The Beginning of an End

First Term is usually the most remembered (and MOST PHOTOGRAPHED) of rest of the three terms as it is the transformation stage from a raw young man to a cadet and a would be officer. The echoes of howling drill staff and the newly promoted inters still resound in our memories. The merciless haircut at the barber's shop was the first occasion when from dandies we became hair-starved cadets and certainly most of us were un-recognizable. The thumb sized photographs are a true testament of this.  I still recall the good old "Chacha" who took more than half an hour for my haircut and while doing so, he confided that he is doing a mere five minutes' job in thirty minutes as once I left the shop, hell would lose on me. And how right he was - the moment I left the shop, I was cornered by a group of howling inters and what followed next in the form of front rolls and the frog jumps is another story. The cruel haircuts stayed with us as long as we stayed in PMA and twice a month we were to visit the shop, mostly on Sundays lest a hair dared to peep out of our berets.

Ragging just for nothing and drinking the famous "PMA Cocktail" was yet another feast that juniors had to taste wherever spotted by inters and above - reminding us the story of wolf and the lamb. And standing in front of the sergeant's room throughout the night seemed like a dream.

Then there was the saluting test, without which the much awaited Sunday would be a waste since the un-qualifiers of saluting test were forbidden this privilege. The drill competition was yet another occasion which was more of prestige point for the drill staff rather than the platoon itself.  

Our first encounter with true military life was when the course went for the camouflage and concealment exercise outside PMA. We were made to crawl in a muddy nullah and apply the wet mud on our faces (the same way Arnold Schwarzenegger did in the film "Predator"). We found it more exciting and interesting rather than fatigue - herein under are a few photos showing how we looked.

First Term Camouflage and Concealment Exercise (Photos shared by Jalal HB and Mirza Saleem Beg) - Can you make out Who is Who??

GC Abbas A latest post by Iqbal Badar with Shahid Maqbool GC Sulehria

Photo Shoppe

Everyone wanted to preserve each and every moment of this new life - a life that was to have a very long lasting impact on our lives in future. And the PMA photographer took ample advantage of GCs' weakness and "shot" them where ever they were found - either individually or collectively.

In front of the PMA Cafe (courtesy GC Abbas) Shared by Mirza Saleem Beg

Dinner Night (courtesy Zahir Khan)

Tariq-I. We joined 25 fresh cadets in May 1975 and 3 relegated cadets from 54th PMA L/C, making total of 28. We passed out 27 out of this lot on 17th April 1977. We had two casualties i.e.  Arshad and Janjua, who were relegated. He also lost his life in road accident while coming back from Murree. Later on we lost two more brothers, Gen Javed Sultan and Col Zahid Rasool. (Contributed by Colonel Muhammad Asif)

Exercise Yarmuk

Khalid - 4 at Kot Najibullah RS with Captain Ghulam Nabi

Zahir and Hayee after "capturing" Kot Najibullah RS

The most toughest period of the first time was Exercise Yarmuk - a five days long sojourn up and down the hills around Abbotabad. Our course went to general area Kot Najib Ullah. We were taken in PMA buses up to Havelian and then for five days we were on our own - of course closely monitored by our platoon commanders.

Khalid 4 under Captain Ghulam Nabi scaled mountains around Kot Najib Ullah. At one point, GC Zafar (later withdrawn after first term) fell sick or pretended to and laid down and refused to walk. GC Jalal volunteered to carry his big pack ( in addition to his own) till some pint where he could be off-loaded into transport, while the platoon marched off. We too crumbled forward, specially GC Jalal under heavy load, when suddenly we stopped in our track when we saw Captain Ghulam Nabi sitting on a culvert. When we approached near him, he with a strange smile on his face (which seldom appeared on him) asked GC Jalal, "Would you like to eat hot rice?" The two GCs naturally weren't expecting such a favour from him and thought some cloud gathering. But the two GCs were pleasantly surprised when Captain Ghulam Nabi took them to a nearby house where an ex-serviceman had laid down sizzling rice in a big dish. 

Its lunch time - don't bother us

Pitching for the long night ahead

Solehria had his sights set very high right from the outset - He was damn right

GCs of Tariq-II in River Dor washing away the wounds after a grand "ragra" by Major (later brig) Jami - Did anyone ever escape him?

Shared by Mirza Saleem Beg (Left: Weapon Cleaning, Centre: Some sort of Platoon Commander's Punishment, Right: Yarmuk with Rashid in Lead)


Was there any recreation for the juniors? Yeah the weekly film shows at the auditorium. We could hardly call it as fun as the juniors were to sit in a manner that their Kojak like shaved heads shouldn't be visible from everyone sitting behind. And who said we weren't seen? Since soon after the show was over, the senior most cadet sergeant major (ASM or the BSM) would graciously tell everyone to leave but the juniors. Who after a blasted speech on our indiscipline, would take us to the adjacent athletic ground and then another event would set in. Those who were smart out of us, would take cover of night and slip away behind the Second Pakistan Battalion lines.

The other entertainment was visit to Abbottabad and having window shopping besides food at famous Mona Lisa and seeing a movie in a local cinema hall. Unlucky ones would still get caught for some "inappropriate" behaviour by the seniors and asked to report to their sergeant or CSM for appropriate "reward". But all this didn't deter juniors either from seeming movies in PMA or visiting Abbottabad.

 Golden Night 52nd PMA Long Course

The First Term ended finally in October 1977 and the best part of the end show was the much awaited end term break with complete one month leave - but just before the passing out parade of the 52nd Long Course came the "Golden Night" when the senior term cadets become the junior most for a few hours. This provides a golden opportunity for the juniors to vent out their grievances on the seniors but all is done in a lighter mood - not as a revenge but as a happy farewell to those who had been their seniors in varying shades for three terms.

Thus with this happy ending, the first term was finally over. After the passing out parade of 52nd PMA Long Course, we were promoted to the second term and became Inters - but before that, there was the long awaited one month term break. Putting aside the physical and mental bruises being part of the game, we all went to our waiting parents and siblings (for some it was meeting with their sweet hearts too).

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