In Delhi, army mess lounge named after longest-serving mule ‘Pedongi’
The new lounge at the officers’ mess on Polo Road has been christened ‘Pedongi’ to honour the services of the mule who carried military loads for over 30 years.
Recognising the contribution of animals in military service, the army has named a swanky officers’ mess lounge in Delhi cantonment after the force’s longest-serving mule.
The new lounge at the Central Army Service Corps (ASC) officers’ mess on Polo Road has been christened ‘Pedongi’ to honour the services of the mule who carried military loads for over 30 years.
It’s rare for mules to be given names, a privilege reserved for horses. Named after Pedong town in Sikkim, Pedongi joined the army in 1962 and died in 1998.
Usually, mules serve the army for 18-20 years. Accounting for 6,000 to 8,000 mules, the army’s animal transport (AT) units are assigned the responsibility of supporting some of its remote outposts located at heights of up to 19,000 feet.
The army is working on a proposal to deploy all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in mountainous areas to ferry weapons, ammunition and stores. It is also exploring the possibility of using drones to support its high-altitude deployments.
“AT is a fading story in the army with technology providing options to replace animals. We thought it would be a fitting tribute to Pedongi, who also finds place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest serving military mule,” said Lieutenant General BS Sandhu, who retired as director general of supplies and transport on April 30.
A few defence experts, however, maintained that the AT units cannot be completely done away with.
“Technology has its limitations. There’s no way AT units can be completely disbanded, given the kind of terrain where our army is deployed,” said Lieutenant General SPS Katewa, who retired as the Commandant of the ASC Centre and College in Bengaluru.
Mules played a crucial role during the 1999 Kargil war. Katewa said mules were moved from the eastern sector and Jammu region to Ladakh without acclimatisation. “The animals performed a splendid job. Their importance was reinforced and plans to disband AT units were shelved,” said Katewa.