Iconic Passing Out Parades in the time of coronavirus

by Editorial

After the Republic Day parade, if there is something in Indian military that is considered the most iconic event, it is the Passing Out Parade (POP) of various Indian military academies spread across the country belonging to Indian Army, Navy and Air Force. There are many military academies in India. The biggest is the National Defence Academy (NDA) for all three services, then there are other military academies with respect to each service like the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun, the Indian Naval Academy (INA) in Ezhimala and many more which cater to respective trainees and courses with service specifications including foreign military officers. But this year almost all the POPs and other course completion ceremonies of these academies have been affected due to Covid-19 and the resultant restrictions with it. Each such ceremony conducted at various academies in last couple of weeks had to be reduced in the scale and celebration, at the same time making it historical in nature. Let’s look at each of these iconic and historical POPs and ceremonies conducted in last couple of weeks one by one.

ARMY Chief REVIEWS POP AT IMA, DEHRADUN

The date, 13 June 2020 will go down in the history of IMA as another landmark milestone, where a total of 423 Gentlemen Cadets of 146 Regular Course and 129 Technical Graduate Course, including 90 Gentlemen Cadets from nine friendly foreign countries successfully passed out from the portals of Indian Military Academy, overcoming all challenges of Covid-19. The Gentlemen Cadets displayed inspiring enthusiasm and zeal, and put up an excellent show, marching with perfection to Military tunes of ‘Col Bogey’, ‘Sare Jahan Se Achha’ and ‘Kadam Kadam Badhaye Ja’ with pride and élan reflecting in each step. They knew that their parents and loved ones were witnessing each step with great pride and affection through the live coverage on all media platforms across the globe.

To motivate and inspire the Passing out course, Chief of Army Staff Gen M.M. Naravane was himself present as the Reviewing Officer (RO) of the Parade. He congratulated the Gentlemen cadets on successful completion of their training at IMA. Gen Naravane, complimented the instructions and cadets for the excellent parade, immaculate turnout as well as the crisp, synergised drill movements indicating high standards of training and discipline imbibed by the young leaders. The entire ceremony was conducted with due COVID precautions, including wearing of masks, gloves and drill formations adapted to maintain requisite distance between files/columns while executing the drill movements over the reverberating Drill Square. In many ways, this Passing Out Parade has been one of its kind amongst peer institutions across the world as each adapted itself to prevailing Covid environment.

Gen Naravane, the reviewing officer, also complimented the 90 cadets from friendly foreign countries who trained at IMA. He said, “I am sure, you as ambassadors of your country carry back a treasure of fond memories of IMA and training which you shall cherish for a lifetime. The Indian Military Academy has imparted training to which will form the bedrock for your growth, both professional and personal, and will definitely strengthen the ties between our countries”. Another first during this time was the introduction of ‘Pehla Kadam’ signifying the first step that the Gentlemen Cadets take as they join the fraternity of the brave Commissioned Officers of their respective Army. The ‘Pipping Ceremony’, which is traditionally done by the parents of the Gentlemen Cadets, was this time carried out by the staff and instructors while observing all social distancing and personal protection protocols. General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Army Training Command, Lt Gen Raj Shukla was also present for the IMA POP and attended various events and ceremonies to motivate the course. He earlier delivered an extremely inspiring talk on “Invigorating Future Military Leadership of the Indian Army” to the future leaders of the Passing Out Course outlining essentials of what they must imbibe and practice to stand tall as a Military Leader.

While addressing the Passing out Course, the Reviewing Officer, exhorted all to dedicate themselves to the service of the nation. He said “you are just a step away from the historic and magnificent moment of your commissioning into the most elite forces. Let me adjure you to value the great traditions of the Indian Army, the basic tenets of which are the love for your country, love and compassion for the men you command and unflinching loyalty towards them. The fundamentals of soldiering have been instilled in you here; the onus is now on your young and firm shoulders to define the various facets of the art of soldiering and to be men of formidable bearing, courage and stature”. He also complemented and thanked the parents of the passing out course who had motivated their wards for having chosen such a noble profession to serve the nation and face all threat that our country might be required to counter at present and in the future. While being conducted in scaled down backdrop on account Covid, the Passing Out Parade retained ceremonial grandeur and regalia symbolic of this “once in a lifetime” moment for the proud Gentlemen Cadets. The Parade was earlier preceded by a solemn wreath laying ceremony at the Academy War Memorial in which the Academy remembered its 883 martyrs who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of the nation through the years and all committed themselves to follow the same path of bravery and selfless courage.

138TH COURSE POP OF the NDA

The 138th course of the NDA, Khadakwasla, Pune successfully passed out on 30 May 20 after a ‘Solemn Ceremony’ conducted at ‘Habibullah Hall’ of the Academy. The Commandant NDA, Lt Gen Asit Mistry presided over the function, which was attended only by the cadets of the passing out course and limited members of the faculty at NDA. In view of the restrictions due to ongoing pandemic across the country, the passing out ceremony, which otherwise is a landmark event of the academy, had to be modified and conducted in a scaled down manner. While keeping the sentiment and symbolism of the lifetime occasion for the cadets fully intact, the military procedures were improvised and adapted to ensure ‘Do Gaj ki Doori’, the mandated social distancing.A total of 335 cadets graduated from the academy which includes 226 Army cadets, 44 Naval cadets and 65 Air Force cadets. It is a matter of pride for NDA that 20 cadets from friendly foreign countries (Bhutan, Tajikistan, Maldives, Vietnam, Tanzania, Mauritius, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Turkmenistan, Fiji, Uzbekistan, Sudan, Mongolia and Bangladesh) also form part of the passing out cadets.

Notwithstanding the limitations imposed by Covid-19 related restrictions, true to unmatched military traditions of NDA, the spirit of the passing out events was absolutely intact. The hall mark of the ceremony was award of medals to the meritorious cadets. While the military drill was at its best, the medals were awarded without any physical contact. Battalion Cadet Captain Shivam Kumar won the President’s Gold Medal for standing first in overall order of merit. Battalion Cadet Captain Mukesh Kumar won the President’s Silver Medal for standing second in overall order of merit and Battalion Cadet Captain Parth Gupta won the President’s Bronze Medal for standing third in overall order of merit. ‘Kilo’ squadron bagged the prestigious ‘Chiefs of Staff Banner’ for being the Champion Squadron which was also presented during the ceremony.

The most significant restriction was the lack of presence of the parents of the passing out cadets, who could not be invited due to travel limitations across the country. Traditionally, the parents of passing out cadets are invited and accommodated in the Academy for about three days, during which, they witness various facets of training that a cadet undergoes in the academy, which not only gives them a sense of pride but also reassures them that their wards are in best hands in the country. The Commandant NDA while addressing the passing out cadets brought out the importance of a military leader to quickly adapt to any situation and face the challenge head on. He explained that even this adversity has immense training value for a military leader. He highlighted impeccable integrity, sense of responsibility, self discipline, moral courage and empathy as essential ingredients of a good military officer to successfully lead his men during war as well as peace. He expressed his confidence that all cadets would continue to further develop and earnestly practice all these attributes instilled in them during three years training at NDA and bring glory to their Alma Mater as they move onto their respective service academies and sere the nation.

Normally after passing out, the cadets go home for a term break and then proceed to their respective service academies. However in view of the vulnerabilities and travel restrictions, it has been decided that all the passing out cadets would move from NDA directly to the respective service academy. Necessary arrangements for the same are being coordinated with the concerned agencies.

INDIAN NAVAL ACADEMY, EZHIMALA

Implementing all precautionary protocols of Covid-19, 259 trainees of the Indian Naval Academy smartly turned up in whites with mask and gloves for a unique event christened as Course Completion Ceremony, in lieu of the traditional Passing Out Parade on 13 June 2020. The POP for any armed forces academy is an occasion usually conducted with grandeur and sheen witnessed by parents, guests and dignitaries. However in times of the COVID- 19 crisis, the ceremony was aligned to follow the safety protocols, wherein health and of safety all trainees, is of paramount importance. Therefore, to prevent congregation of people, parents and guests were not invited.

 The ceremony witnessed completion of training for the Midshipmen and cadets of the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard, and friendly foreign navies belonging to the 98th Indian Naval Academy Course (BTech), 98th Indian Naval Academy Course (MSc), 29th Naval Orientation Course (Extended) and 30th Naval Orientation Course (Regular). The successful trainees from friendly foreign countries comprised seven trainees; two trainees each from Sri Lanka and Myanmar, and one each from Maldives, Tanzania and Seychelles. Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Southern Naval Command Chief, the reviewing officer for the occasion, awarded medals to nine meritorious trainees. Vice Admiral Dinesh K Tripathi, Commandant, Indian Naval Academy was the Conducting Officer. The reviewing officer, in his address, congratulated the passing out courses and advised them to imbibe the core values of Indian Navy ‘Duty, Honour and Courage’ in letter and spirit. He encouraged the cadets to keep the fighting spirit intact irrespective of the circumstances around. The ‘President’s Gold Medal’ for the Indian Naval Academy B.Tech course was awarded to Midshipman Sushil Singh. The ‘Chief of the Naval Staff Gold Medal’ for the Naval Orientation Course (Extended) was awarded to Cadet Bhavy Gujral. The ‘Chief of the Naval Staff Gold Medal’ for the Naval Orientation (Regular) Course was awarded to Cadet Vipul Bharadwaj. The ‘Zamorin Trophy’ for the best women cadet was awarded to Cadet Riya Sharma.

Ever since the establishment of present Naval Academy at Ezhimala in 2009, this is the first time that the training of a batch culminated without a ceremonial march past due to ongoing Covid-19 pandemic situation. As the nation navigated the lockdown and the exit in phases, training structure at INA too was modified with effect from 24th March 2020 to ensure adherence to all Government of India, Government of Kerala and Naval Headquarters directives. Training was carried out initially by online assignments, and later with dispersed seating with minimum 6 feet interspacing in class rooms and exam halls. Stringent precautionary measures instituted by the academy has helped in accomplishing the challenging goal of training more than 900 cadets and successful culmination of the Spring Term with nil Covid-19 cases at INA.

OFFICERS’ TRAINING ACADEMY, GAYA

 The drill square of Officers’ Training Academy wore a spectacular look with traditional military regalia and splendour. The occasion was the 17th Passing Out Parade of 17 Gentlemen Cadets of Special Commissioned Officers’ Course (SCO)-44.81 Gentlemen Cadets of TES-35 course passed out from their respective Cadet Training Wings. 69 Gentlemen Cadets of TES-41 Course proceeded to various engineering colleges of the Army to pursue a degree in Engineering at Military College of Electronics and Mechanical Engineering, Secunderabad, Military College of Telecommunication Engineering, Mhow and College of Military Engineering Pune. The Gentlemen Cadets enthralled a large gathering of military and civilian dignitaries, with their elegant and synchronised drill movements in a breath-taking parade.

 The parade began with a general salute to the reviewing officer by the cadets followed by a review of the Parade by the reviewing officer and the passing out march past. A fly past by three micro-light aircrafts was also carried out over the heads of the passing out course in true military tradition. The reviewing officer gave away various awards to cadets for excellence in training. The silver medal for standing first in the order of merit amongst the passing out Special Commissioned Officers’ Course was awarded to academy cadet Adjutant Bipul Sinha. Gurez company was awarded the Chief Of Army Staff Banner for Spring Term 2020 for Best Overall Performance as a company.

 Addressing the parade, General Srivastava, the RO of the POP urged the future officers to make their Nation and their Alma Mater proud by rendering selfless and honourable service. He highlighted that inspite of Covid-19 pandemic posing a challenge, the Indian Army, true to its traditions, rose to the challenge of maintaining social distancing while simultaneously maintaining standards and minimal disruptions in training of Officer Cadets. He also stressed on imbibing the virtues of military ethos and soldierly qualities. Congratulating the parents, General Srivastava said that they were amongst the lucky few whose sons will get the opportunity to serve in one of the noblest professions i.e. the profession of arms. The General Officer advised the newly commissioned officers to ensure their own and loved ones safety while moving to their units.

127 SOLDIERS JOIN LADAKH SCOUTS

An attestation parade was held at The LADAKH SCOUTS Regimental Centre (LSRC), Leh to mark the entry of 127 well trained recruits into the LADAKH SCOUTS Regiment as Young Soldiers on Saturday. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the ceremony was conducted without any military or civil dignitaries or parents of the recruits following all the norms and advisories issued by the Indian Army. The attestation parade with appropriate social distancing in consonance with the highest traditions of the Indian Army was reviewed by Col Rinchen Dorje, Commandant, LSRC. The young soldiers, hailing from all regions of Ladakh, took oath in unison to serve the Nation. The Reviewing Officer congratulated them and urged them to devote their life in service to the Nation as proud soldiers of the Indian Army. He exhorted the Young Soldiers to continue to strive hard in pursuit of excellence in all spheres and take a solemn vow to uphold the sovereignty of the Nation.

COLLEGE OF MILITARY ENGINEERING, PUNE

On 13 June the drill square of the Cadets Training Wing (CTW) wore a spectacular look with traditional military regalia and splendour. The occasion was the Passing Out Parade of 28 cadets of the Technical Entry Scheme (TES-35) including two foreign cadets of Bhutanese Army. After commissioning, 28 Gentlemen Cadets of TES-35 Course will continue their balance one year of engineering degree at CME as commissioned officers. This time the parade was conducted with restricted attendance and parents were not invited because of the prevailing situation due to Covid-19 Pandemic.

The Parade commenced with a general salute to the RO by the cadets. This was followed by the presentation of awards to the medal winners Gentlemen Cadets for excellence in training. The coveted General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Army Training Command Gold Medal was awarded to PCC Rahul Chaube, the Silver Medal was awarded to PCC Vivek Kumar and the Bronze Medal was awarded to PCC Satender Pal as per their order of merit. F Platoon was awarded the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Army Training Command Banner for Spring Term 2020 for Best Overall Performance as a Platoon. Addressing the Parade, the RO congratulated the cadets for their excellent deportment and drill. General Malhotra, the RO of the POP, highlighted that commissioning an officer is a new beginning in their lives and exhorted the future leaders to render selfless and honourable service so as to make the Nation and Alma Mater proud. The General stressed on imbibing the virtues of military ethos, and following the Chetwodian Credo “The safety, honour and welfare of your country comes first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time”. Commandant CME, Pune ended his address by wishing the newly commissioned officers good luck and Godspeed.

The Pipping Ceremony was carried out at Bhagat Lawns and thereafter the officers crossed the “Pehla Kadam” which was organised for the first time in history of CTW, CME

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