Over 600 gentlemen cadets (GCs) of the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun almost lost out on crucial battlefield training that can make life-or-death difference for them and the men they would command in war. By denying the Asan field firing ranges to the IMA, the Uttar Pradesh government gave sleepless nights to the general responsible for preparing Sunday’s army leadership exercise.
Till Friday, IMA commandant Lieutenant General PK Rampal had no clue where his final term cadets would undergo the critical ‘battlefield innoculation programme’ designed to bring rookies face to face with a realistic battleground.
After some last-minute manoeuvring, the state government has given its go-ahead to the army to make use of the field firing range that falls under the joint jurisdiction of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. But delayed clearance has pushed training behind schedule.
General Rampal told Hindustan Times he would have felt “morally small” had the GCs been commissioned into the army without mastering battlecraft skills.
He got a telephonic message on Friday night that the IMA could use the Asan firing range, about 50 km from Dehradun. Army sources said the Uttar Pradesh government was acting tough as it has to recover Rs 80-odd lakh from the Ministry of Defence.
The IMA had given up hope and was preparing to take the GCs to the Raipur firing range, which is suitable only for small arms firing (weapons less than 25 mm calibre).
“Training has been affected. It was scheduled for the third week of March,” said Rampal.
An advance party was sent to Asan on March 21 but it had to return. Rampal said: “I hope this never happens again. It is a matter of national security. The cadets have to take up important tasks (after getting commissioned) when the state government dropped a bombshell. I would have felt morally small had they gone to their units without completing their training.”
Heavy weapons cannot be fired in Raipur, the alternative to the Asan range. Also, the smaller range is unsuitable for the customary firepower demonstration for cadets by mechanised and infantry units.
In short, the GCs would have passed out without receiving a well-rounded training and the burden would have fallen on units to further train them. Cadets will now be able to fire rocket launchers and heavy-calibre mortars before donning stars on their epaulettes on June 7.