‘Nerves of steel, exceptional courage’ — tales of valour of Army, IAF heroes honoured on I-Day

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New Delhi: Group Captain Rahul Singh of the Indian Air Force (IAF) has been honoured with the Vayu Sena Medal for his role in the evacuation of Indian embassy personnel and citizens from Afghanistan in August 2021. At the same time, the Kirti Chakra, the country’s second highest peacetime medal, has been conferred on Naik Devendra Pratap Singh of the 55th Battalion of Rashtriya Rifles for his role in a counter-insurgency operation in J&K.

Group Captain Singh and Naik Singh were among 107 security personnel honoured with gallantry awards by President Droupadi Murmu, on the eve of India’s 75th Independence Day. In total, the President conferred one Kirti Chakra, eight Shaurya Chakras, 81 Sena Medals, and two Bar-to-Sena Medals on Indian Army personnel, along with eight Vayu Sena Medals and one Nao Sena Medal. 

Two of the eight Shaurya Chakra recipients are from the Army’s Parachute Regiment, namely Major Jai Singh Dhaania and Major Amit Dahiya, while the remaining six are from the Rashtriya Rifles.

Of the eight Shaurya Chakras conferred Sunday, two were awarded posthumously — Sepoy Karn Veer Singh and Gunner Jasbir Singh. And of the 81 Sena Medals, five were awarded posthumously — Major Sankalp Yadav, Subedar Ram Singh, Havaldar Sonit Kumar Saini, Naik Banwari Lal Rathore, and Sepoy Sasankha Sekhar Samal.

The President also approved 41 Mention-in-Dispatches, including one for Army dog Axel who was killed in the line of action in July this year.

Mention-in-Despatches is an honour bestowed on a member of the armed forces whose gallant actions find mention in an official report sent to the high command by a superior officer.


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‘Act of exceptional courage’

Just before the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, as part of Operation Devi Shakti, Group Captain Rahul Singh, Flying (Pilot), was appointed overall mission commander of the three C-17 aircraft tasked with evacuating Indian embassy personnel and citizens from Kabul.

On the night of 15 August 2021, Group Captain Singh landed the C-17 at Kabul airport to evacuate Indian citizens. However, due to the ensuing chaos at the airport, gunfire in the vicinity, and civilians breaking through the southern walls of the airport, Captain Singh departed for Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.

After waiting at Dushanbe and monitoring the situation at Kabul airport, the officer took off for a second evacuation attempt. But due to communication problems, the C-17 had to hover around for nearly an hour before it was allowed to land.

Group Captain Singh, tactfully established contact with the US Ground Force commander and directed the GARUD forces to establish a defensive perimeter around the plane. Finally, the C-17 departed with 153 evacuees. “The officer promptly taxied out and executed a flawless Tactical Departure in order to avoid ground fire in the absence of any ground Navigation Aids,” the citation said.

Group Captain Ravi Nanda was also awarded the Vayu Sena Medal for transporting 87 Indians from Afghanistan to Dushanbe on 20 August 2021, as part of Operation Devi Shakti.

The Vayu Sena medal was conferred on six other officers, namely Flight Lieutenant D. Ravindra Rao, Sergeant Parmender Singh Parmar, Sergeant Shyam Veer Singh, Squadron Leader Dilip Gurnani, Wing Commander Abhishek Pujari, and Wing Commander Deepika Misra.

‘Nerves of steel’

According to the citation, the Kirti Chakra was conferred on Naik Devendra Pratap Singh of the 55th Battalion of Rashtriya Rifles for “displaying indomitable courage and devotion beyond call of duty resulting in elimination of two hardcore terrorists” — one A++ category terrorist and one C category terrorist.

Naik Singh was part of a counter-insurgency operation launched on 29 January of this year after the Army received information about four terrorists hiding in a village in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

When the search party came under heavy fire from terrorists, it was Naik Singh who retaliated, foiling their attempts to escape. He then crawled to a position about three metres from the hideout while deftly avoiding enemy fire.

“Terrorists rushed out of the house firing indiscriminately, lobbing grenades and came face to face with him. Exhibiting nerves of steel and bravery of highest order, Naik Devendra Pratap Singh eliminated one terrorist on the spot face to face and swiftly changed his position to engage fleeing terrorists thereby eliminating the second terrorist,” the citation said.


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‘Gallantry beyond call of duty’

Gunner Jasbir Singh of the 19th Battalion of Rashtriya Rifles was posthumously awarded the third-highest peacetime gallantry, the Shaurya Chakra, “for displaying exceptional gallantry beyond the call of duty and nerve of steel under hostile fire in the face of the enemy”, said the citation.

Singh, who was 26 at the time he made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty, hailed from Punjab’s Tarn Taran district, and had joined the Army in 2014.

He was part of the inner cordon during an anti-insurgency operation in Shahabad Nowgam in J&K’s Anantnag district on 29 December 2021.

According to the Army, a cordon and search operation was launched in Shahabad Nowgam on the basis of information about terrorists hiding there. During a search of one of the homes in the area, security personnel were attacked by terrorists who lobbed grenades and fired indiscriminately at them.

To hold the cordon, Gunner Singh repositioned himself and fired strategically, foiling the terrorists’ plan to escape. He then moved closer to the terrorists and continued firing. Armed with an M4 assault rifle, Singh eliminated an A++ terrorist  from close range.

However, it was during the crossfire that ensued that Singh sustained multiple gunshot wounds.

‘Elimination of a hard-core terrorist’

Lance Naik Ragh Vendra Singh of the 9th Battalion of Rashtriya Rifles received the Shaurya Chakra for displaying “exceptional courage and valour with little regard for personal safety, resulting in the elimination of a hard-core terrorist” — despite sustaining a gunshot injury.

Lance Naik Singh was part of a team that launched a cordon and search operation in J&K’s Kulgam district on 29 December 2021. Around 10 pm that night, he received a radio call informing him that a group of terrorists were heading toward him. 

After processing the input, Lance Naik Singh charged towards the terrorists and opened fire. The terrorists retaliated by firing and lobbing grenades at him. In the process, he was seriously injured, and also sustained a gunshot wound. 

Seeing the terrorists escape to a nearby orchard, Lance Naik Singh — despite his injury — displayed unparalleled bravery by going after them. In the crossfire that ensured, Singh took down a A++ category terrorist.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)


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