General MM Naravane, officiating Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) and Chief of Army Staff presented the prestigious USI MacGregor Memorial Medal to four awardees; two from the Indian Army and one each from Indian Navy and Indian Airforce, for their outstanding achievements in operational reconnaissance and extreme adventure sports. The award ceremony was held at the United Service Institution (USI), India’s the oldest tri-service think tank established in 1870 for research and debate on national security and military affairs. The ceremony was attended by the Indian military top-brass and Armed Forces personnel.

MacGregor Memorial Medal was instituted on 03 July 1888 to commemorate the memory of Maj Gen Sir Charles Metcalfe MacGregor, KCB, CSI, CIE, the founder of USI. Initially this medal was awarded for military reconnaissance and journeys of exploration such as British Army expeditions in Central Asia, Afghanistan, Tibet and Burma. After independence, it was decided to award this medal for adventure activities as well. The medal is open to all ranks, serving and retired, of the Indian Armed Forces, Territorial Army and Assam Rifles.

Highlights of citations of four awardees are as follows

Sanjay Kumar, Chief EA (P), of Indian Navy, during 2018 – 2019. He participated in La Ultra 111 Kms, toughest race including crossing of Khardungla Pass in Aug 18. He secured 1st position in Navy Team in Solanq Sky Ultra (60 Kms) in Sept 18 and secured runners up in 12 hours Stadium Run (110Kms) in Dec 18. He also won High 5 Format of Hell Race (211 Kms) in June 19 and set new India Book of Records in Mumbai – Goa Ultra Relay (563 Kms) in Aug 19.

Hav (Opr) (now Naib Subedar) Sanjeev Kumar of Army Adventure Nodal Centre (Hang Gliding), School of Artillery, Devlali created a new world record in powered harness hang glider on 12 Dec 2018 by staying aloft for 8 hours & 43 minutes, from Suratgarh to Barmer, Rajsthan, over a distance of 465.33 kms. His achievement has been recognised by Limca Book of Records, India Book of Records and Asia Book of Records; breaking the previous record of 313.13 km.

MWO Anshu Kumar Tiwari of Directorate of Adventure, Indian Airforce was tasked to check feasibility of parachute landing at Khardungla pass (17982 feet), to demonstrate the airborne capability of Indian Armed Forces. In that, he undertook the jump successfully from 24000 ft on 8th Oct 2020, thereby establishing the operational validity of this critical parachute system first time ever in international history.

Maj Ajay Kumar Singh of a Para Special Forces Battalion, planned, trained and successfully led a 1660 km long ARMEX 21 (ski expedition) from Karakoram in Ladakh to Uttarkhand, across 26 rugged passes above 18000 feet in “the great Himalayas” for 119 days during winters. The exploration has led to better understanding and capabilities for military operations in super high-altitude terrain.

Pre- independence amongst a galaxy of awardees stand out Capt FE Younghusband (1890) for expedition to Tibet and Maj Gen Charles Wingate for Chindit operations in Burma. Post-independence the prestigious medal was awarded to  Major ZC Bakshi, VrC for military recce in 1949, Col Narinder Kumar – Siachen glacier (1978-81), Sqn Ldr Ram Karan Makar & Flt Lt Rana TS Chhina – Helicopter recce in Karakorams (1986), Wg Cdr Rahul Monga & Wg Cdr Anil Kumar – World expedition in a microlight aircraft (2007),  Cdr Dilip Donde – Solo circumnavigation of the globe in yacht (2010), Lt Cdr Abhilash Tomy – Solo and nonstop circumnavigation of the globe under sail (2013)

Speaking on the occasion, Gen Naravane complimented the USI for their great contribution to India’s strategic culture and professional grooming of future military leaders. He also appreciated the role of USI in carrying the legacy of military explorations and extreme adventure sports. He congratulated the awardees for their exceptional talent, grit and determination. He said that Indian Armed Forces are endowed with exceptional talent and the feats of the awardees will inspire and motivate others to emulate their example to bring laurels and glory to the organisation and India.