It is 8pm at the Captain Vikram Batra Mess, IMA, Dehradun. There's a lot of chatter and banter amongst the GCs after a long, hard day of training. As they take their seats with their cutleries in front of them – there's complete silence. They wait and look at the captain's seat which is at the center of the mess reserved for Late Captain Vikram Batra (PVC). Only once the food is served at the Captain’s seat the GCs can take their first bite. This is a long standing tradition amongst the Gentleman Cadets in the Indian Military Academy. Some of these brave men may not even be with us anymore but they continue to live on in the hearts and minds of all those whom they have inspired and continue to inspire like true leaders. This upholds the significance of the motto of the IMA- Veerta aur Vivek- Valour and Wisdom- and symbolises the colors of its Crest- Blood Red and Steel Grey; they are always ready to give their blood for the nation and are men of steel.
There is a common saying in Militaries around the world – ‘The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat’. Training is considered to be the foundation of success in combat and warfare. Military training happens to be amongst the toughest tasks in the world that many have tried and failed at. Death, fear, physical distress and an enemy determined to kill them are some of the challenges that those who defend our nation face when they go to war or during times of counterinsurgency and counter terrorism operations. Unpredictability happens to be an inevitable part of this profession, therefore whether one is a soldier, naval sailor, medic or a fighter pilot –they must be prepared to engage with the enemy, survive and accomplish the mission as a member of the team. This can only happen with profound Military training for everyone who has been commissioned into the armed forces regardless of their rank. We take a look at one of the best and the premier officer training academies of India – The Indian Military Academy, and how they shape a gentleman cadet to a soldier ready to face all odds to protect our motherland.
History and Inauguration
Based in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, the IMA trains Gentleman Cadets who are commissioned into the Indian Army along with a large number of cadets from friendly foreign countries like Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. The founding of the academy preceded the attainment of Independence from the British Raj by 15 years. The Government of India had acquired the estate of Railway College in Dehradun for the establishment of the Military academy because of its humongous campus to meet the requirements of Military Training. The first batch a.k.a the ‘Pioneers’, consisted of SHFJ Sam Manekshaw (India), Smith Dun (Burma), Mohammed Musa (Pakistan) amongst the first 40 cadets. All three of them went on to become the Army Chiefs of their respective countries. The ‘Pioneers’ commenced training at Dehradun from the 1st of October 1932 under the stewardship of Brigadier LP Collins, the first commandant of the Academy. The IMA was formally inaugurated on the 10th of December 1932 by Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode, the then Commander-In-Chief of India. The inauguration of the IMA was seen as a victory for the Indian leadership who had made the demands of the creation of a Military Academy in India for Indians to be commissioned as Officers.
The 1400-acre wide campus includes an auditorium, lecture halls, computer labs, a cafe, three libraries, a helipad and a glorious residential structure overlooking the breathtaking view of the Tons River silhouetted by the Himalayas. One structure in the campus that immediately captures the eye is the War Memorial, inaugurated by Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw in 1999, which pays homage to the alumni of the Academy who have laid down their lives in the line of duty.
The main building – The Chetwood Building of the Indian Military Academy
Entry into the IMA
There are 4 modes of entry to the Indian Military Academy.
1. Regular Course: The regular course comprises entries for aspirants who are either former National Defence Academy cadets or former Army Cadet College cadets. Their admission is of a lateral entry into the IMA after completing a 3 year degree course at the above mentioned colleges. Their course duration at the IMA is 1 year.
2. Direct Entry: Anyone aged between 19 and 24 with a degree or equivalent qualification can join IMA after having cleared the Combined Defence Services (CDS) and the Services Selection Board Exam (SSB) through the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC). The final mode of selection in this case is the SSB. The course duration for direct entry students is a year and a half.
3. Tech Graduates Course: Applicants aged between 20 and 27 with an Engineering degree or postgraduate degree in science and humanities or such notified discipline can join the IMA after clearing the SSB interview.
4. University Entry Scheme: Applicants aged between (19-25) and (18-24) can get into the IMA after clearing their campus interviews and the SSB.
The training of GCs at the IMA is structured in line with the vision of conforming with the historical and cultural values of the Army and the nation as well as to groom Military leaders of the highest professional, physical and moral caliber.
Training at the IMA
The training at the IMA, or for that matter all the premier defence training institutes of India, is rigorous, intuitive, holistic and intensive. The GCs undertake extensive weapon training- this forms an essential aspect of training as the GCs are given a first hand experience of how a weapon-to-weapon engagement with the adversary may turn out to be in different situations in different surroundings. Another foundation set up here is the importance attached to compulsory sporting activities. It is believed that playing sports helps build the best leadership and discipline qualities among GCs. They usually include X Country, Hockey, Basketball, Polo, Athletics, Football, Aquatics, Volleyball, Boxing and so on. The Sabhiki Cup-2016, a sports meet for trainees of five premier officer training academies of the Army, Navy and the Air force, viz., Indian Military Academy (Dehradun), Air force Academy Hyderabad), National Defence Academy (Khadakwasla), Officers' Training Academy (Chennai) and the Indian Naval Academy (INA) is a premier sporting event featuring trainee officers of the highest calibre.
The IMA also houses several clubs, the memberships of which are compulsory for all Gentleman Cadets. The indoor clubs include journalism, arts, music and drama, computer applications while the outdoor clubs include driving and maintenance, scuba diving, mountaineering, rock climbing and swimming. There’s also a sports club at the IMA that offers GC a chance to play sports like Golf, squash, tennis, riding and polo, shooting, archery, gym cycling and cycle polo. Adventure training in the form of trekking, rock climbing, paragliding forms an integral part of the training course of a Gentleman Cadet at the IMA.
GCs participating in sports at the IMA
Every 6 months, the IMA conducts a passing out parade for its cadets who then go on to join their respective services in the Indian Army, whereas the foreign cadets join the Armies of their countries. The parade which was conducted for the first time this year in the absence of the family members of the GCs, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, is a symbol of the termination of diligent training of the GCs and their evolution into officers.
Passing out parade on June 13, 2020
A message from the speech made by Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode on the Inauguration day has been adopted as the credo of the academy:
“Safety, Honour and Welfare of your country comes first, always and every time.
The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command comes next.
Your own ease, comfort and safety comes last, always and every time.”
The credo of the IMA
This message clearly stands true and is followed by all the officers who pass out from the IMA. IMA alumni have led and fought in almost every operation that the Indian Army has undertaken. Some of its notable Alumni include Sam Manekshaw- India’s first Field Marshal, the current Chief Of The Army Staff Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane, Chief of The Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Captain Kenguruse (MVC) (P), Major Rajesh Singh Adhikari (MVC) (P), Captain Vijayant Thappar (MVC) (P) and Captain Vikram Batra (PVC) (P).
Logo of the IMA
The IMA, coupled with the National Defence Academy (NDA), Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) and other training institutes, is responsible for shaping the officers who make up the country’s first and last line of defence. With a task this big, the institutions have been impeccable year after year. The Indian Military Academy has a glorious history of shaping some of India’s best officers and soldiers. The institute stands tall as one of the flag-bearers of the Indian Armed Forces’ resolve, skill and determination. To this date, it serves as an inspiration to Defence aspirants who want to don the prestigious uniform and serve the nation.