Dhenkanal: A soldier is a soldier, with or without uniform.
Even years after hanging their boots following retirement from the Indian army, a group of seven ex-servicemen, led by veteran Sukant Kumar Parida continue to serve the motherland in a unique way.
The group has now taken up the responsibility to train and prepare the next generation in the tribal infested Bhalutangara village under Kankadahad Block to join the defence services.
Inspired by the selfless efforts of the battle hardened ex-servicemen, hundreds of youth in the district and the adjoining Keonjhar and Jajpur turn up at the village every day to undergo rigorous training that will help prepare them for the tough selection ahead.
Parida, a resident of the village, started his ‘mission training’ for local youths in November this year following his retirement from the Army.
A well-experienced instructor who had himself undergone various training regimes during his service in the Army, Parida said when he came back to his village he was pained to see youngsters wasting time by loitering around aimlessly. A dangerous social cocktail of poverty, lack of awareness and exposure had strayed them from their life goals.
“The young generation is highly talented and very hardworking. If they get the right motivation and training, they could beat any adversary. The only thing they are lacking is proper guidance,” Parida said, adding that he started with a few boys and the number has swelled to over 100 in a short span of time.
Every day Parida and his group’s training session starts at 6 am and continues till 8 am. It involves long distance run for the students in the shortest possible time. It is followed by physical exercises like bending, stretching, long jump, high jump, crocodile drags and rope exercises.
Some of the selected trainees are also provided the rigorous ‘Commando’ training.
“When I wanted to join the Army, no one was there to guide me about the eligibility tests or the criteria one needs to meet. I had to put in a lot of hard work as I did not even know the selection procedure in defence services. Same is the case with these youngsters. Hence, I chose to train them in physical exercises so that they have a chance to qualify for the Indian Army, Air Force or Navy,” said Parida.
Moreover, the trainees are even taught on current affairs and geography (of the world and India).
“We not only provide physical training but also take care of the mental aspects of the trainees by teaching them current affairs and imparting a lot of motivation,” said another instructor Sahadeba Tudu.
Nitesh Kumar Mahanta, one of the trainees, said he is hopeful to pass the selection test for armed forces.
“I am fully confident of getting the first position in the physical category,” he said.
Another trainee Pokhram Prasad Mahanta said they receive both physical and academic training which would help them in the recruitment drive.
“All our instructors are experts in their own fields. We are fortunate enough to get these facilities at our doorsteps,” he said.
Locals in the village have hailed the efforts put in by the Army veterans to give direction to their wards and inculcate the desire to serve the country.
“The ‘Faujis’ have become part of the local legend now and their popularity has grown among youngsters in the area. They are doing a great job by guiding the boys. It’s a great service to the locality,” said Pratap Chandra Marndi, a villager.