Monday, October 19, 2009


Flight safety concerns of the IAF

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has put up a proposal with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), to have information about flight safety shared from friendly countries operating similiar aircraft, so as to have a huge database.

The proposal which came up recently, after the Russian airforce grounded its cargo aircraft, the IL-76, following an accident, is pending with the Ministry. The idea is to increase the database, which would help the IAF, as the IAF too operates the aircraft in carrying personnel and cargo. The IAF operates two squadrons of the mighty IL-76 aircraft and has about 12 of them in its inventory presently.

The decision to ground the fleet was taken by the Russian airforce following a spate of accidents in recent times. Airborne troops would be grounded till the time the ban is lifted. The accident took place near Moscow, when one of the wings of the aircraft was broken off by one of the four engines, after the pilot engaged full throttle during take-off, last week. In August, two Sukhoi-27 display aircraft collided with each other, killing one of the three pilots, while rehearsing for the MAKS-2009 airshow.

Also to decrease the accident rate, the IAF has prepared a report with safety measures to be implemented in the service after approval. The huge report, which has been prepared after a study carried out by four teams, will be implemented from top to bottom.

Air Marshal T S Randhawa, Director General of the IAF's Institute of Flight Safety, said at the recently concluded International Flight Safety conference, that the study was carried out after speaking to personnel in 35 airforce stations. Around 16 countries participated in the conference, held here.

Discussions were held on accidents through presentations, and then sent to all Commands. The report talks about handling the aircraft, training to be strengthened and reducing human error. Said Air Marshal Randhawa, "The aircraft is always safe, and its total technical safety is ensured before flying.But sometimes technical error may lead to human error.Efforts are on to improve air safety record. The rate is better than last year. Per 10,000 hours of flying, Category 1 accidents have come down. Worldwide the accident rate is calculated in terms of per 10,000 hours of flying done."

Inquiries into crashes fall under various categories, from one to five. Category-1 crashes are considered the most severe, in which the equipment and life are lost. According to the Flight Safety Institute parameters, the categories, from one to five, decrease from the most severe accidents to just incidents.

Last month a MiG-21 aircraft crashed in Punjab, killing the pilot, while there have been seven crashes this year, with the biggest being the first ever crash of the heavy-weight Sukhoi-30MKI in April this year in Rajasthan.

According to the latest Parliament figures, 34 service personnel have been killed in these accidents from 2007 till July 2009. The loss to civilian property amounts to more than Rs.six lakh, and the prime cause of these accidents are human error and technical defects.

In the past four years 37 aircraft and 19 helicopters have been lost in accidents.

Defence Minister A K Antony has said in Parliament that after each accident, an investigation is carried out and appropriate remedial actions are taken. Besides, a continuous and multi-faceted effort is always underway in the armed forces to enhance and upgrade flight safety. Measures to enhance the quality of training to improve the skills, ability to exercise sound judgment and situational awareness of pilots are being pursued. Constant interaction with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), both indigenous and foreign, is also maintained to overcome the technical defects of the aircraft. Copyright: People's Post

Yudh Abhyas underway--US Stryker's largest deployment outside Iraq and Afghanistan

About 1,000 military personnel from the Indian and U.S. Army are participating in Exercise Yudh Abhyas 2009, which is underway in Babina.Yudh Abhyas is a regularly-scheduled bilateral exercise hosted by the Indian Army. The exercise is designed to promote cooperation among the two militaries while sharing training, cultural exchanges, and building joint operating skills.

This year’s Yudh Abhyas features 17 Stryker vehicles -- the largest deployment of the vehicles outside of Iraq and Afghanistan for the U.S. Pacific Rim forces. Along with the 17 Strykers, the U.S. will showcase the Javelin Anti-Tank Missile system, employed to defeat current and future threat armored combat vehicles.

YA 2009 constitutes the largest troop exchange since the YA partnership exercise commenced in 2004. Indian Army Soldiers from the 31st Armored Division are working with U.S. soldiers from the 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, “Strykehorse,” 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

This year’s exercise includes a multi-echelon, full spectrum combined operation focusing on a United Nations peacekeeping operation scenario, while executing a maneuver live-fire exercise. During the exercise, participants will engage in a variety of missions, from joint planning and maneuver execution, a variety of artillery ranges, to cordon and search operations as well as search and rescue training.

“The size and scope of this combined exercise is unparalleled and will be characterized not only by realistic and challenging training, but by regular athletic, academic and cultural exchanges,” said Lt. Col. Jim Isenhower, Commander, 2nd Squadron, 14th Cav. Regt.

“The broadened and unprecedented scope of Yudh Abhyas stands as a testament to the growing people-to-people and military-to-military ties of the United States and India, one of the key pillars of the expanded U.S.-India strategic partnership,” the U.S. Ambassador to India, Timothy J. Roemer, said. “Yudh Abhyas signals the bold future of U.S.-India relations marked by the growing confidence and trust shared by our two great democracies as, together, we face the challenges that lie ahead. Our two nations have made great strides in defense cooperation to ensure peace and prosperity in the region.”

Courtesy: US Embassy, Public Affairs Office.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

TTP claims responsibility, senior Pak army offr feared killed

The TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) has claimed responsibility for the attack. Six security personnel and four terrorists dead. Word coming through that a senior army official might be slain but no names surfacing yet.

But the more interesting angle to it all ISB (UNWFP office) , then Peshawar and now GHQ Pindi attack - all these attacks have been preceded by warnings from either CID (for GHQ) and the Law minister Rana Sanaullah for the ISB attack.

So its not that these incidents happened without warning,(Rehman Malik stated in the press that a few similar attacks are likely to happen) the question is why weren't strict actions taken after receiving warnings?

Photo courtesy: AFP
Info:Pakistan sources.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Yudh Abhyas- Oct 12-26

For the first time Indian and the US armies will engage in a week-long Brigade level armoured exercise, called Yudh Abhyas, in Babina (UP) from October 12-26, providing the Indian army an opportunity to see first hand the performance of US APCs (armoured personnel carrier) and the ATGM (anti tank guided missile) 'Javelin', which it plans to buy. Said an army officer, that the idea is to validate the use of armoured vehicles in asymmetric warfare, the kind NATO troops are engaged in, in Afghanistan, and also get a feel of the hard equipment with plans to buy them in the future.

The Indian Army, which has made up its mind to buy light tanks for high altitude, also wants to see the US APCs which they would field in the exercise.There are plans to buy light weight tanks, upto 20 tonnes, which could be put up on high altitude, mainly 3rd Division based in Karu, ahead of Leh. More than 250 such tanks are to be bought. The US army uses the American-made portable ATGM 'Javelin', while India's indigenous ATGM 'Nag' is still under final trials and is still to be inducted.

The Indian army's 3rd Division overlooks China, and had just one mechanised infantry unit, with around 52 BMP-2 ICVs (infantry combat vehicles). The battalion comprising the indigenously made BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles (ICV), named 'Sarath', will be the mainstay of this unit, to be raised soon, but the Indian army is looking at APCs used by other armies as well. The ICVs in use currently can be air lifted in the IL-76 aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) as well as can be moved on land at the height of 11,800 feet. They have been deployed for defensive purposes and mainly safeguarding the region. Said an officer that it was still not clear about when the second mechanised unit would come up in the area, but it was in the pipeline and would be most propably deployed in the same region as it was to counter China, adding that the huge Northern Command required another mechanised unit. For the first time the vehicles went ahead of Zoji-La in Jammu and Kashmir in 1948 and are quite capable of operating in mountaineous regions.

Recent activities by China in Chumar area of Chushul, have made New Delhi sit up and increase their assets in the region.

The mechanised battalion, which came up in the mountaineous region for the first time in 1986, uses surface-to-surface missiles and guns which can hit a flying chopper too. The battalion carries out annual exercises using the BMPs in Wari-La region in Pangong, which is situated at an altitude of 16,600 feet, the highest point at which the ICVs can go upto.

The BMPs are also APCs and can carry atleast 10 people at one time in the rear of the vehicle.

The US army's mainstay are the M113 APCs, capable of air-lift and air-drop and also amphibious operations. Also called battle taxis these vehicles can carry upto 11 soldiers, apart from the operating crew. They can engage in offensive action as well as transport troops.

The exercise to conclude on October 26, will have the Indian side fielding its BMPs to the tune of one unit strength. A senior army officer told People's Post, "The NATO forces in Afghanistan have been engaged in an indirect war, which is why they want to see the Indian army operating in an urban terrorism environment, which is somewhat similar to what they are facing there. Asymmetric warfare, urban terrorism and use of APCs effectively are some aspects which would be validated in this exercise."

Babina houses the 31 Armoured Division of the Indian Army and a brigade-level assets would be participating in this exercise, of which one would be a mechanised infantry unit.

There have been regular exercise with the US army at different levels. Added an officer, "Starting from the highest level, we are having it at each level, bringing it down. In the past we have had it at the Corps and Division levels, therefore now it is being carried out at the Brigade level."

There are three armoured divisions in the Indian army, in Patiala, Babina and Hisar (33 armoured division).

Copyright: People's Post

Thursday, October 8, 2009

More !!!

Dawn breaks. It's another day-filled to the brim. With aspirations, with hopes, and with the countless desires that are the cravings of a species in denial. It's another corridor in the labyrinth of life. Another challenge, another hurdle, and another opportunity to succeed on a road littered with failures. And it begins anew everyday with one word that defines the elusive objective which haunts every human being until his last breath - more !!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New defence accounts department building inaugurated in Delhi.

General to visit Myanmar and Israel

Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, will embark on a week-long visit to Myanmar beginning next week. Sources have indicated that bilateral military talks would be the focus between both the countries, especially with respect to the 'string of pearls' policy adopted by China around India. Also the porous border between both the nations which usually is seen as the entrance for non-state elements will be taken up. This border provides a gateway for insurgents to enter India and create unrest in the north-eastern states.

Close on the heels on of his Myanmarese visit is the Army Chief's week-long visit to Israel scheduled next month.Basically aimed at communication equipment, sensors, air defence systems, what the visit hopes to achieve.

In the recent past, New Delhi has acquired the AWACS system for the Indian Air Force (IAF) from Israel and also signed the contract with Israel's Rafael for 18 Spyder low level quick reaction missile systems for the IAF, last year.

Indian navy on the Antarctica

An Indian naval team comprising pilots and technical personnel to leave for Antarctica soon, on a research mission. This has been going on for sometime. The Indian navy assists Indian scientists by flying them to high altitude and also in technical matters, acclimatisation at those heights and other things, while these scientists conduct research on carbon nodules found at the sea-bed of Antarctica.

A lot of countries are there doing the same, with each having been allotted their own area of research, interest and responsibility. Countries like Chile, US, Russia, France etc are there.

These scientists are from the Oceanographic department, who take the expertise and experience of the naval personnel on high altitude.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

With a Hispanic-tan, after losing 4 kilos, almost all toe nails, a tooth almost, I rough it out with perfect BP, on an unforgiving terrain !

As I grew up, I discovered that as a foetus my mother had tried to abort me three times, but I guess the tenacity of a warrior in me had brought me into this world, for some exemplary work, which I get to test myself for, from time to time.

When I landed in Leh, I wasn't sure if I would go any further. A group totalling more around 50 people, from all walks of life, four birthdays of different members in this group, and with strange fears in my heart I began my lessons in earnest, with complete faith in my instructors, who were all HAWS qualified. A special mention of Rajesh Joshi of 21 Special Forces, who had under his belt, instructor grading from HAWS (High Altitude Warfare School), Ghatak-Commando School, Belgaum, CIJWS-Weirangte and also a Sena medal. Superb chap, with super fitness and understanding of the mountains.

With festivals like Onam, Ganesh Chaturthi, navratri, Eid, the inauspicious Shraddh period, in tow, during the trek, the training began in full swing, with each festival and birthday being celebrated in a unique style. With each passing day at training, I spoke less with members and focussed completely on the trek. Cut off partially at the Base Camp from the world and completely at the Camps during the trek, the trek proved to be a personal journey for me. Lessons learnt were far too many, about life and nature.

Theory classes in the evening, after which there were games. Practical lessons in the morning, which included ice-wall, walk with load, without load, gear and equipment, crevass rescue drill etc.

After September 24, walking acquired a new meaning for me, as did the Glacier. The Glacier was no longer intimidating, but had become my friend.

The trek had a special meaning for me, as I was doing it on my own, unlike my fighter sorties (three of which I've had this year, in India and abroad), where it was my pilot who did everything. I found it a litle funny as even for 10,000 feet, I used oxygen masks in fighter jets, but here I was trekking at 16,000 feet without any medical aid, or medical problem. Must say pulling Gs in a fighter jet is much easier, as it happens once for some seconds but soldiers are pulling Gs all the time at those heights. I could feel the blood rushing down, and sometimes even felt black-outs, but I stood straight.

I gave up all kinds of medication, and with nature's intervention in my natural cycles being altered to suit the trek, I was sure of completing the arduous journey without problems. I increased my water intake, regularly did my deep breathing and meditation, all of which helped me breathe normally on high altitude. I kept up with my intake of the desi-stuff which my mother had given and which I carry everywhere with me.

The Glacier

The Glacier is a slow moving river of ice, set in motion by its own weight and gravity. As I begin with my theory classes in Siachen Glacier's Army Mountaineering Institute, located at Base Camp-2, I am exposed to the soldiers undergoing training at the nearby Siachen Battle School (SBS), where they are trained for 21 days in ice-craft, rock-craft, snow-craft, weapons and load, enemy locations, crevass rescue drill and medical hazards on the Glacier, most of which are fatal.

For the nine battalions manning the Glacier, ever since the first post was laid down by Colonel N Kumar in 1978, and hence named after him as Kumar Post, it has been a tough war with the hostile weather rather than with the enemy in the 76 kilometer Glacier, with some posts as high as 23,000 feet. There are 20 peaks over 25,000 feet on the Glacier which has a temperature of minus 60 degree in winters and between 11-15 degrees in summers during the day, but goes upto minus 20 degree during the night. There is no vegetation in the area and for every 120 meters of elevation, there is a decrease of one degree in temperature.

Divided into four, as Northern, Southern, Central and Sub-sector Haneef, Siachen (which means 'land of roses'), was earlier just a trekking spot, when New Delhi noticed an increased activity by foreign mountaineers coming from Pakistan when it was decided to establish military posts, of all kinds like satellite posts, listening posts and Company posts in the late 1970s and thereafter in the early 1980s the Indian Air Force (IAF) was brought in for logistic support and surveillance.

The Glacier situated alongside the Nubra river, is receding slowly. The Nubra originates from the snout. During the Simla Agreement, India and Pakistan recognised the NJ 9842 as where the LC (Line of Control) would end. Snow could be seen only from Camp-3 onwards, before which the Glacier was covered with moraines. this was enough proof that the Glacier was receding at a fast pace.There is climate change in place.

From NJ 9842 till Karakoram was Pakistan territory, while NJ 9842 till Saltoro was Indian territory. Islamabad had raised a hue and a cry in 2007 when the Indian Army began taking civilians to Siachen for trekking, but G-1 (training) of 14 Corps, LtCol S Pokhriyal told People's Post,"There was a reason to have this trek. It was the only way to send across a message to the other side that the territory belonged to us, which is why the trek has an interesting mix of people related to Indian Defence. But since the response as seen on this third edition, has not been very satisfactory, this trek might even be stalled from next year."

In the third expedition of the Siachen Glacier High Altitude Trek for civilians, in which People's Post was invited, a hectic training schedule for 10 days was followed comprising theory and practical classes, acclimatisation, medical check-ups and general briefings.

The trek:

As the training came to a finish, with final medicals at the Advanced Dressing Station (ADS), I completely gave up talking to those around,in order to conserve energy. I read spiritual books, slept early, ate well and kept myself covered. Besides BP, pulse, weight, SPO2 (concentration of oxgen percentage in blood), haemoglobin, everyone went through a rigourous dental check-up and many were zeroed in for pulling out their teeth, some of whom underwent the tortous grind. Those with high BP were given more time to normalise.

BP is of paramount importance on high altitude, as it can prove fatal. Dental health is given priority as, after one leaves the Base Camp, there is no dentist on higher posts, and given the weather, personnel generally give dental hygiene a miss which is required as chocolates, candies and cookies are part of the special ration!!

The trek began with obeisance to OP Baba, who is considered the omnipresent deity of the Glacier, rescuing and saving soldiers on the Glacier by appearing in their dreams and forewarning them. Each post on the Glacier has a temple decicated to the Baba and each half link has a small tent with a red flag reminiscent of the Baba's presence in the area.

I was roped up with four school boys, and the name of our rope was 'Chindit Cheetahs'. Cadets VPS Pathania (RIMC), Vikraal Singh, Prabhat Ranjan and Ravinder Kumar were my team buddies, whome I led, with our Ustad being Havaldar Instructor Yamuna Prasad, from 6 Kumaon.

The 122 kilometer trek from Base Camp to Kumar Post and back in eight days, was fraught with chilly winds blowing at more than 40 knots, rarified oxygen as the altitude increased and snow-fall, besides the terrain full of stones, seracs and moraines. My brain stopped working and only my legs worked. They carried me forward. All I did was watched my next step, and stopped looking at the destination. Put your head down and just walk. I chanted my spritual mantras, drank water at half links and just walked.

The trek team comprised IMF professionals, school students from the Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC) and Military Schools, army officers and army doctors, Personnel Below Officer Ranks (PBORs) from the army and the IAF, personnel from the defence accounts and local porters carrying stores and luggage.

Soldiers take between nine to 28 days to reach posts, after they have undergone thier physical training at SBS and have been declared medically fit at the ADS, situated at the Base Camp. Any personnel found with high blood pressure, or an increased pulse, less than specified oxygen percentage concentration in blood or dentally unfit is not inducted into the Glacier. While those found with problems up on the posts are immediately flown down. They lug their stores, which is anything between 20-25 kilograms, and climb the snow-peaks, with full gear.

The highest PBOR manned post is located at 23,000 feet while the highest officer manned post is at 19,000 feet. The largest portion of the Glacier with the maximum posts is in the Northern Glacier, while sub-sector Haneef, named after Captain Haneefuddin of 11 Rajputana Rifles regiment who died during Kargil, is the smallest portion.

With strict instructions from the trek Commander to our team about not bathing during the eight days of the trek, to invoking OP Baba and wishes from the 102 Brigade Commander, Brigadier Avinash Singh, who enquired about the number of oxygen cylinders and maggie packets kept in stores, the team of amatuers and professionals, began on September 17 at 8.00 am and completed the first camp of 12 kilometers without problems. Located in Partapur 102 Infantry Brigade is an independant Brigade, which was earlier part of the Karu-based 3rd Division during Kargil.

The Commanding Officer of the Northern Glacier, also called NG 'Tiger', had left instructions for soldiers at each camp, which were applicable to the trek team also, about how to conduct oneself in high altitude. Instructions like drinking lots of water, hot water drill for the feet after each camp, proper clothing and proper rest were to be adhered to.

Soldiers of the Indian Army are inducted for a maximum of 90 days on the Glacier, preceding which they undergo seven days of acclimatisation in Leh, second stage of training in North Pullu at 10,000 feet and third stage of training at SBS at 11,000 feet. The days they take to reach thier posts are not taken into account in their days of induction. With washing their utensils, to cooking, conducting patrols of the territory, carrying back injured fellow-men sometimes, along with their own and the injured person's stores, these tough soldiers have a tougher life to lead ahead. Winter inductions are the most abhorred, as they bring in the maximum casualties.

After completing Camp-2, 26 kilometers on the Glacier full of moraines, ice walls, and a five kilometer walk on hard ice with almost six kilograms of foot wear, a press photographer developed stress fracture in his lower calves, while a RIMC student fell ill owing to high altitude.

The trek team reached Kumar Post in four days, and found it quite warm and pleasant, with bright sun shine. A one-day halt at Kumar was announced, which for me was a blessing in disguise. We utilised the day, taking photographs, making ropes bags, playing cards and generally basking in the sun. I saw the forward location base (FLB), which was adjacent, 10 kms, from Kumar. Kumar at first sight appeared like a shopping complex, with tents on both sides. A medical check-up was carried out at the end of the day. I showed a perfect 120/80 at 16,000 feet, with perfect pulse and SPO2.

Climb Down:

After spending a day at Kumar, where the NG Tiger rules, currently the position held by Colonel Rajesh Kanojia of 25 Madras, the team which spent the day making bags out of parachute strings and singing to invoke the Goddesses during navratri, as every unit of the Indian Army has its own deity and a special Mandir parade once a week, the climb down began, making it a total of 122 kilometers both ways.

The first casaulty during the descent was a military school student, who had to be oxygenated enroute. Left with just 19 out of 21 civilians and one Link Commander from the hosting battalion, the number of porters increased while returning back from 19 to 23. Enroute we discovered that a soldier from the hosting 25 Madras battalion had died of cardiac arrest in Camp-2, owing to low blood pressure.

Completing four camps in three days with snow-fall in between and temperatures touching minus 21 at night, the job of the medical officer and his nursing assistant increased on the journey. Blood pressure, pulse and SPO2 checks were done before the climb down could begin. I un-roped from the 'Chindit Cheetahs' and walked alone.

I was instructed by my Ustads, not to lose height suddenly on the mountains, as you would have to gain height in that case, while walking.

Soldiers coming back from Sia La, the biggest Post on the Glacier (it is a Company Post), too stopped at Kumar for a breather and were seen discussing logistics like the controlled use of water and Kero-heater etc.

Kero-heaters are the lifelines of the Glacier, as electricity is a scarcity, due to which only these heaters are used for warmth. Fibre Glass huts (FGH), Arctic and Russian tents are used for accommodation. Also defunct parachutes are used for tents, as they avoid the melting of ice easily and also provide camouflage to the surroundings as it is a battle zone.

The team trekked back on up-hill and down-hill slopes full of stony moraines and snow-capped landscapes with the Havaldar Instructors showing the way and the Link Commanders at each half link closing in on the team from both sides, thereby ensuring safety to the amateur civilians.

With special Glacier ration issued to each of us, for instant energy, it became clear why the troops lose appetite at the Glacier. The special ration comprising dry fruits, chocolates, juices, candies and cookies, besides other items numbering around 50, the altitude hits on the digestive system. A Medical Officer told People's Post, "The troops train so hard and the physical routine here is so tough, that there are more casualties owing to weather than those due to enemy fire. Mostly what bothers us is the cold injuries."

For the soldiers it is a trek almost everyday, with instructions like no bathing and shaving for 90 days. Shaving takes a back seat, for two reasons, one for religious, as the personnel repose faith in OP Baba and refrain from shaving as a mark of respect, and the other reason is medical, to avoid metal-bite in the extreme cold climes.

It was more than a trek for me, a personal journey, which exposed me to the ugly side of the Glacier, how troops lived and survived there in difficult conditions but had a smile on thier faces while coming back.

Small Pleasures:

During the journey and stay, electricity, mirror, these are small things whose importance I got to value. Posts on the Glacier, except a few, do not have electricity and there are no looking-mirrors to get dressed etc. There is no connectivity with the world. No communication (STD comes after 10.00 pm and that too is limited, and this is only in big posts). No phones, no internet, water is made by heating ice. I learnt how to respect small pleasures given to me by God.

I discovered how small we all are in front of nature, and how powerful nature is. We are nothing but small specks in the universe. Mountains teach you discipline. I never walk even a kilometer in Delhi, but on the Glacier, I woke up early, adhered to all the instructions given by the Ustads and was regular with my foot-drill, deep breathing etc. All of these helped me come out a winner. My stamina had increased by the time the climb-down began.

All I had in mind while boarding the Leh to Delhi Kingfisher flight was to rush to the beauty parlour as I land in Delhi, but enroute my mind went out to the soldier at the highest post on the Glacier, counting his 90 days to finish, his loneliness in the severe cold, his breathing problems etc, amidst all of which he would have to perform the daunting task of protecting the country, so that the likes of us can comfortably go to parlours!!

The mountains humble me: I learn to smile, laugh and forgive; a personal journey !

The 2 pairs of shoes with crampons alone weigh 6 kgs (to be worn at all times) !!!

Impotency--the ugly face of the Glacier !!

The world's highest battle field, the Siachen Glacier, appears to be more of a health-hazard inviting posting rather than a grit-demanding battle zone. Despite the increased Glacier allowance for soldiers, Siachen (land of roses), doesn't appear to be a very rosy posting for many.

As part of the 26-day trek on the Glacier, People's Post was exposed to all kinds of hardships that troops undergo, many of which are health-related. Said an officer, "Here more than the enemy, we are fighting the hostile terrain and climate, which is as much even for the enemy."

Emerging gradually are two medical challenges on the Glacier, affecting the troops. Raising its ugly head is impotency, as was shared by an officer with People's Post, and the other problem bothering young men is hair-fall. There are nine units manning the entire Glacier covering 76 kilometers, divided into four parts, all of whom are deployed in all kinds of posts, ranging from 11,000 feet to 23,000 feet altitude, and are required to complete their mandatory 90 days of induction, after three stages of acclimatisation and training, which comes to around five weeks.

Confided a source that around 10 percent of the troops are affected with impotency, which is attributable to high altitude and lack of leave during induction. "When someone is nearing induction, especially winter induction, he is denied leave, as he would have to undergo the entire cycle once more, which would waste time. Unless there is a strong reason, leave is denied, till the 90-day induction is completed," said a source.

An army doctor said that though it is not so bad, but men come for counselling and if it can be cured through counselling, it is done, otherwise some other way is sought. An officer said that men are counselled, but if things are bad, then they sent out, as was done with a soldier who asked for a family posting as extra regimental employment (ERE).

Family lives and marriages are also being affected. Hostile weather and terrain are bringing in loneliness, depression and frustration, but officers confided that they motivate the men to keep themselves busy and group with others and engage in activities.

Medical officers told People's Post, "Impotency is more psychological rather than physical., which can be cured through counselling. Besides it is individual response to a particular situation. All high altitude effects are reversible, is what we tell the men."

A young officer went to the extent of disclosing that he planned his second child as he heard about his Glacier posting and calculated his leave from the time of his induction.

Another major challenge that young men on the Glacier seem to be facing is hair-fall. An officer said that since a woollen cap covers the head all the time and bathing is not allowed during the 90 days that a sodier stays on a post, and physical activity brings sweat inside the hair, it results in hair-fall in a big way.

Since there are about four to five personnel on a post, and the posts are away and high, the distance between men and officers is less and there is less of formality between them. Men open their hearts in front of officers and share almost everything with them, atop the Glacier.

Trained in high altitude medical hazards and cold injuries, these young doctors in the army are more than just doctors. Providing counselling to men, and armed with the knowledge of posts, these medical officers guide personnel as to how to conduct themselves so as to avoid medical problems.

Each post is stocked with HAPO bags and oxygen cylinders besides basic facilities and larger posts have a MI Room with a medical officer and a nursing assistant in attendance.

Other challenges on the Glacier are acute mountain sickness (AMS), HAPO, HACO, chill bains, frost bites and snow blindness, which are common.

AMS results in headache, lethargy, uneasiness and decreased appetite, while High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema (HAPO), is quite common on high altitude, occurs due to decreased atmospheric oxygen in arterial blood and injury to pulmonary vessels leading to fluid inside the alveoli. HAPO can prove fatal if not treated immediately. HAPO results in breathlessness, chest pain, pink sputum and vomiting.

High Altitude Cerebral Oedema (HACO), leads to confusion, lack of orientation, severe vomitting, visual disturbances, impared motor and speech responses and coma sometimes.

HAPO and HACO demand prompt de-induction and complete bed-rest, and prevention can be done by proper acclimatisation, avoiding over-exertion and lots of fluids.

An officer said that most of these medical problems are genetic and can occur even in a place like Leh, but reporting them on time can save a life. All personnel are briefed properly about all these challenges before they are inducted and given safety tips. Briefing about medical problems is part of the training of the troops.

Exposure of limbs can cause chill bains leading to frost bite of the first degree, which if not treated immediately, can even lead to amputation.Removal of snow goggles on the Glacier can cause eye-inflammation and pain leading to snow-blindness.

In winters cold injuries increase, as there are lots of ice-walls which the troops have to cross in order to go to thier posts and some of these walls are as high as more than 50 feet at an angle of 90 degree sometimes.

Those personnel staying put at the Base Camp as reserve, are called when there is an injury or a health hazard on a post, while the affected soldier is sent back immediately. Troops keep themselves busy through Mandir parades, or other creative jobs, when not patrolling, which helps keep their mind occupied.

On top of the world (with my name down below on ice) !!!!!

I un-rope from the Rope and begin descent.

We touch the sky with glory !!

The men who made it possible for me !!