Saluting 7 daredevil heroes from IAF, Navy for their selfless deeds

Written by: OneIndia Defence Desk
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As India celebrates her 69th Independence Day, OneIndia takes a close look at the Gallantry award winners from the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy.

We are sure that these seven deeds of dedication will inspire millions our readers across the globe.

Flt Lt G Jagan Mohan

1. Flt Lt G Jagan Mohan (Vayu Sena Medal, Gallantry): 32 sorties under hostile conditions

Flight Lieutenant Gandikota Jagan Mohan, a qualified Siachen Glacier Qualified Captain, was detailed for providing air logistics to our troops to tackle certain intrusions in Chumar Valley on September 19 and 20, 2014. The situation in the area at Point 4991 was very volatile and an escalation was not ruled out.

The tension in the area was now into the fourth day and consequently the Indian troops were low on essential supplies including water. Flt Lt Jagan realized that in the absence of water and other daily necessities the Indian troops might have to retreat thereby losing vital posturing in the Chumar Valley. He decided to start lifting water in any available vessel like jerry cans, plastic bottles and various other means. The initiative and resolve shown by him ensured that the troops received water and food thereby making it possible for them to hold their position.

The approach and take off had to be carried out in an unconventional manner requiring both skill and courage from the pilot. Undeterred and unfazed by the difficult ground conditions, Flt Lt Jagan remained resolute in his mission and flew 32 sorties relentlessly in two days to supply two tonnes of water and essential supplies. The mission demanded exceptional courage, flying skills of a high order, and an undying commitment towards the cause.

Wg Cdr Sandeep Singh

2. Wg Cdr Sandeep Singh, Shaurya Chakra: Courage under fire

An expert Mi-17 helicopter pilot, Wg Cdr Sandeep Singh received a mission from Anti Naxal Task Force Commander to evacuate casualties from a forest area in Sukma district of Chattisgarh on November 21, 2014. The CRPF troops came under heavy fire from Naxals resulting and five serious troop casualties had to be evacuated immediately. He got airborne with medical team within 20 minutes of receiving the SOS call.

Based on intelligence inputs and coordinates of exact location of casualties, he landed the helicopter with rotors just clear of the tree line in the jungle. The landing area had the limitation of a sloping surface and was prone to dust. With causalities and sensing the threat all around, he carried out a "Vertical out of Ground Take Off" in the only available direction.

The helicopter came under a burst of fire from automatic weapons. Undeterred and unfazed, he maintained his composure and courageously carried out evasive manoeuvres to minimize the exposure. Due to his deft handling of the situation the causalities were minimized and only one crew and one person onboard sustained bullet hits with the aircraft remaining fly worthy.

Sergeant Mukesh Kumar Tiwari

3. Sergeant Mukesh Kumar Tiwari, Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry): Valour despite being injured

On November 21 2014, Sergeant Mukesh Kumar Tiwari detailed to fly as a Flight Gunner in No 1 aircraft in a two aircraft mission to evacuate casualties from a forest area in Sukma district of Chattisgarh.

He prepared the aircraft for the mission in a record time thereby ensuring safe and timely launch. He effectively briefed the medevac teams and the Garud commando forces on the prevailing life threatening conditions on the ground and the importance of the mission. To save on time, he optimized the cargo space for casualty evacuation, while in flight, using innovative ideas.

As the helicopter approached the evacuation zone, he effectively scanned the area and readied the cargo hold for landing and quick evacuation. Displaying professionalism of a high order he assisted the medical team in giving first aid to the injured personnel and transfer of casualties and their setting down inside the cargo compartment. His actions resulted in a very quick loading and exit of the aircraft from the evacuation zone.

However, on the takeoff leg the Helicopter came under a burst of hostile fire. The first bullet pierced through the door and splinters tore though his leg chest and arm. At the same time another splinter hit CRPF personnel. Despite grave injuries to himself, he kept his calm and composure and continued with his duties. He displayed a high degree of courage and determination in keeping the environment in the cargo compartment calm and under control despite being injured.

He comforted the other injured CRPF personnel while underplaying the grave injuries sustained by him. His resolute spirit and assurance encouraged the Captain to focus on the other aspects of extrication from the area and safely leading the two helicopters missions back. Both the helicopters later landed safely at Jagdalpur.

Sqn Ldr S Selvakumar

4. Sqn Ldr S Selvakumar, Vayu Sena Medal, Gallantry: Taking challenges head on

On October 16, 2014, an ITBP patrol vehicle containing 12 personnel, carrying out patrolling along the Indo-Chinese border near Hot Spring, fell into a dry river bed. On receiving the distress call, Sqn Ldr Selvakumar gathered quickly planned his mission. The valley to the Hot Spring is sparingly narrow, hostile, inhospitable and without any habitation. There are no force landing fields to put down the aircraft in distress. In addition, inclement weather left the pilots with no margin for error, making the assigned casualty evacuation task very demanding and challenging.

He got airborne for the accident site in marginal weather and short of the accident spot, he encountered extremely bad weather with heavy snow fall forcing him to carry out a precautionary landing at Tsogtsalu. Under constant threat of border fire and impending deteriorating weather, he landed near the casualties in the first attempt on a very restricted landing zone.

On landing it emerged that all the six personnel were lying casualties requiring more helicopters. He called and guided the other aircraft while acting as the de-facto coordinator under the uncertain circumstances. Being the last to take off he once encountered bad weather.

He promptly diverted to Tangtse and ensured that the casualties were administered first aid thus enhancing the chances of their survival. Once the weather improved marginally, he took off for Leh, once again dodging weather while ensuring the safety of the aircraft.

Cdr Mohan Milind Mokashi

5. Cdr Mohan Milind Mokashi, Shaurya Chakra: True hero of Op Rahat

Cdr Mohan Milind Mokashi, Commanding Officer INS Sumitra, while carrying out anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, March 31, this year received a directive to proceed for ‘Operation Rahat' to evacuate thousands of Indian and foreign nationals, from the war-ravaged Yemen.

While entering Aden Harbour on the night of March 31, he observed heavily armed Houthi rebels patrolling harbour in boats and also stationed on jetty. Additionally, he also observed occurrence of fierce fighting and air strikes by Saudi-led coalition.

To ensure safety of hundreds of innocent Indian evacuees comprising ladies, children and elderly persons, the officer immediately deployed armed boats manned by sailors in close proximity of the ship and also created a cordon of the ship's Quick Reaction Team (MARCOS) around the evacuees, to neutralise any incoming threat.

Braving the heavy firing and shelling, the officer took charge of the situation and ensured safe embarkation of Indian and Foreign evacuees amid heavy cross firing. The officer also ensured that during the entire operation the ship remained in the highest state of readiness with ship's weapon systems manned to counter any eventuality. His brave efforts resulted in successful evacuation of 1621 evacuees, during five different operations, which he undertook from the Port of Aden, Port Ash Shihr and Port Al Hodeidah.

Capt Rajesh Dhankar

6. Capt Rajesh Dhankhar, Nao Sena Medal, Gallantry: Saving hundreds amid heavy shelling

Captain Rajesh Dhankhar, Commanding Officer INS Mumbai, was tasked to undertake mass evacuation of Indian nationals from war-torn Yemen as part of ‘Ops Rahat', on March 30, this year. The officer in the face of hostility, violence, fierce fighting in the Port of Aden, undertook most daring execution of operations, leading to the safe evacuation of 441 Indians and foreign nationals.

On arriving off Aden, Captain Rajesh Dhankhar received reports of heavy shelling in the Port area, with warships also coming under fire. On receiving this specific input, the officer positioned the ship's Force Protection Team in boats and on jetty to provide necessary fire cover to the evacuees. He ensured that all exit and entry routes to the evacuee enclosure on the jetty were strategically plugged so as to ensure their safety from any threat.

Undeterred by the prevailing security scenario ashore, amidst heavy bombing, shelling and small arms fire, the officer led his team from the front and continued his efforts to evacuate stranded personnel even during dark hours. 

He showed utter disregard to his personal safety and displayed raw courage during entire evacuation operation which was fraught with danger and risk due to continuous bombarding and firing. His brave effort resulted in successful evacuation of 262 Indians and 179 foreign nationals under extreme hostile conditions.

Captain Pradeep Singh

7. Captain Pradeep Singh, Nao Sena Medal, Gallantry: When presence of mind prevailed

During Op Rahat on April 15 this year, Captain Pradeep Singh commanding INS Tarkash, played a sheet anchor role in meticulous planning of one of the most daring operations.

His efforts lead to the safe evacuation of around 600 civilians of 18 different nationalities from AI Hodeidah and Aden harbours in the face of hostility and the back drop of violence and fighting ashore, in the port and on the jetty.

Mindful of the poor security situation and always wanting to be in a position to exit the combat zone, the officer decided neither to go alongside, nor anchor the ship and instead remained underway and maintained constant movement, stopping only to embark civilians from boats.

Apart from evacuating the above mentioned people, the officer improvised the available information and resources and evacuated the body of the first Indian casualty in Yemen conflict in a make shift coffin.

The officer also evacuated 10 nurses who were stuck in heavy cross firing, directing them to the safer, though farther little Aden oil terminal jetty and using local boats to bring them onboard. The evacuation operation was fraught with extreme danger and risk due to continuous bombarding and firing near the port area.

The officer calmly faced a tense situation when encountered with 2-3 boats with AK-47 armed Yemenese closing the ship. He used diplomacy and tact to defuse the situation.

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