New Delhi: For the first time, four-legged 'soldiers' who accompany troops in combat zones for sanitisation exercises and logistical tasks will be decorated with special medals instituted exclusively for them on lines of those given to troops.
The initiative has been taken by Sino-India border guarding force ITBP which has instituted an 'Animal Transport' and a 'K9' (canine) medal and has chosen its workhorse 'Thubderbolt' and female dog 'Sophia' for the maiden decoration to be awarded to them during its forthcoming 55th anniversary celebrations.
While the Indo-Tibetan Border Police force has been credited for inducting the first Belgian Malinois dogs for anti-Maoist operations in the country and other tough assignments like infantry patrols few years back, the force traditionally has a strong animal transport unit comprising horses, mules and ponies to aid troops guarding the high-altitude posts along the 3,488 km long Indo-China border.
Officials said this will be the first time that a security force had ordered the minting of special medals in this regard and till now exemplary work by these four-legged soldiers was recognised by issuing of regular commendation cards by the force chief or others.
The ITBP, they said, has made a beginning in recognising the exemplary and loyal support of these animals who literally walk shoulder-to-shoulder with the men in uniform whether in operations or any task in the internal security domain.
"The canines, horses and other animals are our silent arm which keeps working relentlessly."
"The institution of medals is a special way to convey that we are thankful to them for their loyal services. The metal medals have been designed and minted in-house," ITBP Spokesperson Deputy Commandant Vivek K Pandey said.
The special medals were recently approved by ITBP Director General Krishna Chaudhary who will himself honour Sophia and Thunderbolt by putting the medals around their neck after a majestic parade to mark the force's anniversary in Greater Noida near here, they said.
While Sophia is credited with successfully sanitising events attended by VVIP dignitaries including numerous attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has sniffed out numerous Improvised Explosive Devices in the Naxal theatre, Thunderstorm has worked for a number of years in providing ammunition and rations to high-altitude ITBP posts on the border under hazardous climate, blizzards and thin oxygen all year round.
Sophia is at present deployed in the Naxal theatre in Chhattisgarh, while Thunderstorm is training at the ITBP centre in Bhanu near Chandigarh.
The 80,000-personnel strong ITBP was raised in 1962 in the aftermath of the Chinese aggression and the force, apart from rendering border guarding duties, is tasked to carry out various activities in the internal security domain in the country while its special squad is deployed to secure Indian diplomatic missions in Afghanistan.