KARACHI: Sea faring is tough, but the Navy is for the toughest, cruising day in day out over swelling and tossing, furious seas and oceans in pursuit of the enemy as guardians of the maritime frontiers.
The Pakistan Naval Academy hosts two Passing Out Parades of its two courses traditionally on the last Saturday of June and that of December. This time it happened on Saturday, June 26 when young, resolute and confident officers of the 115th Midshipmen and 23rd Short Service Course, in crisp white uniforms, like the foaming sea waves, marched out of the Pakistan Naval Academy at the completion of their basic naval training.
Following their commission as Sub Lieutenants, they will head for another grueling period of advanced studies in the respective career branches and as under training officers.The PNA has produced legendary generations of naval warriors since 1961, when the first floating naval academy was established onboard PNS Babur while the first batch of officers was commissioned in 1964.
Later, the Pakistan Naval Academy was formally commissioned on PNS Rahbar on Dec 16, 1970.Over the years, not only the nationals but over 20 friendly countries regularly send their officers for training at the PNA and thousands have gone ahead to lead their respective navies at different levels. But what is another landmark achievement is that almost a dozen of the foreign PNA graduates have gone on to serve and are serving as the bold, decisive Chiefs of Navy or Heads of Service like those of KSA, Bahrain and Ghana as of now.
The academy renders leadership characteristics critical for service in extreme environments of helicopters and aircraft, submarines, frigates and destroyers and as officers of the special forces (SSG-N, Marines). The naval theatre places exacting demands on effective leaders to make them battle worthy, consistently ambitious, confident, respected and trusted by subordinates. Technical subjects constitute a significant portion of the core academic curriculum, and applicants are intentionally screened for their abilities in math and science essential to fight and win wars.
Two childhood friends, together since Class 1 in Bahria College, M T Khan Road, are eagle eyed Hamza Malik and Aziq Baig; Malik holding tight to the Sword of Honour, while Baig was proud of clinching the PNA Dirk. Together with Humera Maryam, who is a doctor and received the Commandant’s Gold Medal, wants to pursue her healing touch to become a Medical Specialist, spoke to The News about their future career lines, fond memories at the Academy, the naval studies, the intense physical drills and the “front rolls” to give them the gift of a disciplined mind, crafting them into eventually becoming able, strategizing, decisive commanders over men and equipment who perform under extraordinary and often existential stress, to vanquish the enemy. They credited their high achievement to friends, parents and instructors whom they credit.
Three others, Lieut Mairaj Khalid Khan who earned the Quaid-e Azam Gold Medal, OC Huzaifa Javed Niazi and Mid Nayef Ebrahim Mohammad from Bahrain who received the CNS Gold Medal were sought after by celebrating proud families, buddies and instructors.
The life at sea has its own thrills and challenges calling upon those who dare to ride over enormous, tempestuous waves that pitch and toss even largest of ships like a toy. The oceans test physical, mental endurance to maximum, cuts off from life on shore, family and friends for months, even years, one has to adapt to cramped conditions. But the training at the academy creates the mental constitution to prepare for any situation onboard.
Ecstatic, proud and feeling immensely blessed, Hamza Malik, the winner of the Sword of Honour, said it was his cherished desire to get one. Malik, has been commissioned into the Executive Branch (Ops) is now heading for his 4 year BE studies in Mechanical Engineering to fathom principles and behavior of the engineering systems, after which he would be qualified to tinker with destroyers and frigates. With a childhood spent living by the sea at backyard, Malik always had a passion for sailing ships.
He recalls the International Nautical Competition, where he managed the Bronze medal. He credited his momentous achievement to the challenging routines of the academy aimed at chiseling them into courageous, loyal and honourable transformational leaders.
Standing right next was the calm and composed Aziq Baig, the winner of the PN Dirk, who has been similarly commissioned into the Executive/Ops Branch, but unlike his pal, has opted to steer a career on frigates and destroyers. A rarely distinguished student, who from his Grade X to College and now at the PNA had been getting distinctions, is a forward in football who likes to dodge and kick goals like Messi, his favourite. While we were talking, a proud and smiling PN Cdr came to hug Baig. He is the elder Baig, the father whose “earnest desire was to his son he puts on the PN uniform, while he is still donning the uniform.” The medal winner describes his father, his prime motivation, saying “naval career came as a natural choice.”
Speaking like a level headed commander ‘already’, Aziq sees himself leading his crew from the front, ensuring that “in the most taxing environments they adhere to the defined SOPs.”
The two endearing pals, who had recently returned, from completing their final term at sea onboard PNS Nasr, circumnavigating the oceans around equator, to the academy for passing out and commission, but not before the swirls at them sea gave them a taste of future and a distinct sunburn.
It was extremely pleasant to meet the winner of Commandant Gold Medal OC Humera Maryam. The bright eyed but composed healer Maryam, an avid reader of fiction, non fiction, besides the medical curriculum, “has a strong desire to excel at diagnostics.” She joined the Navy after completing her MBBS from Rawalpindi Medical College. She reminisces about the daily stand up roll calls before each meal that would take 45-min to keep staring at the food served, before being allowed to sit to gobble it voraciously. Maryam was excited that “at least now she can have her meals in peace without any hindrance, any longer though she appreciates, the physicals and strong emphasis on mental discipline groomed them into strong officers focussed to achieve the objectives that lay ahead.” Maryam also recalled the huddles and pranks building up a close camaraderie with the 14 other Short Service Lady Officers, 8 of whom are doctors like her, with four psychiatrists and three dieticians. It was heartwarming to see lady cadets, 15 of them passing out in flying colours in the 23rd Short Service Commissioning Parade.
All the Mid Shipmen who passed today are commissioned into four different branches including Executives, Weapon Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Logistics, besides the Supporting Arms where they study and learn the ropes of the craft to cruise and scour endlessly the blue seas and oceans, air and under the sea.
Earlier, CJCSC Gen Nadeem Raza reminded the future officers of the lurking internal and external threats arising out of the competition of global power and the arising powers that make the Indian Ocean region most critical.
As the CJCSC concluded the speech and the graduating cadets marched off, two Sea Kings hovered over the parade ground and performed a saluting manoeuvre in sync with PNS Aslat that also lowered its gun as part of fleet display amidst traditional signaling flags in the parade ground and over the ships celebrating the Commissioning Parade.
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