By Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Special Forces
(Admin: This Article was first published in Jul 2016 in Jagruk Bharat and was read by over 50000. The word Surgical Strike by was used for the first time)
9 PARA SPECIAL FORCES REGIMENTAL MEDICAL OFFICER TAKES OVER AS DIRECTOR GENERAL ARMED FORCES MEDICAL SERVICES……LT GENERAL MANOJ K UNNI
01 Jul 2016 was the 50 Year of Raising of the BRAVEST OF THE BRAVE of the Indian Army, 9 PARA SPECIAL FORCES. The Veterans of 9 had started reaching the unit location from 28 June afternoon itself, many with their children who had been born and had grown up in the unit. While Col Megh Singh, the first Commanding Officer and other departed braves of 9 were showering their blessings to the unit from the heaven above, the first Subedar Major Guggan Singh still batting at 96 was being urged by all to complete his century before thinking of going back to the final pavilion.
29 June noon onwards celebrations commenced. One by one stragglers too started arriving. By evening Officers Mess, JCOs Club, NCOs Club and the Company Lines all were jam packed. In the Officers Mess we were counting the arrivals of our Regimental Medical Officers. All of them were super doctors and in time achieved / achieving top qualifications. However irrespective of their qualifications, they had one single common nick name..QUACK.. given by their ungrateful comrades of 9.
Late PGP Kainikkara was represented by his wife and daughter. Major General TS Ahluwalia, a top notch eye specialist and present Commandant of Command Hospital, Kolkata was there with his better half.. So were other six RMOs. AK jauhri and few others were missing. However arrival of two super surgeons were still awaited. Major General B K Singh, Retd,an orthopaedic surgeon par excellence of national merit and his immediate successor as the RMO Lt General MK Unni, a Cardiac Surgeon of equal fame.
It is pertinent to mention here that RMOs of 9 are all volunteers for the post. They have to undergo nearly the same probation as other SF volunteers albeit of a lesser duration. Then they have to complete their Parachute Jump Basic training at Agra and may even go for Combat FreeFall Basic Course. They fully participate in all the Unit training and operations, taking care of the sick and wounded. Many a times they officiate as unit Adjutant / Quarter Master and at times have acted as Team Commanders too !! In one of our unit exercise once even Capt ( Mrs) Jyothi Unni too had participated. In spite of all this hectic schedule when their turn came they have all managed to qualify in the Army level Speciality Entrance exam. Probably they learnt to study while sleeping.
General B K could finally leave Delhi for the unit only on 01 July and so was the case with Manoj Unni. On 01 July Lt Gen Manoj Unni, Director General Army Medical Services first took over as Director General Armed Forces Medical Services and then left Delhi for the Unit. His late father who because of his IC Number 1919 known in the Corps of Signal as Unni (s) Unni (s) Unni would have been real proud. Also a proud moment for 9 PARA SF…our QUACK was now DGAFMS and an Honorary Surgeon to the President of India. Way back in ’79-82 while serving together in the unit, many a times I used to be mistakenly referred as the RMO by visiting Senior officers due to my specs and they thought that the tall handsome actual doc was the Commando Troop Commander. Thank God now there can be no such mistakes.
Commissioned on 27 Feb 1977 from Armed Forces Medical College Pune, initially he was with some medical unit, if i correctly remember, some where in Sikkim. Then in Feb or March ‘ 79 he joined us at Udhampur. Unit had just moved in from field location in first week of January and we were in the process of settling down. So for quite sometime we had to be room mates as we had other young officers too…Ashok Sengar, Premjit Rockpa, Balbir Singh Sambyal, Bhupesh Kumar Jain, Anil Narainan Nayer and O M Kuriakose. There was shortage of accommodation as a few of the married officers too were staying in the mess till they were allotted proper accommodation.
In the beginning only Sengar,Unni and Premjit had mobikes. Then arrived 5 more brand new yezdi bikes with Registration number in series and then it was super fun. I still remember, the day my new bike came, we went for a birthday party. While coming back, i was a bit high on beer and so Manoj Unni gave me his bike and took mine. Dutifully I smashed his bike into the Quarter Guard Gate. Joining us in the fun were the bachelors of our neighbouring unit the gunners of 38 Medium Regiment, whose RMO was Unni’s batch mate from AFMC, Late Ashok Chopra….father of Super actress Priyanka Chopra. Then MKU married his batch mate Jyothi….and how he had proposed to her….but that is a secret. Though just a week or so before his marriage it was he and Chopra who had a bike accident and MKU was full of bruises and healing scars during his marriage ceremony.
Having gotten through his Speciality competitive exam, he went back to AFMC to study surgery. Much later he went to Adelaide to get his Super Speciality degree from University of Adelaide. Apart from his speciality tenures, he was Deputy Commandant of the most prestigious Research & Referral Hospital New Delhi. From there he went to HQ Northern Command as their head of the Medical Branch. He was elected Colonel Commandant of Army Medical Corps in 2014. Then he came back to New Delhi last year to head the R& R hospital as its commandant in the rank of a Lt Gen and later took over as DG AMS. In Jul2015, he was appointed as Honorary Surgeon to the President. Till date he has been awarded with a AVSM and VSM.
So now the Supreme Commander has option to order a surgical strike wherever and whenever required to eliminate malignant tumours of humanity or to order a surgical operation to save a human life. 9 is now providing both the types.
(Admin: On specific request of New Delhi, 9 went ahead for a Surgical Strike just a few months later)