Hilal For Her

My Days at Pakistan Military Academy: An Experience like No Other

Major Sana Nasri shares her fond memories of PMA 
Every institution has its own culture and traditions. Since the inception of Pakistan, Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) has not only honored its traditions, but has proved itself to be a top military training institution by producing highly trained and professional officers. Going down memory lane, my training period at PMA is one of the most cherished experiences of my life.

Ten-and-a-half years have passed but it seems like yesterday. After I graduated from NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi, I joined a wellknown multinational engineering organization as a Trainee Engineer. It was while working there that I read the advertisement about induction of new cadets at PMA. The advertisement featured a contingent of Gentlemen Cadets (GCs) and Lady Cadets (LCs) from PMA, clad in ceremonial dresses, presenting the Guard of Honor at the Quaid's Mausoleum. I still remember I was fascinated to see LC Huma (now Major) wearing the cross belt, standing gracefully with GC Hercharn Singh (now Major). It was news for me that our dauntless Pakistan Army had started inducting female cadets as well. 
At the time, I was addicted to Metal Gear Solid, a PlayStation game in which there are challenging missions that used to inspire me. After seeing the PMA advertisement, it seemed as if my dream would come true and my passion would be fulfilled. Being highly motivated, thrill-seeking and the versatile kind, I always knew working in the Armed Forces was my destiny and I could perform to the best of my abilities. So I applied and fortunately fulfilled the criteria and Alhamdulillah received the selection letter to undergo training at the most elite military institution.
On May 16, 2008, I arrived at PMA for training to become an officer of the Pakistan Army. It was a very emotional time, filled with pride and joy with a little sadness over leaving home. After being dropped at Khalid Block (1st Pak Battalion), we were welcomed by a tall, graceful and a very disciplined-looking officer, Capt Wajiha (now Major), my Assistant Platoon Commander. I was very impressed. I also met a few enthusiastic girls coming from different regions of Pakistan who became my course mates. We were a total of 23 LCs who made memories of the most eventful and memorable time together.
Once the training started, it was an endless cycle of physical and military training; march, drill, running, hall of studies (HS), games and extra-curricular activities. We maintained a full and disciplined schedule. The training was rigorous for all cadets — male and female — to enhance our mental and physical endurance. We had never been exposed to firearms or the kind of physical activities like we engaged in at PMA, like drill, one mile running, push-ups, sit ups, etc. All the fatigue used to vanish when our Platoon Commander motivated and encouraged us.
There are so many memories that make the whole period so precious and every time one remembers them, a smile appears. I enjoy extra-curricular activities and PMA had various clubs for cadets to explore and discover their hidden talents, so I joined drama, fencing and riding clubs. For Defence Day, I and three of my course mates had to sing a national song. We practiced so much that by the final day, our vocal cords got damaged, our voices changed and the pitch was very shrill. It was an embarrassing moment but still the audience encouraged us.
For our exercise, Qayadat, we went to Tilla Ranges in scorching summer months. We had to take up defence as per the given instructions. We were supposed to dig the trench for the Mortar gun. The ground was stony and despite our efforts the trench we could dig was only a few inches. During the Platoon Commander’s inspection, luck favored us and the trench depth could not be noticed because of the dark. It was our maiden field exposure and despite lots of ground anomalies it was a learning curve for us. 
During the buildup of the exercise, an LC got injured. I had to take her along while carrying her rifle as well. When the exercise was called off, our fallin was called and we were asked to check our weapon and parts/pack. During the check I realized that one of the rifle magazines was missing. So the same report was given to the Platoon Commander. Repercussions followed. We had to stay put for as long as it took to find the missing magazine. After an effort of three hours, a GC who found it under the bushes reported to our Platoon Commander with the magazine. I had to face the consequence of this however, by being awarded seven days punishment that meant that I would never forget the lesson I learnt. 
Everything about PMA is memorable: waiting anxiously for the turn at the phone booth, fear of morning mile on alternate days, map exercises where I could never locate the North, walking on the PMA road, which is the most sacred thing to walk on as a cadet, where one can never walk casually — it has decorum where one has to walk smartly on military drumbeat. 
At PMA cadets are equipped with all the skills necessary to succeed. It is a cradle of leadership where leaders are made by polishing their talents and building on their strengths. Cadets are inspired to become officers who can take on any challenge with initiative, resoluteness, fearlessness, strength of character and grace. The instructors there are amazing, who work hard to enable cadets to become the best they possibly could. There is camaraderie at PMA that lasts a lifetime. Cadets learn to rely on one another and help each other rise. I wish that the Basic Military Training at PMA had lasted for more than six months, as it was a life changing experience that defines the person I am today.HH

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