In late 1986, Indian Navy commenced screening candidates for a new and innovative scheme for inducting officers. With an offbeat tag of 10+2 (Executive) Scheme, it opened up a parallel channel to the National Defence Academy (NDA) exclusively for the navy. Selected officer cadets were to be trained for three years (parallel to the 78th NDA course) at Naval Academy, Goa to lead navy into the new millennium. A degree in sciences, ‘BSc (Special)’ from Goa University would be awarded on successful completion of training.
By about this time, Indian economy had buried itself into a hole. Peer & family pressure to become an engineer or doctor, the holy grail of success, was high. Entrepreneurship, a term almost absent from our lexicon those days, was in the death grip of licence-permit raj. Into this arena, Navy had thrown the gauntlet which was picked up by some audacious teenagers who cut loose from the rat race and headed for Services Selection Boards (SSB) in the autumn of 1986. In a rare departure from convention, the standard UPSC examination was given a go-by and Class XII & SSB performance was used for drawing up the final merit list of 80 candidates. Not surprisingly, the First Course of 10+2 (X) went on to display brilliance of the order seldom seen in mainstream navy.
By the summer of ’87, idyllic NAVAC nestled atop Verem hill at Goa was full to the gunwales with these mavericks. Arriving with their wavy hair and in some cases, guitar, beach wear & accessories, these eighty cadets posed a challenge for every instructor, whether on the drill square, sports field or classrooms. A quick visit to the academy barber ‘cut them down to size’, but these boys were quick to find their sea legs and get with it. They assumed leadership positions in the academy immediately on joining – a polite way of saying they were seniors from Day 1 and nobody could rag them! This added oodles of panache to their personality that many carry with aplomb to this day. Being ‘second to none’ also fortified their devil-may-care attitude that would have bordered on arrogance if it wasn’t spliced with such rich faculties.
The training curriculum was specially tailored with a fair dollop of ‘service subjects’ right from Term I. An eclectic mix of naval orientation, physics and mathematics formed the core syllabus to which was added a subtle flavour of Humanities. The minimalistic infrastructure of INS Mandovi, which was home to NAVAC then, was tested to limits by the ‘sporting’ genius of this batch which lost no opportunity to break through every gap, be it in training programme or perimeter security. The pristine Goan beaches of Anjuna, Baga and Vagator which were just an easy-ride away offered adventures that the Academy could not, cadets often returning three sheets to the wind.
By the time these intrepid pioneers crossed the quarter deck of NAVAC in 1990, Navy had a flavour of what lay across the far shore. Wherever they went, achievements of officers from the First Course of 10+2(X) remained unbreached for years to come. It was a rare combination, a unique constellation of superstars – all vying for their rightful place under the White Ensign. Over the years, pyramidal hierarchy of naval service evened out some rough edges. Few moved on to take up challenges of corporate life, some went into ‘start-up’ mode, while selected officers are ascending to higher orbits even as others continue to render yeoman service. Three brave souls passed on in the line of duty.
In the final calculation, Navy will always win – and rightly so. As they complete 25 years of receiving President’s Commission, exciting times lie ahead. From this course will emerge future leaders, admirals, thinkers, CEOs, statesmen and above all – people with that rare chutzpah to break convention. Always there before anyone else, the First Course of 10+2(X) are truly ‘Ocean’s Best’.
I am proud to be counted among them.
A bunch of happy cadets on their well deserved ‘liberty’ after an arduous Sunday cross-country run!
AD Theophilus, Ajay Gupta, Ajay Kapoor, Amit Sud, Amitabh Puri, Anish Sahai (RIP), Arjun Dev Nair, Ashok Malik, Atul Maini, B Girish, B Gurumurthy, BS Chhabra, Deepak Verma, DJ Revar, George Alexander, Gerard Mohanraj, GS Oberoi, Harinder Singh, Hemant Padbidri, Himanshu Agarwal, Jitendra Dixit, Janak Bevli, K Uday Prakash, K Venkatraman, KP Sanjeev Kumar, Manav Handa, Maneesh Agarwal, Manish Bhandari, Manu Mohan, MK Agarwal, MN Sharan, Mustafa Dhoondia, N Raveeswaran, N Venkateshwaran, Naveen Mehta, Navin Shukla, Neelam Shukla, Nirbhay Bapna, Pankaj Kaushik, Paresh Sawhney, Partha Dutta Roy, Praveen Nair, Purushottam Verma, R Ravikumar, Raghvendra Chaturvedi, Rajiv Ashok, Rajiv Sharma, Raman Arora, Ravi Sivasankar, Rizwan Ali Shah, RK Nagar, RK Saini, Roby Thomas, S Ramkumar, S Shyamsundar, Sandeep Singh Sandhu, Sanjay Nargas, Sanjay Sachdeva, Sanjeev Dutta (RIP), Sanjeev Gupta, Shailesh Dhaka, Shashi Kumar, SS Venkat, Sujoy Ganguli, Sumit Bhatnagar, Sumit Ghosh, Sumit Gupta, SK Roy, Sunil Thomas, Swapan Shri Gupta, TSS Prakash (RIP), TV Sunil, Uday Thapar, Upal Kundu, VC Mehra, Vinay Khattar, Vineet Anand, Viresh Das, Vivek Sharma, VK Choudhari
Postscript: The new Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala, Kerala is Asia’s largest naval academy, spread over 2400 acres. Follow http://ina.gov.in/ for more details.