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Post Info TOPIC: Thai Army has an Elite team ... Gord it's not a walk in the park!


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Thai Army has an Elite team ... Gord it's not a walk in the park!

After a gruelling year of training, the newest members of Thailand's elite defence force are almost ready for duty

Photo slide show - click on the 1st photo at the bottom

We train for war and fight to win. We will never quit until we conquer the hardest and the most cruel foes beyond human measure." Shouting their creed, 36 military trainees are ploughing head-first into their final month of intensive training for admission into the elite Navy Seal corps.

Over these few weeks, they will endure a punishing regimen; they will be abandoned, starved, humiliated and tortured in the name of creating a world-class, rapid-response force willing, ready and able to protect the kingdom and its people.

This is one of the toughest training programmes for special operations forces in the world. Already 56 of their classmates have dropped out; those who remain are nearing the end of a series of rigorous sessions that take more than a year to complete.

group began in basic underwater demolition Seal (Bud/s) school, with graduates moving on to Seal qualification training (SQT) to strengthen their basic skills and teach them more advanced warfare techniques. Further classes skilled them in special reconnaissance and direct-action tasks such as surviving naval gunfire, ambushes and combat swimming attacks.

Then the would-be Seals went through ''Hell Week'', which includes immediate action training, land warfare, water combat and hostage-situation and guerrilla fighting techniques.

The final phase features sea combat, jungle warfare and hostage rescues.

Only after all that will these 36 trainees be able to call themselves Seals. For their superhuman efforts, once they are stationed in their units, the non-commissioned officers will receive 11,000 baht extra a month. Commissioned officers will receive an additional 14,600 baht.

In the Seals' final quest, the remaining 36 trainees set sail on the Royal Thai Navy ship Tong Kaew to a stretch of the east coast spanning Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat provinces. Here, they undertake a 15-day sea mission and 20-day jungle drill.

EXERCISE: A captive Seal is blindfolded and tied up during the hostage rescue mission. Inset, he is also held at gunpoint.

The sea mission tests the trainees' strategic planning skills, and their proficiency in beach-landing, combat swimming and survival tasks.

''Seals must apply all techniques they have learned into action. They must be able to reconnoitre landing beaches, accurately and swiftly taking note of obstacles and defences,'' said Seal instructor Captain Suwicha Koirum.

''They must also practise destroying targets and performing rescues. And they have to master small unit tactics and weapons.''

During the day, the Seals create strategies to get in and out of an area quickly, without being seen. They also plan land warfare and hostage rescue scenarios. When darkness falls, they must accomplish these tasks or face severe punishment for each failed mission.

In case of shipwreck, Seals need to learn how to survive on a deserted island with no food, no clothes and no shelter. They must build a shelter from trees, cover themselves with leaves and make a spear from a branch to catch fish and use as a weapon. Basically, they need to do anything they can to survive.

In the third week of this final phase, the strenuous jungle training programme begins, with an emphasis on land navigation, jungle manoeuvering, small-unit tactics, patrolling techniques, rappelling, marksmanship and hostage rescue.

In the jungle, Seals will typically use their machetes to clear foliage quickly and easily and a shotgun for close combat. Patrols in the jungle take longer than on the beach because of the difficulties in manoeuvering.

An 18-hour hostage rescue practice starts at midnight. While on a routine patrol, the Seals are attacked by their instructors, who hold them at gunpoint and threaten them with explosions. Once the Seals surrender their weapons, they are blindfolded, stripped, tied up and left until dawn.

In an effort to get them to divulge military secrets, they are whipped, burnt with cigarette lighters, submerged in water and forced to crawl naked through the woods. When they refuse to speak, they are burnt with joss sticks and hot wax from dripping candles.

But the worst is still to come.

The trainees are tied to a cart or canoe and dragged naked along a gravel path until they nearly lose consciousness. Their skin is ripped and bruised, but they still won't divulge their secrets. ''I can tell you this: I would never want to put myself in that situation ever again,'' said 26-year-old Petty Officer 1st Class Praiwan Taengmanee.

''In 18 hours of continuous, painful torture, I thought I would die. We trained and trained until the pain became less painful. Every part of my body ached and then felt numb. The more we suffered, the tougher we became. I knew I must tolerate it until my fellow soldiers came to rescue me or I could escape or was killed.

''If we were to enter a war now, and if I am captured, I am ready. Just bring it on!''

Such life-threatening training helps hone this group of off-radar operatives. With fire in their bellies, they make it all the way. They prove they have what it takes to be Seals.

They have lived up to their vow: ''We are the country's finest special operations forces. We're here to serve our Kingdom and our fellow Thais, and protect them with our own lives. We're the men for the mission.''

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