To defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country, the Indian Army is amongst the few armies in the world that has to operate across a vast multitude of terrain and climatic conditions along its borders. Ranging from mountains, high altitude and glacial terrain to the plains of Punjab, from the arid Thar desert, jungles and riverine country to the island territories is indeed a tall order, for any army.
The major differences that emerge when varied terrain configurations are compared, include the multitude of vastly divergent climatic conditions, local food habits, survival techniques, habitat and mental and physical toughness of the locals, to name a few. However, the soldier is expected to serve in all terrain conditions possible. Yet, for a soldier, born and brought up in a coastal township or in the dry expanse of the Thar desert, fighting in the high-altitude areas would demand extra effort to adapt to the harsh weather and terrain conditions, surmount them and execute the assigned operational task. Conversely, the local inhabitant naturally faces such conditions with relative ease. The most difficult adaptation relates to the high-altitude and glacial areas along our frontiers with China, where time-consuming acclimatisation becomes mandatory. Encompassing all this, it may yet not be easy to perform better than the locals or the sons of the soil.
‘Sons of the soil’ concept was accepted and implemented in the Indian Army by raising the Scout battalions in all regions bordering China. Thus, we now have Ladakh, Garhwal, Kumaon, Sikkim and Arunachal Scouts, in their respective areas. Ladakh Scouts are the oldest and largest regiment with five battalions. This regiment displayed valour and grit in the face of the enemy at Turtuk, Batalik, Kargil and the Siachen glacier at different times. Ever since its raising on June 1, 1963, it stands honoured with decorations and citations.