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Pune, 12 December 2022: The officers along with their wives and the brave heart single ladies of the 39th NDA Course whose Army cadets had the privilege of getting baptised into battle on commissioning from IMA Dehradun in Nov 1971, are getting together at the National Defence Academy on 15-16 Dec 22 for the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of their passing out, which actually fell due in Dec 20 but had to be postponed due to Covid.


The 12thof December 1970 was indeed a special day at the National Defence Academy (NDA) for the inimitable General (later Field Marshal) SHFJ Manekshaw, MC, Chief of the Army Staff and one of the most professional, battle hardened, visionary, and flamboyant officers the forces have ever known, was to be the Reviewing Officer for the Passing out Parade (POP) of the 39th NDA Course passing out after three years of hard training.


General SHFJ Manekshaw, MC, Chief of the Army Staff, Chief Guest, with the award winners of the 39th NDA course, on 12th December 1970.


Standing motionless on the Drill Square (the Parade Ground)under a clear blue sky that morning were 242 cadets – Army 155, Navy 37, and Air Force 50 –waiting for the Chief to arrive. The excitement and anticipation within all of them was palpable. Smart and ram rod straight, General Manekshaw addressed the parade after an impressive March Past. In one of the most inspirational speeches that any one could have the good fortune to hear, he said,“…There are no runners-up in war, and a nation has no room for losers.” Given the situation that was developing in East Pakistan in early 1971, these very words of the Army Chief set the tempo for these cadets to prepare themselves to be part of winning battle groups in the impending war with Pakistan.


During the POP related events, the cadets had the rare privilege to interact with one of the greatest soldiers that the country has produced, General Manekshaw, and listen to his operational exploits during the Burma Campaign in 1940s, where he, as a captain and serving with the 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment, was awarded the Military Cross on the spot, for his exceptional courage and bravery in face of the enemy. It was heartening to see even the foreign cadets from Nigeria and Iraq also penetrating the crowd to hear Sam Manekshaw.


Fortunate to be Baptised into Battle

Thanks to the visionary General Manekshaw, the Army cadets of this course were commissioned at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradunon 14 November 1971 about five weeks before the scheduled date of the POP in Dec 71, so as to be with their respective units in time to join battle! With the war having commenced on 03 December 1971, alarge number of officers from the course, still in their late teens, actively participated in the operations in Eastern Theatre (then East Pakistan)taking part in operationally significant battles such as the battles along Akhaura-Ashuganj-Dhaka axis, Bandar-Narayanganj axis, the famous air borne operations by the parachute battalion, and the fall of Dhaka, besides operations in the Western Theatre. The nation in general and the Indian Armed Forces in particular remember the brave hearts of this course for their operational exploits, bravery, and positive contributions. There can indeed be no better way for a soldier to start his career than on the battlefield and we were indeed fortunate to be baptised in to battle!


With the deepest respect, the Course remembers and salutes its dear course mates, MPS Chaudhary and RM Naresh who made the supreme sacrifice defending the honour of their motherland. They were not the only ones who the Course lost along the way. Brigadier Balwinder Shergill, a dare devil and courageous officer,was killed in action while commanding a Rashtriya Rifles formation in Kashmir Valley in 2000, during the peak period of Pakistan sponsored insurgency and terrorism.


As a mark of respect and to honour the sacrifices and services of those of their course mates who are no longer with them, all veterans and their wives would pay homage to them at the famous Hut of Remembrance at the NDA. One of the most striking features of the Golden Jubilee Reunion is the spirit of 18 Brave Heart single ladies who have also come from far and wide for this landmark event at the NDA.


The Commandant NDA, Vice Admiral Ajay Kocharand his staff have been most supportive of all their endeavours to reminisce the good old days of five decades ago. The Course sincerely thanks them for a well-considered itinerary and arrangements !


Proud of their Achievements

The course members have the unique distinction of doing exceptionally well, both while in service and post retirement. Some of them have risen to prestigious higher ranks like the Chief of Air Staff, one Vice-Chief of Air Staff, two Army Commanders, three Air Officers Commanding-in-Chief, seven Lt Generals and equivalent ranks, and several Major Generals and equivalent ranks. While a few of their officers served on United Nations Peace Keeping Missions and as Defence Advisors abroad, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, on superannuation, served as the Ambassador to Norway. Lt Gen VK Ahluwalia, an Army Commander, later served as Administrative Member of an Armed Forces Tribunal. A good number have done the Course proud on being conferred highest military honours and awards, and by making substantial contribution in social, environmental, educational, legal, strategic studies fields, and as authors of books.


One vital aspect that cannot be missed is the enthusiasm and spirit amongst the course mates from the three services, and their families who have shown overwhelming spirit of jointness and integration in the planning and execution of GJR. The GJR re-emphasises the importance of tri-service ‘Integration’ as the way forward to win the future wars.


Thanks to the Course Core Team led by Pune based Lt Gen PK Rath who along with other course mates in Pune put the GJR together in a seamless manner through their commitment and involvement!