Post-retirement, Army officer trains J-K youth aspiring to join armed forces

Hundreds of youth turn up in a vast ground in this town near the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir to undergo rigorous training under a 57-year-old retired Army officer who is voluntarily providing his services twice a day to prepare them for recruitment in the armed forces. Captain Sher Singh, a resident of Satrayan border village in Suchetgarh sector, started his “mission training” for the local youth in 2011, the year when he retired after over 31 years of service in the Army. Barring four months of coronavirus-driven lockdown, the training is going on smoothly in the early morning and late evening hours with active assistance from the Jammu district administration which has also engaged a school teacher to help the aspiring candidates to crack the written examination for their recruitment in the belt forces to serve the nation. “The first priority for the border youth is to join the army or any other force and I am happy that over 3600 of my students including dozens of girls got recruited and achieved their dreams over the past nine years,” Singh, who joined Jammu and Kashmir Rifles in 1980 and rose to the position of Captain,  A well-experienced instructor who had himself undergone various courses including commando training during his service in the Army, Singh said when he came back to his village on pension he was pained to notice that the youth were roaming around aimlessly and some even taking drugs. “Our youth are highly talented and very hardworking, and if they get the right motivation, they are second to none,” he said, adding he started with a few boys and the number crossed 1000 as the time passed. Singh, who had spent nearly half of his service in different areas of Jammu and Kashmir including Tangdhar and Machil sectors along the line of Control (LoC) in frontier Kupwara district during the peak of militancy in the early 1990s and had come face to face with militants on several occasions, said his new found endeavor had helped him to maintain his fitness as well. “I used to run 12-kms with the trainees before the outbreak of the pandemic in March. Now after we resumed our training in July, I have lowered the distance to four-kms,” he said. Singh said he had himself remained an enthusiastic runner throughout his Army career and had trained thousands of youth in Kerala during his two-year posting there. In the first five years, he said he was training the youth only in the evening and once a week in the morning. After noticing the numbers growing and the enthusiasm of the youth, he decided to train them in groups in the mornings and evenings. “At one time in 2016, the then deputy commissioner noticed my group running and came forward with government assistance for the youth. I also sought a teacher for preparing them for written examination and it was also met,” Singh said, adding the teacher trains the youth for one or two hours daily. He said he is doing it without charging any money from the youth. “I have had enough for me as I am getting a handsome pension which is higher than the last monthly pay which I had received as a captain. I have only one son who was born after my retirement and is just nine years old,” Singh said. Happy Singh, one of the trainees, said he is hopeful to pass the recruitment test for the armed forces.

“I am fully confident of getting the first position in the physical test,” he said.

Happy said his instructor’s effort has made him popular among the Punjab youth who have rented homes or staying with their relatives to undergo the training capsule.