Every year, a premier Army training institute in India’s Jammu and Kashmir produces over 500 ‘mountain warriors’. Called High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS), the Gulmarg-based institute is currently imparting training to a fresh batch of Indian Army personnel.
Here, soldiers and officers would acquire new techniques that would help them to carry out combat, search and rescue as well as surveillance operations in a harsh climate.
News agency ANI quoted army officers as saying that soldiers are being trained in new techniques and latest equipment to ensure they carry out rescue operations on the challenging mountain terrains successfully.
HAWS, located in Kashmir’s Gulmarg, is the Indian Army’s premier training institute for mountain and winter warfare, highly required for its operational areas in the Himalayas. High-altitude training is extremely important for the Indian military with the threat of a two-front war looming over northern borders.
The HAWS successfully trains more than 540 soldiers and officers every year. Senior Trainer at the institute, Lt. Col. Dipankar Hamalyan, told ANI that the personnel of Army and paramilitary forces of friendly nations are also trained at the school.
— ANI (@ANI) February 10, 2021
Talking about the course structure, he stated, “As of now two courses are imparted in HAWS, one is the winter warfare series under which basic and advanced courses are provided. The second course in the mountain warfare series, which also includes basic and advanced courses. Once a person completes all the courses, they are called Mountain Warriors.”
He added that the troops are sent back to their parent units where they train their fellow soldiers in what they have learned at HAWS.
Another trainer said that focus is given to military skiing, which aids in post-to-post movement and snow patrolling. Maj. Saleem Zafar said that the soldiers are trained to ski with weights on their backs, initially with 5 kilograms – which is subsequently increased to 20 kilograms.
In advanced training, they will be trained to navigate 80-degree slope which will help them surveil any area no matter how snowy the terrain is, he said.
He also mentioned that a one-week survival training is also given to the troops to outlive harsh climates and avalanches. Making igloos, snow trenches, and caves are also taught, along with avalanche rescue at high-altitude zones near the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan and the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
The need to establish a mountain warfare school was felt following India’s loss of Gilgit-Baltistan in the Siege of Skardu to Pakistan in the 1947-1948 war. Accordingly, a training institute was established in December 1948 by General K.S. Thimayya, then holding the rank of Brigadier.
It was initially known as the 19 Infantry Division Ski School. During the winter of 1949–50, the school was redesignated as a Command Establishment and renamed as the Winter Warfare School. In April 1962, it was upgraded to a Category A Training Establishment and adopted its current name.