Officers’ Training Academy: Challenging the odds
There is a certain awe and enigma that always surrounds our Armed Forces. And like all things associated with our Indian Armed Forces, their training academies too are elite, magnificent and away from all public glare and attention.
One of the cradles of Indian Army; the Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) located in Chennai is no exception- an institution par excellence, which can boast of having served the Nation for 52 years with more than 20,000 cadets having trained from here and being successfully commissioned, including several cadets from friendly foreign nations.
A brief History
The OTA that we know today was known as Officers Training School (OTS) till 1988 and was set up in September 1962 and the training for the first batch or first Emergency Commission course commenced on 15th Jan 1963. It was set up in the wake of Chinese aggression in 1962 to provide training to Emergency Commissioned officers to Indian Army. The said training continued till October 1965 and later OTS started training Gentlemen Cadets for Short Service Commission (SSC). The school got a permanent status in 1985 and on 1st January 1988, it was renamed as Officers’ Training Academy. In 1992, when the induction of women officers into the Army was approved, OTA started the training of Lady Cadets too along with Gentlemen Cadets. In 1999, it was officially announced that OTA would be permanently located in Chennai, with the enhanced capacity of training 750 cadets.
The Academy is unique in its way since it trains officers for a Short Service Commission. It is also one of the very few academies in the world to train both Gentlemen and Lady Cadets.
Motto and Flag of the OTA
The Motto of the OTA is ‘ Serve with Honour’, which is self-explanatory. The OTA Flag consists of red and grey colours, where red represents blood which a warrior willingly sheds for safety of his country and grey is representative of the strength of steel. There are two swords and a Dharma Chakra in the middle, that represent the fighting spirit of the warrior along with true value and ethos respectively.
‘Roshani’ is the name of the OTA Song which was composed in 1987 by Sub SP Gautam alongwith GCs and Officers which was then given a final shape by Maj Gen N Vishwanathan, the then OTA Commandment.
The OTA Song- Roshani. Source : Twitter page of Indian Army : ADGPI
The OTA Warriors’ Pledge came into effect from 2015, introduced by Lt Gen Bobby Mathews AVSM, VSM. The following pledge is invoked by the Officer Cadets every day before the start of their training:
OTA CHENNAI WARRIORS PLEDGE
I AM PROUD AND PRIVILEGED TO BE ORDAINED AS AN OFFICER CADET OF THE OTA,
I WILL MAKE EVERY MINUTE COUNT AT OTA AND TRAIN SO HARD, THAT I AM FULLY ENDOWED TO LEAD THE NOBLEST AND FINEST SOLDIERS IN THIS WORLD,
I WILL ALWAYS STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE AND PURITY AND STRAIN ALL MY SINEWS IN THIS ENDEAVOUR,
I WILL ALWAYS ENSURE DUTY, HONOUR AND COURAGE IN ALL MY DEALINGS AND TREAT MY JUNIORS & SUBORDINATES WITH DIGNITY AND RESPECT,
I AM AWARE OF THE RICH AND GLORIOUS TRADITIONS OF THE OTA AND WILL ALWAYS STRIVE TO LIVE UPTO IT,
ALMIGHTY GOD PLEASE GIVE ME THE STRENGTH TO MAKE ME WORTHY OF THIS COVENANT.
A visit to the Academy
Prior to the Covid lockdowns last year, I had the privilege of visiting this grand institution in February last year. Having already visited the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun, I had an inkling of what to expect. Yet, my visit to OTA was awe inspiring.
The Officers’ Training Academy in Chennai is spread over 670 acres of land, bifurcated by the Adyar River which flows through the Academy, from South to North. After being ushered into the Academy, our first stop was the P Hill. As the name suggests, this place is almost atop a hill and is the highest point of the OTA. One can get an aerial view of the entire Academy from here and also of the adjoining areas, such as the Airport Runway and so on.
And before moving on with our visit to this magnificent Academy, we spent a few minutes at the Temple of Remembrance. The entrance of the Temple of Remembrance has a board with the following words: ‘WHEN YOU GO HOME, TELL THEM OF US AND SAY FOR YOUR TOMORROW, WE GAVE OUR TODAY.’ The words couldn’t have been any truer.
The Temple of Remembrance. Source : The Official Home Page of the Indian Army
As the name suggests The Temple of Remembrance is a memorial in memory of officers who had passed out of OTA and made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty. There are rows of busts on both sides of the path leading to The Temple. These busts are of bravehearts who have been decorated with Gallantry Awards, such as Col. Jojan Thomas Ashok Chakra, Lt. Col Harsh Uday Singh Gaur Ashok Chakra, Maj. R Parameswaran Param Vir Chakra,Major Padmapani Acharya Mahavir Chakra,Major Mukund Vardrajan Ashok Chakra, Capt. Pratap Singh Mahavir Chakra, Capt. K. C. Nongrum Mahavir Chakra, Lt. Navdeep Singh Ashok Chakra.
There is a small room which has the names of fallen soldiers, who were the alumni of OTA, engraved on the walls there. However, we had to see this room from outside through a glass door.
Rezangla comprises all the important offices of the Academy. It is a three storeyed building and was inaugurated on 15 Jan 2016 by Lt. Gen Bobby Mathews, AVSM, VSM. It is a magnificent building which glows up in colourful lights at night. A worthy sight!
The Rezangla at night
In the lawn in front of Rezangla, is a 100 feet tall flag mast. The Tricolour of 30x20 feet dimension flies high here. This was installed on 10th September 2016, for the POP which was reviewed by the then Hon’ble President late Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, This mast along with the Tricolour is the highest man made object in OTA.
The Museum of the OTA was inaugurated on 4th September 2003 by the then Commandment Maj Gen SD Awasthi. I fall short of words to describe the feeling of being in that Museum. It not only has the history of OTA (displayed graphically in the form of pictures), but also has the names and a brief description and photos of the great war heroes of our nation, who were alumni of the OTA. There is a Weapon Gallery with a display of all kinds of small weapons. One can also see a display of the items used by Cadets during their training. Although every nook and corner of the Museum is impressive and has valuable information, what caught my attention was the display of the Gallantry Award Medals. It seemed like an honour for me to be looking at them so closely. One can only imagine the kind of sacrifices it takes to be a recipient of those medals.
The Alumni of OTA included many distinguished officers who have been decorated with the many Gallantry Awards; Param Vir Chakra – 01, Ashok Chakra 08, Maha Vir Chakra 10, Kirti Chakra 20, Vir Chakra 60, Sháurya Chakra 108 and Sena Medal 524, Yudh Seva Medal 06, Vishist Seva Medal 101.
Some of these distinguished officers are the likes of Major R Parameshwaran (Posthumous), the lone recipient of the Param Vir Chakra in OP PAWAN, 2 Lt SS Samra and Major (Now Brig) KS Chandpuri decorated with Maha Vir Chakras(MVC) during 1971 War, Major Jasram Singh & Capt JS Raina were decorated with Ashok Chakras for their service in Counter Insurgency Operations in the North East. Apart from this, Major Padmapani Acharya (Posthumous), Lt Balwan Singh, Major Sonam Wang Chuk and Lt Keishing Clifford Nongrum (Posthumous) are the recipients of Maha Vir Chakra, for their roles in the Operation Vijay. These are names of just some of the few exceptional officers who made the OTA proud. Obviously, the list doesn’t end here.
The Yoddha Mess
The grandeur of an Academy Mess is well known and I may hardly be able to add anything further to it. In fact, in 2006, the Yoddha Cadets’ Mess of The OTA was adjudged as the Best in Architecture and Construction in Chennai Chief Engineer zone. The separate table for ‘The Fallen Comrade’ is extremely touching and one can’t help feel sombre at this gesture. Certain walls were adorned with the pictures of the Chiefs of the Indian Army and certain other sections had pictures of the Alumni of OTA, some of whom had been killed in action.
The Yoddha Cadets' Mess
Physical Training Area
Well, an Academy which trains upto 750 cadets, it was hardly surprising that their training areas are huge and one can only be awestruck by the various obstacles and exercises the cadets have to perform on a regular basis. This rigorous training goes a long way in shaping them into who they are.
Parmeswaran Drill Square
I may not be wrong in saying that, to be standing at this ground and being a part of the Passing Out Parade is a dream come true for every defence enthusiast. As for me, standing next to the Antim Pag itself gave me goosebumps. What an awesome and proud feeling it would be to be commissioned as officers in the Indian Army, to get the stars pipped on one’s shoulder in such a grand place. It would indeed be a well deserved achievement after the unending hours of hard work.
Certain experiences cannot be described and can only be felt. I was privileged to be able to stand next to Antim Pag and feel those goosebumps that newly commissioned officers may feel.
These are just the few places of The OTA that I have mentioned here. Apart from these, there are places like Radhakrishna Library, Chankya Auditorium, Tagore Art Gallery or even the Cadets’ Accommodation, about which I have not written here. One would fall short of words if one had to write about all of the OTA.
How can someone join OTA?
OTA Chennai trains officers for Short Service Commission. Candidates can join OTA Chennai in the following ways:
Men and Women can appear for non- technical Services by attempting the Combined Defence Services Exam being held twice a year.
For those in the technical field, there is no written exam and they can attempt to join through technical entries. Applicants are shortlisted on the basis of the cut off percentage of the engineering exams.
Law graduates with 50% aggregate marks, minimum B grade in ‘C’ certificate after 2 years in NCC Senior Division Army can apply through the NCC Special Entry Scheme.
Law graduates with 55% marks, registered with the Bar Council of India / State are eligible to apply through the Judge Advocate Entry.
Although I am not a part of the Armed Forces’ Fraternity, the Officers’ Training Academy is a part of the Indian Army Establishments, our Army and it invokes such a sense of immense pride to know that our Armed Forces can boast of such magnificent Academies. More glory and power to our men and women in Uniform.