Washington Post Staff Writer

A band of Commandos landed in downtown Washington yesterday, 16 in all. There should have been 17, but one of them couldn't get away from his day job.

Such is life for the Washington Commandos, the local entry in the new indoor Arena Football League that made its public debut yesterday in a noon rally at Farragut Square. About 150 curious onlookers took time out from their lunches to get autographs and watch the team line up in offensive and defensive formations.

The team will begin its six-game preview season Friday night on the road against the Pittsburgh Gladiators. The 17-man squad includes Kurt Beathard, son of Washington Redskins General Manager Bobby Beathard; former University of Maryland kicker Dale Castro, whose last football employment was with the Washington Federals of the USFL, and local players Pete Stubbs from Capitol Heights and Duke University and Sean McInerney from Rockville and Frostburg State.

Also making the team were wide receivers Nathan Creer, Dwayne Dixon, Frederick Motes and Lenny Taylor, running backs Richard DuPree, Walter Holman, and Brett Wilson, linemen Kendall Walls, Clarence Walton, Jon Roehlk and Michael Wittick, and quarterback Richard Ingold.

Michael Calhoun, a former Rice University starter who threw 21 touchdown passes in 1981, will start at quarterback for the Commandos.

However, the summer sport will emphasize versatility. With the small squad, players will play both offense and defense.

"This is the Ironman concept," Commandos Coach Bob Harrison said. "Players have to go both ways. In the NFL, you have specialization . . . Our guys have to play all downs."

Arena football will look somewhat like NFL football, with a few novel changes. The field will be 50 yards long and 26 yards wide. There will be eight-man squads, a clock that will only stop in the final minute of play, exclusive man-to-man defense and a live ball following missed field goals. Nets draped on either side of the nine-foot-wide goalposts will send most missed attempts back into play.

Arena football will also bring back one of football's ancient specialties, the drop kick. A drop-kicked field goal will be worth four points instead of three and a dropped-kick extra point will be worth two points instead of one.

"Fans feel they're participating," Harrison said. "Because it's a shorter field you're going to have more action. Things can turn around quicker."

Calhoun said that although some fans may not take the game seriously at first, "they'll still see the joy of it. They're going to enjoy it, I'm sure of that."