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10 Things About Indian Army Soldiers In Siachen That’ll Make You Thank Them For The Life You Are Living..
“Quartered in snow, silent to remain, when the bugle calls, they shall rise and march again.” These are the words that are etched on a stone memorial at the Indian Army base camp in Siachen – the world’s highest and coldest active war zone. For over 17 hellishly freezing years, the Indian army has held the position strong, keeping our treacherous enemy Pakistan from claiming the glacier. The sun doesn’t sustain life here, kerosene does. The bullet doesn’t kill here, the cold does, but our brave hearts take all of this face front and never back down. Here are 10 things about the Indian army soldiers in Siachen that will make you thank them for the life you are living.
1) Sometimes Indian soldiers, as many as 6 at a time, have to live in igloos made of fiberglass panels no bigger than the size of a king-size bed. The only way to keep themselves warm is through small kerosene stoves. The smoke fills the igloos so much so that it colours everything including even a man’s spit. Hot water bottles don’t stay hot for long, sleeping doesn’t happen at night, and a relay mechanism is set up to exchange frozen rifles with defrosted ones.2) Since temperatures usually dip well below ?50 °C, touching anything made of metal with bare hands can cause severe frost bites within seconds. Guns and other artillery are only operated while wearing anti-frostbite gloves. Even the sweat in the gloves freezes to become ice, sometimes leading to finger amputations. Soldiers brought down to base camp often suffer problems of hearing, eyesight and memory loss because of prolonged use of oxygen masks.3) Speech problems, nausea, sleep deprivation and depression are some of the most common problems our soldiers face in the winters. Despite such difficulties, the Indian Army holds two-thirds of the glacier and controls two of the three most important passes including the highest motorable pass in the world called Khardungla Pass.
4) Fresh food is a rare luxury at Siachen. Fruits freeze to become as hard as cricket balls and potatoes can’t be dented even with hammers. Getting the food at an altitude of 21,000 feet is a task in itself. Indian-made Cheetah helicopters often push well past their boundaries to drop in canned food. And if, God forbid, the weather is bad, a lot of food is swallowed by the snow.
5) Fear of death from freezing is so much so that the soldiers take bath only once a month, that too in specially designed commodes by DRDO. Drinking water is obtained from melting ice on stoves, and since washing is also a rarity, 14 pairs of thermal socks are allotted per soldier for a 90-day posting.6) A shining example of courage overcoming all difficulties, the Indian Army has also built the world`s highest helipad in Siachen at a place called Sonam, which is approximately 21,000 feet above sea level. This pad is used to bring in supplies all year round.
7) Due to ghastly winds at 18,000 feet, mortar shelling becomes extremely unpredictable, sometimes falling where least expected. Rifles are thawed repeatedly over kerosene stoves and machine guns are dipped in boiling water to keep them from jamming. But soldiers fall prey to the camouflaging snow sheets and unexpected avalanches and blizzards more often than to the shelling.8) Facing almost 35 feet of snow and blizzards year round, the soldiers not only protect the territory from enemies but also, manually maintain (with shovels and light machinery) the post which otherwise will be swallowed by the accumulating snow if left unmanned.9) The snow storms can last well up to more than half a month and the place has about 10 percent of the oxygen that plains have. While even professional climbers dread climbing in bad weather, our soldiers are on their feet, patrolling the area 365 days a year.10) Since the Indian Army holds the heights and Pakistani Army holds the low areas around Siachen, the situation is such that the Indian Army cannot go down and the Pakistani Army cannot come up. Nobody can win this war.Despite these extreme hostilities, the Indian Army has never experienced a shortage of volunteers to serve in Siachen. A heartfelt salute to these brave hearts!This may please be passed on to all levels of the IAS/IPS cadres in the country.
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