By Dr Anantha Krishnan M
Photos: A Veeramani
Bengaluru, Feb 27: The just-concluded Aero India 2015 saw one unusual reportage assignment being undertaken by OneIndia. The mission had all the elements of a covert operation in pitch darkness.
This was an exclusive interaction with the Garuds – the elite Special Forces wing of the Indian Air Force (IAF). (Read an earlier repot here: http://www.oneindia.com/india/oneindia-special-iaf-garuds-impress-visitors-with-their-mean-machines-1660980.html)
Under the watchful eyes of Wg Cdr Rochelle D’Silva, the active Additional PRO of IAF, the two-member OneIndia team (this writer and photographer A Veeramani), was summoned to the heavily-guarded Operations Control Centre (OCC) at the Air Force Station, Yelahanka.
The OCC, a make-shift structure, housed the wings of all security agencies, who kept a hawk-eye on the conduct of the air show, movement of people inside the base, traffic among others.
This time for the Garuds, who are often barred from any form of media interaction, had the blessings of Air HQ, which relaxed the norms a bit, thanks to the Plane Carnival.
Lights off, camera, action! As a SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), the power supply to all temporary structures that have come up inside the AFS base would go off any time after 6.30 pm, when the battery of fire brigade personnel go back to their bases, after their gruelling duty hours.
As we stepped into the OCC, the OneIndia team was given a briefing about the Garuds, its history, purpose and mission at Aero India.
Next we had a glimpse at the array of weapons they used during their missions. Tavors, Glocks and rocket launchers were all the cool toys, the boys always loved.
As expected, it was darkness, with the power supply ‘officially’ tripping off! Time: 7:15 pm.
“Come on boys. Let’s move out,” the commander screamed. “Let’s do some soul-searching in the darkness. You know, we salute the spirit of light, but darkness is what we fall in love with,” he adds.
Soon a pair of night-vision devices was out for us to get a feel of the night ops.
“Light is detrimental during special ops in night. But, the NVGs are God-sent devices for us to cut through the darkness,” explains a Garud.
As we shift out of the OCC, heavily armed men were waiting to demonstrate some of their operational skills. One could barely spot a blue open gypsy, parked next to them – the best friend of Garuds.
OneIndia sharpshooter Veermani was a worried man with no light in the offing. “If I use flash the photos will lose the charm,” he says. Probably he also knew that going by the ‘available light theory’ and without using the flash, the shooting mission would gift him only blank frames.
“Why not mobile phone lights,” someone came up with an idea. And, as they say an idea can change the world. Soon a handful of mobile phones flashed their lights aiding our mission.
Let there be light! Veermani was happy. He took his position and started firing on all cylinders, from all possible angles. He knew it was probably a lifetime opportunity to make the Garuds ‘follow’ his orders! It was one sight to watch the light flashing out of mobile phones from all corners.
The Garuds followed the ‘command’ of Veermani at will. At one point, the veteran photographer from Bengaluru, was lying on the ground, trying to capture may be some low-angle shots.
“Sir, one more please...” he was often heard requesting the Garuds.
It was 8.30 pm. Time to pack-up. “We have an early day tomorrow,” whispers a Garud, as one unit peels off for the night duty.
“Happy?” one of the Garuds ask Veermani. “Yes Sir. I will not forget this night,” he says.
Yes. It was a night to remember!