Air force trainees 'sample hell'
The best of the best are sought as Thailand readies for any rise in terrorist threats
Preparing for the possibility of a growing terrorist threat, the Royal Thai Air Force is looking for more personnel qualified in the gruelling Special Operations Division.
Training for the division is notoriously tough, but the air force insists it will not lessen standards in order to recruit more personnel.
The five-month course is supervised by the air force's Security Forces Command and is said to be as tough as the training for the better-known Seal (Sea Air Land) and Underwater Demolition Team conducted by the Royal Thai Navy.
This year, only 26 people signed up for the air force course, with just 15 remaining after the first month of training.
Three days of the training in particular were said to be hellish.
During the three days in question, the participants underwent almost non-stop physical training which included such tasks as carrying logs and tyres weighing more than 100kg.
Worse still, trainees were allowed to sleep for only 15 minutes per day during that 72-hour stretch.
Every trainee who completed the toughest session of the course had wounds, mostly to the shoulder, chest or head. To treat the injuries, the trainers rubbed fish sauce and salt onto the fresh wounds to sterilise them.
"The reason why the training has to be that tough is that air force officers must be patient and strong, no matter how exhausted, sleepy, hungry, pained or mentally pressured they become," said AVM Peerayut Keosai, director of the Special Operations training.
He said the air force was not prepared to lower its standard of training despite the need for new recruits to the Special Operations Division.
The other four months of the five-month training course are conducted at sea, in forests and on air force training grounds.
This training deals mainly with anti-hijacking operations and also involves parachute jumping, rescues and the use of various types of weapons and bombs.
Recruit Cpl Ekaphob Yaiyatham, 24, who works in the financial office of the Royal Thai Air Force and had not previously been trained in combat, said he was determined to complete the Special Operations course, no matter how hard it has been or how hard it would become.
Pilot Officer Ithichai Nimma, 23, the only commissioned officer on the course this year, said he intended to become a member of the air force's Security Forces Command.
He must complete the Special Operations training course before his dream can become reality.
"The command does not have many officers but all must maintain high standards through hard training," said ACM Itthaporn Subhawong, the Royal Thai Air Force's commander.