Ex-Special Forces officers training people with disabilities to scale Siachen Glacier

By Sumit Kumar Singh
New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) A group of Indian armed forces veterans, especially from the Special Forces, has taken up a challenge to create three world records – on land, air and underwater – involving people with disabilities, whom they are training in sky diving, scuba diving and mountaineering. Of them, a team of eight persons with disabilities will scale Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world.

“A team of eight people with disabilities will scale Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world,” said Major Vivek Jacob, a former A9 Para officer, who is leading the team of the veterans. The attempt will be made in May this year.

Major Jacob has set up an organisation of Special Forces’ veterans called Conquer Land Air Water (CLAW) to help disabled people achieve the impossible.

The Indian Army has accorded in-principal approval for the execution of a ‘land world record’ at Siachen Glacier. The land world record is for the largest team of people with disabilities to scale the Siachen Glacier – the world’s highest battlefield with temperatures dropping to minus 50-degree Celsius, making it one of the harshest terrains on Earth.

After scaling Siachen Glacier, the team has plans to create another record in open sea in Maldives where they will attempt scuba dive in August. By December, they will be doing accelerated free fall in Dubai.

Major Jacob said that the Special Forces is an instinct, a mindset. “You don’t become special just because you have worn a particular uniform and carry a rifle. It is all about the state of mind,” he said.

Talking about how CLAW was formed, he said that his parachute malfunctioned during a combat skydive in 2015 when he suffered a spinal cord injury. In the hospital, he met with Indian Air Force officer Fl Lt Bhaduria who was permanently paralysed after a freak accident and was on wheelchair for four years.

The IAF officer asked Major Jacob if he can ever scuba dive. “I promised him that he can and it eventually led to the formation of CLAW,” Major Jacob said.

The group has now started a scuba training centre for PWDs in Puducherry. “It has given tremendous hope and healing power to many who have come. The idea is to spread it across,” Major Jacob said.

He said the CLAW is in the process of formally tying up with the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre (PRC) of the Army in Pune and Chandigarh for insititutionalised training.

“We have had serving soldiers with disabilities and veterans coming to us for training. But this was in their personal capacity. We are in the process of instutionalising this,” Major Jacob said, adding that the idea is to see ability in disability.

Major Jacob voluntarily retired from the Army, left his Special Forces family and began a journey of exploration.

As the vision deepened, members from the Special Forces teams he had commanded and others, like the MARCOS (Navy Special Forces) he had met along his journey, began to join him.

The vision united and guided them as they set upon a path to serve humanity through peace, sharing and creation rather than war, division and destruction.

“Each team member had been a crack soldier in the Army / Navy Special Forces and was highly trained with multiple specialisations in mountaineering, skydiving, scuba diving, un-armed combat, multi – terrain survival tech, emergency medical response etc.,” Major Jacob said.

(Sumit Kumar Singh can be reached at sumit.k@ians.in)

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