It is not every day that one gets to ride an Army tank and experience a soldier's life, but school children from Mumbai did just that in Jammu and Kashmir, courtesy the Indian Army which gave them the opportunity through 'Know Your Army' initiative.
Lt Gen R. R. Nimbhorkar, AVSM, SM, VSM General Officer Commanding of the Nagrota-based White Knight Corps, said the unique programme, which comprised 138 students, four principals and 19 teachers from nine Mumbai schools, enabled students to experience life in the Army.
A tour of the border areas was organised for students and teachers from various schools of Mumbai recently.
They visited Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch districts as part of a week-long tour of the northern state during which they participated in a number of cultural exchange programmes with local schools and interacted with Army personnel.
The students were exposed to a large spectrum of activities under the theme 'Know Your Army', Gen Nimbhorkar, General Officer Commanding, 16 Corps of Indian Army, said.
The tour started with an experience of a tank ride that brought in a real sense of adventure and thrill for the students. They were also shown a wide range of weaponry used by the Indian Army. The children also witnessed some real action through a variety of demo drills.
Army soldiers displayed their agility and skill by demonstrating drills that they regularly practice in counter insurgency and counter operations roles, including slithering, casualty evacuation, house clearance and rush drill.
The experience showed the young minds how Indian Army soldiers braved tough conditions every day in their endeavour to keep peace in the region, Gen. Nimbhorkar said.
They also had a chance to interact with local students studying in Army Goodwill Public School, Rajouri, which is managed by the Army. Local students interacted heartily with their counterparts from Mumbai and participated in cultural programmes, debate and quiz competitions, he said.
The principals and teaching staff who accompanied the students appreciated the 'unique opportunity' of experiencing the J&K region and the Army and expressed hope that there would be more such cultural exchanges which will bring the youth of the country together.
The students experienced a series of fun-filled and adventurous activities, including trekking in the higher reaches of the Pir Panjal range, and understanding how the soldiers of Rashtriya Rifles are striving to bring peace in the region.
They also visited the Hall of Fame, where they witnessed a wreath laying ceremony at the war memorial, said Gen. Nimbhorkar, who hails from Vidarbha region of Maharashtra.
"The students learnt and enjoyed pitching up tents for themselves. A selected few were given and exposure to fire small arms while all of them greatly enjoyed the adventurous but bumpy tank rides.
The Army Dog Show mesmerised them and the children were fascinated by the highly trained and disciplined canines," he said.
The students also had an opportunity to witness the ongoing training activities in the Corps Battle School at Sarol, wherein soldiers are trained in operational requirements in an insurgency affected area. Students also enjoyed camp fire amid the calm and serene beauty of the region.
The students experienced first-hand various activities and training that the soldiers undergo on a daily basis including slithering down from helicopters, obstacle training, and use of weaponry.
The tour ended with a presentation ceremony at Nagrota where Gen Nimbhorkar presented certificates to students and encouraged them to serve the nation with pride and join the armed forces.
The group comprised students and teaching staff from St Joseph Convent Girls High School, Father Agnel Technical High School, Springfield Public High School, Anjuman-e-Islam High School, St Stanliaus High School, St Marys High School and Bilabong International.