At the age of 20s when some are enjoying their life, there are few brave youngsters who prepare for exam conducted by UPSC to get into National Defence Academy (NDA). Here, the cadets of all the three services, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force get training together before going for the pre-commissioning in their respective service academies. NDA is located in Khadakwasla near Pune, Maharashtra.
Candidates willing to join the academy must appear for NDA conducted by the UPSC, followed by extensive interviews by the SSB. SSB interview covers general aptitude, psychological testing, and team skills as well as physical and social skills, along with medical tests. Every year about 3 to 4 lakh aspirants appear for the NDA, out of which typically, about 9,000 candidates are invited to SSB interview and finally around 300-350 cadets are accepted to the academy each term.
The academic year at NDA is divided into two terms i.e. spring (January to May) and autumn (July to December). A cadet must undergo training for a total of six terms i.e. three years before graduating from the NDA. On successful completion of the three-year course, Cadets are sent to their respective training academies for one year of training before granting of commission. Army cadets proceed to the Indian Military Academy (Dehradun), naval cadets to the Indian Naval Academy (Ezhimala) and Air Force cadets to the Air Force Academy (Dundigal, Hyderabad).
NDA Academics include the common subjects of the three services. It covers weapon handling, map reading, military law, history and organization of each service. Analysis of military campaigns and operations are also taught in curriculum. After 3 years of training all the cadets are given graduation in BA/BSc or BCs (Computer Science) degree of Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Similar to other colleges, exams are also held at NDA at regular intervals. To improve candidates endurance, various exercises and long run backs with full battle load are held, in which you navigate and compete with other squadrons. Apart from academic training they are also trained in outdoor skills, like Drill, Physical Training, Sports and games. There is also a games period where they play games like football, hockey, and basketball. If someone doesn’t know any game then they can learn something new there. After dinner seniors escort weak cadets for PT or ask them to do any other work.
Cadets are welcomed in NDA by Joint training team (JTT). First they go through the two months long ‘Orientation Capsule’ during which, they are conditioned to toughen up mentally and physically. Cadets are imparted a blend of outdoor and indoor training. Outdoor training is carried out in the hilly and dense green terrain around the NDA campus. Indoor training includes theoretical and practical training. Till fifth term all cadets undergo same training while the sixth term emphasis on service training.
The Army cadets study some special tactics in the VI term for 5 months each. This includes judging distances, terrain study, indication and recognition of landmarks, trench digging, observation by day and night, stalking, camouflage and concealment, field signals, fire control orders, ambush, patrolling, attack, and casualty evacuation etc. Air Force specific training takes place under the Air Force Training Team (AFTT) and flying training commences in the VI semester. Naval training is given by the Naval Training Team (NTT) at Watermanship Training Centre (WTC) that train cadets in yachting, rowing, kayaking, windsurfing and water skiing in VI term.
Cadets are asked to join clubs where they can explore and learn new things. Outdoor clubs include archery, astronomy, golf, automotive, martial arts, aero-modeling, trekking, rock climbing, shooting, sailing, parasailing, paragliding, water skiing, wind surfing, kayaking, rowing, gardening, skating, etc. Indoor clubs include arts, classical music, dramatics, media, western music, literature, yoga, public speaking, artificial intelligence, robotics, and 10m shooting. Debates, public speaking competitions, seminars and interactions with civil institutes are regularly organized.
NDA has an excellent infrastructure for all-round training of cadets and a vast array of facilities like spacious and well-maintained classrooms, well-equipped labs, two Olympic size swimming pools, a gymnasium, 32 football fields, 2 polo grounds, a cricket stadium and a number of squash and tennis courts.
The day to day schedule of cadet’s training at NDA is decided before the term starts and the same is followed till the end. All cadets wake up early in the morning and after attending morning roll-call, called muster fall-in proceed to attend their outdoor training i.e. grueling PT/Drill. After PT/Drill cadets come back to their squadron. They get freshen up and go for the breakfast. After breakfast at the Cadet’s Mess, they rush to attend the classes within minutes. Time is very important for cadets here and everyone have to reach on time irrespective of whether they have taken breakfast or not and how far the class is.
The central Cadets' Mess at NDA is one of the exclusive symbols of solidarity and brotherhood where all the candidates take all the meals together. After dinner when lights are out nobody is allowed to be outside of his cabin.
The training at the NDA is so fast and intense that the time seems to be flying here. During the short stay in the academy, a cadet learns to live his life with passion and discipline. The time spent in the National Defence Academy is golden moment of every cadet’s life.
The first thing after joining academy that every candidate experiences, is the haircut which is the identity of cadets to the outer world. All cadets are allotted a bicycle, an academy number and a Squadron which basically becomes their home for the rest of their training. Each cadet is given a room of his own. The cabins can be inspected anytime and so keeping things in order becomes second nature for the cadet.
There are 18 Squadrons at NDA namely Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hunter, India, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Panther, Quebec and Romeo. Battalion No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 have four squadrons each (in alphabetical order) and Battalion No. 5 has two squadrons. Each Squadron has approximately 100 to 120 cadets divided almost equally for all the six terms.
All the squadrons compete for the Inter Squadron championship that is awarded to the best squadron for each term. This event symbolizes the heights of teamwork and team spirit. The winning squadron has the privilege of possession of the Champion banner for one term, which is carried during the parade and other sports meets.
NDA never let its cadets feel bored as numbers of events are being held at regular intervals including quizzes, debates, x-country, boxing, athletics, etc. Despite having a strict schedule cadets can get to watch latest English and Hindi movies.
The Passing out Parade is the most spectacular among the end-of-term events at the NDA. It is also the culminating event of another successful term. The unique parade held at the Khetarpal Parade Ground comprises over one thousand participating cadets bidding farewell to their senior colleagues who are going to their respective service boards.
*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.