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This is my diary....what I make sense of, around me. You'll find short prose on contemporary topics that interest me. What can you expect - Best adjectives? …. hmm occasionally, tossed around flowery verbs ?…. Nope, haiku-like super-brevity? … I try to. Thanks for dropping by & hope to see you again

November 27, 2010

NatGeo Mission Army : a firsthand account

NatGeo in association with Indian Army conducted the selection process to Mission Army: Desk Ke Rakshak  in Bangalore last Sunday. The previous such attempts by  NatGeo namely Mission Udaan, Mission Mount Everest & Mission Navy had been quite popular . So decided to check it out this time around. The fact that I was competing with mostly 18-25 year olds didn’t deter me, I wanted to see whether I could really stand up to the rigorous selection standards (reportedly the SSB format) set by the Army set for this reality TV show 

So on a cold Sunday early  morning I set out to the Rajput Regiment Parachute Regiment Training Centre (PRTC) (said to be the fittest of the Army units) at JC Nagar Bangalore . There I expected to see large crowds, given that it had been well publicized, but could find only  about 25 faithfuls  at the gates around  6 in the morning. However by the time they herded us into Army trucks in groups of 25 around 7:30 am the crowd had swelled to around 200. 

After the registration formalities, a display crib was tied to each participant and bundled in groups of 50 each.  Each participant had to undergo 4 rounds of selection to finally make it to the lucky 5 from each city Mumbai (for west), Bangalore (for South) & Delhi ( for North) . The final 5 would spend 45 days as a part of the Indian army  & one among them would finally end up abroad and train with the Israeli intelligence (Mossad)

The first  hurdle in this journey  was the endurance test : a candidate was supposed to cover a vast 2.5 km stretch of Army ground under 10 minutes or the first 25  whichever earlier . A designated track was marked along this  vast stretch of grassy  army land that was both picturesque  and daunting. After a basic instruction drill by a smartly dressed officer, the gun was fired and most of the young hopeful darted as if it were a 100 mts dash, not surprisingly many were out of steam after about 800 meters. I  ran the course steadily and after a bit of stretch in the end made it through the first round. About 90 made it through this round.

A cream bun & puff  breakfast later the second hurdle  was a case study analysis followed by a group discussion. Groups of 15 participants were to  analyze a case situation that was given to us in a brief write up and pictorially depicted on a large display map ( marked out by railway & road tracks, forest boundary, Villages, Scales etc). Under 7 minutes the participant had to analyze the situation & provide a course of action to tackle the situation in a brief 1page  write up.  This was followed by a  group discussion. An army officer read out the Instruction at the start  & followed up with a hawk like observation at a distance, constantly jotting down the  progress made by the participants . 50% of the participants were filtered out  in this round of selection. The group that made through this round let out a war cry when the results were announced in the noon. Little did we realise what lay in store ahead.

On a sultry noon, when the sun was beating upon us , they took us to another hard sand  ground where the still euphoric 45 participants faced  this new Instructor. This  guy appeared straight out of a Hollywood commando movie, gruff and  with a bit of features that reminded me of  Bruce Willis. He put us through a exercise regimen over the next 45 minutes that I would like to forget in a hurry. 40 normal  push-ups followed by 20 knuckle push-ups as we simultaneously carried the entire body  5 steps  forward & backward respectively. Followed by another 20 while clapping  hands in the middle of the pushups.  The groans that started mid way through this exercise  increased to desperate pleading by the time the count reached 80. This was followed by various types of leg squats, body stretches & exercises that I never knew existed in physical regimen. The Nat Geo guys quickly sensed  a medical emergency situation and thankfully stopped this Rambo from doing any serious damage to  us (the guy though reacted as if it were just the warm up & the main course was yet to begin!)

The third round was what I would call a physio-psychometric test, the final batch of 45 were  broken into 3 teams and assembled around a small ‘situational area’ where the team had to follow certain set of instructions and overcome certain natural  barriers. We had to act as a team and not  individuals to cross the barriers. We were given a set of 2 ropes, a plank and a wooden pole, that we had to use to overcome the situation. Areas marked in blue were one could either stand & not use the support material while those in  white where we could do both.   As we went through the exercise another officer watched closely at a distance and made notes.

By early evening, around 4 pm the exercises were over and a final list of 11 (instead of 15) were announced for the final round of interview. 2 Girls & 9 boys (lucky eleven I would say as there was nothing much to differentiate) were selected and the rest of us, well disappointed to say the least  returned back to  the base posing for a final photograph before we bid adieu to each other.
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