By Areesha Latif
“Your inner strength will guide you in amassing good fortune and your physical strength will empower you in fighting for it,” how simple it seems yet so concrete and ennobling, this is what they teach you there at the home of fitness – the den of lions, the provenance of courage and valour. I never knew about the stories of bravery, will power and substance that reside in Army School of Physical Training (ASPT) until I actually visited it as a part of Paragliding Course-Civil 2016.
On 21st of February, I and all other participants of the Civil Paragliding course arrived at ASPT. The hospitable environment and the serene skies warmed our innards. We were guided to our respective rooms that included mini fridge and an LCD TV that obviously, we never got a chance to watch because of our pretty tight and stringent routine. From 22nd to 25th of February, every morning we were ought to wake up at 5:30am, preparing our sleep dripping eyes and lazy bones for the better and bigger day.
At 6:25am sharp we were to rush to the mess for breakfast that we needed to complete in about mere 10 to 15 minutes, not a minute more, not a minute less; at about 6:35am we needed to run, crawl or fly to the main ground for morning fall in, by all means. That’s when the actual drill starts. And if I rephrase it like that’s when you get chills under the brooding sunlight that would not be wrong. From 6:40am onwards our ground training used to start. No, It was not something like running here or jumping there, no, not at all, but it was something far more venturous, we were to function in full military way, starting from the morning mile following more miles if not done properly at first, then again running rounds of the main ground with the glider on and spirits high. A normal paraglider with full sized reserve and harness and other accessories mostly weights about 45lbs, so the struggle to run with the wind, carrying all that weight was one tough nut to crack.
The course is divided into three phases. Starting from “ground training” that prepares one for “ramp training” and then, finally comes the glorious “final jump” from the mountains of Mang. ASPT not only improved our physical capabilities but as well as surely challenged our mental bounds too. We were to memorize all the diddy details of a glider. Starting from wing that is also called canopy or sail (the wing is what actually helps the pilot to fly) , lines or risers (they are basically rigging cords usually about of four or five different colours, efficient for different purposes attached to the underside of the canopy, naming as A lines, B lines, C lines, and most important ones the break lines, they all are used to control the glider), then comes the mighty harness. A harness is basically a soft chair that provides support and balance to the pilot while on the flight and it also keeps the pilot safe for it has multiple straps that provide the pilot to gain full balance and lumbar support. Now comes the favourite part, the Helmet, of course a pilot can simply not fly without it.
The training is surely tiresome and intense but once you take off from the flamboyant mountains for your final jump, the air pressing against your raw skin and the majestic sight of the land from the top that sends waves of realization of being away from the land and nearer to the glorious skies, to the blues and hues, nothing can feel the way it feels then, that is when you thank your Lord Almighty for the wonders he has created and for the world you live in.
Before Partition, the regiment center of the Army physical training corps was at Ambala. After the partition, the Muslim staff of the corps was shifted to Pakistan, consisting of same staff, army school of physical training was established at Chaklala, which was later then shifted to Tobe Camp at Kakul in August 1948. In 1978, it was renamed as army school of mountain warfare and physical training and shifted to present location. In September 2000 the school has been renamed as Army School of Physical Training as the mountain wing has been shifted to Rattu. The Army School of Physical Training is located at Kakul about 9kms away from Abbottabad. The Army Physical Training School conducts numerous courses per year, which include Officers Physical Training Course, Unit’s Physical Training Instructor Course, Advance Physical Training Course, Hang Gliding Course, Unarmed Combat Course, Sports Coaching Courses and Paragliding Course.
Let alone, per year, Army School of Physical Training offers 6 to 7 civilian paragliding course, 8 to 12 paragliding courses for the cadet colleges and also offers paragliding courses for officers and ex army personnel.
It’s been months since the course ended but the discipline, tolerance, punctuality, and will power ASPT has inculcated in me will forever reside within me. Above all, what sends shivers down the spine is the mere fact that it rekindled the meaning of life and living the life one is blessed with, immersed in other core values and blessings. And maybe it is not only me but every individual who has ever been to ASPT for some course, experiences the same. I will forever keep the promise I made to the worthy staff while leaving ASPT that, no matter where I go or where I will ever stand, I will always serve my nation in all possible ways, by all possible means for ASPT mark beginnings and no ends.
(The author is a paraglider. She can be reached at [email protected])