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“He’s Not Heavy, He’s My Brother”: Ex Soldier Praises Op To Retrieve 3 Bodies


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Four soldiers were killed when an avalanche struck them in October 2023 in Ladakh

New Delhi:

A retired army officer has explained why it took over nine months to retrieve the bodies of three soldiers who died after their mountaineering expedition team was struck by an avalanche in October 2023 at a height of over 18,300 feet in Ladakh.

Brigadier Hardeep Singh Sohi (retired) in a post on X thanked and congratulated soldiers of the Gulmarg-based High-Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) for retrieving the bodies.

The bodies of Havildar Rohit Kumar, Havildar Thakur Bahadur Ale, and Naik Gautam Rajbanshi were trapped deep within a crevasse and lay buried under thick layers of ice and large volumes of snow for the last nine months.

“He is not heavy, he is my brother. A big salute to HAWS Gulmarg for retrieving the bodies of three Havaldar instructors who were buried in snow in October last year while undertaking an expedition to Mount Kun,” Brigadier Sohi said in the post.

On queries by some people on social media seeking to know why the bodies lay buried in snow for the last nine months, the retired army officer said the team this time went with proper tools and even then took nine days of digging to recover the bodies.

“Some people are questioning as to why the bodies of the three soldiers [were] buried for over nine months and efforts were not made to retrieve them earlier. To set the record straight, when four soldiers were lost on October 8, 2023, after six days of digging only one body was recovered,” Brigadier Sohi said.

“This time the team went with chainsaws and GREF grade shovels using RECCO radar and after nine days digging successfully recovered [the] balance three. The bodies were buried under a 70-feet crevasse covered with snow,” he said.

The body of Lance Naik Stanzin Targais was recovered soon after the incident last year.

In July 2023, a 38-member expedition team from the HAWS had set out to conquer Mount Kun in Ladakh. The expedition started on October 1 and the team hoped to reach the peak by October 13.

The treacherous terrain and unpredictable weather in this glaciated region posed immense challenges. While fixing ropes on a snow wall, the team was struck by a sudden avalanche on October 8 at a height of over 18,300 feet, trapping four members, news agency PTI reported.

In the army’s spirit of “leave no man behind”, a team of mountaineers of the HAWS then undertook a mission to recover the bodies. Operation RTG (Rohit, Thakur, Gautam) that sought to retrieve their bodies was launched on June 18.

Brigadier SS Shekhawat, the Deputy Commandant of HAWS, personally led the search operation, emphasising the mission’s importance.

The bodies have been handed over to their families with “full military honours”, bringing closure for the loved ones.



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