirants’ performance under severe stress and exhaustion. Those who complete this course are recruited to the unit and sent for advanced training. Some operators are sent to Israel for advanced training. Though it is not known exactly what training they receive, it could probably be the CT/HRT course with Unit 707. Some NSG personnel have received additional training in Israel and use weapons like the famed 9mm Uzi sub-machine gun. Their weapon of choice, however, is the Heckler & Koch family of 9mm sub-machine guns, the 7.62mm PSG-1 sniper weapon and the Heckler & Koch 512 12-gauge shotgun. Side arms include Glock 17 and Sig Sauer P226 9mm pistols. They are also armed with state-of-the-art surveillance gadgets and other sophisticated equipment. The unit is also parachute-trained, but is uncertain whether this capability includes free-fall (HALO/HAHO) and static-line or just the latter. The unit also has a superb bomb disposal squad.
SHOOTING IN THE DARK
Advanced training also covers ‘combat room shoot’ in which commandos have to enter a dark room, adjust their vision to the darkness and shoot at a target within three seconds by torchlight or a compatible laser image intensifier. Similar training is also conducted under discotheque strobe lights — conditions that are considered very difficult. Shooting skills are honed at an electronic combat shooting range, which is divided into 11 zones and spread over 400 metres. Recruits have to cover the distance in 6.30 minutes and fire at 29 targets along the way, with the target exposure time is between two and three seconds and the targets are of all kinds – vertically rising, popping out, moving and rotating. The faster a person engages the target the more points he scores. It is not just non-reactive targets that they practice against. In twin room shooting, rival combatants enter contiguous rooms and watch each other’s movements on a screen. They are supposed to neutralise each other by shooting at the screen. The exercise test the combatants’ response time and accuracy under near-field conditions. The men are also put through a battle inoculation program where they have to stand right next to the target while one of their partners shoots at it. “They have to become used to live bullets flying under their noses. Also the person shooting is conscious that if he misses by even a couple of inches the bullet is going to hit his partner.” says an instructor. They don’t wear the kavach either, a bullet-proof vest, designed by Colonel Dutta himself. The vest can withstand an AK-47 or a 7.62mm carbine shot at point blank range. Members of the unit are assigned partners soon after completion of basic training and they train and even go on leave together. But as crack professionals, they are under orders to shoot their partner if he makes a single threatening step detrimental to the security of a VIP. On an average, a commando fires 2000 rounds of live ammunition during practice sessions throughout the year. This is apart from the two months that units have to spend in alert status and for whom it’s a daily stint at the range. “I did more firing in a week of alert status than in my entire 10-year stay in the Army,” says an NSG Officer. On average a person fires close to 14,000 rounds over a period of two months in alert status. The target strike rate has to be above 85% for a person to remain in the force. After completing their training, commandos have to be on “alert status” mode for two months. During this period, the target strike rate has to be above 85% for a commando to remain in the force. The NSG simulates hundreds of realistic scenarios in daily drills – the key being fitness and surprise.
The National Security Guards (NSG) was raised by the Cabinet Secretariat under the National Security Guard Act of 1985 and has acquired considerable experience from the intense insurgency operations it has faced – from the present conflict in the state of Kashmir to the cradle of its birth, the state of Punjab. Adopting a variety of roles from counter-terrorism to hostage rescue to VIP protection, the NSG proudly wears the mantle of being one of the finest counter-terrorist units in all of Asia.
The smallest combat unit in the NSG’s counter-terrorist ops is a hit which comprises of five members – two pairs, or partners and a technical support member. Four hits make a team which is under the command of a Captain. The number of hits used for an intervention job depends on its complexity and the magnitude of the operation. In hostage rescue situations, a team of 50 to 90 NSG personnel and an IL-76MD strategic transport aircraft to transport them, are stationed on alert at New Delhi’s Palam AFS and are ready to deploy within 30 minutes of being informed.
The NSG is an elite force providing a second line of defence to the nation. They have played a pivotal role in safeguarding the unity of India and have commendably foiled attempts of anti-national elements to tear apart the social fabric of the country. The NSG has maintained an edge over terrorist outfits in possession of latest technology and are considered among the finest special operations units in all of South Asia. However, as Colonel Dutta says, “We are like nukes. The ultimate back-up.”
With a total strength of approximately 7500 personnel, the NSG is divided into two groups – the Special Action Group (SAG) and the Special Rangers Group (SRG). The SAG, which comprises 54% of the force, is the elite, offensive wing with members drawn from the Indian Army. The SRG, on the other hand, has members on deputation from central police organisations like the Border Security Force (BSF), the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Rapid Action Force (RAF). The primary function of the SRG is to play a supportive role to the SAG, especially in isolating target areas. For maintaining the young profile of the force, troops are rotated and sent back to their parent organisations after serving in the NSG for three to five years.
The NSG Training Centre is a Centre of Excellence and the National Bomb Data Centre holds international conferences. Both are located at Manesar in Haryana. The NSG HQ Exchange is located at Mehramnagar, Palam.
Their goals of NSG are
• Neutralisation of specific terrorist threats in vital installations or any given area
• Handling hijack situations involving piracy in the air and on the land.
• Engaging and neutralising terrorists in specific situations.
• Rescue of hostages in kidnap situations.
The NSG’s roles include protecting VIPs, conducting anti-sabotage checks, rescuing hostages, neutralizing terrorist threats to vital installations, engaging terrorists and responding to hijacking and piracy. The NSG is much sought after for VVIP security for high-risk VVIPs in India; this task is done by the SRG of the NSG. The SAG is strike force in anti-terrorist and anti-hijack operations, supported by the SRG and others.
The NSG is not often deployed publicly, with most of its operations still remaining classified.