By: Lt Col JS Sodhi (Retd)
Herbert Armstrong’s words “Ambition is more than mere desire. It is desire plus incentive-determination-will to achieve the desire” are apt for one of the bravest Officers of the Indian Army, Colonel Praneet Goel, Sena Medal.
Colonel Praneet Goel, Sena Medal belonged to an illustrious family of academicians. His parents ran a school in the quiet and calm town of Roorkee. Being an important Army Cantonment, Roorkee had many men in olive greens and these soldiers had an important impact on the young Praneet and at a very young life Praneet had decided that he only wanted to become an Army Officer when he grew up.
His parents fully supported the ambition of young Praneet though they had a flourishing business and intrinsically wanted Praneet to take over the family business. But being professional academicians, they always gave wings to Praneet’s ambition so that he could soar high in life happily.
And soar Praneet did. On January 02, 1988, Praneet Goel joined the 79 NDA Course in the prestigious National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, Pune after clearing the world’s eighth toughest exam. The tall and well-built Praneet took easily to the tough training regime of NDA as fish takes to water. It was clear to his coursemates right from day one, that Praneet would do very well in NDA and eventually as an Army Officer.
Praneet was allotted Charlie Squadron in NDA. In the three years in NDA, Praneet did very well in Cross Country and Basketball. In all the six terms in NDA, Praneet came in the second enclosure in Cross Country and was in the first string of the Basketball Team of his Squadron. The six terms in NDA have three outdoor Camps – Camp Greenhorn in the Second Term, Camp Rovers in the Fourth Term and Camp Torna in the Sixth Term. Camp Rovers is the toughest Camp in the entire world.
One of the strong indicators of the mettle of a cadet in NDA is the performance in these three Camps. Praneet in Hindi means “Leader”. And leader Praneet was in these camps. Always volunteering to pick up heavy loads during the tough exercises in these camps, or volunteering to do map reading, considered very tough under these trying circumstances, Praneet emerged as the undisputed leader in his Squadron and was aptly nicknamed “The Josh Box of Charlie Squadron”.
In the beginning of the sixth term in NDA, Praneet Goel was given the coveted appointment of Cadet Quarter Master Sergeant (CQMS) for his superlative performance in the last five terms. The appointment of CQMS is one of the top three appointments given to the best three Cadets in a Squadron, the other two being Squadron Cadet Captain (SCC) and Cadet Sergeant Major (CSM).
CQMS Praneet Goel passed out 32nd in the overall order of merit of 323 Cadets of 79 NDA Course who passed out on December 01,1990.
On 08 January 1991, Praneet Goel reported to the internationally acclaimed Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun as part of the 89 Regular Course, for the last one year of pre-commission training. Gentlemen Cadet (GC) Praneet Goel was allotted Jessore Company. Continuing with his brilliant performance, GC Praneet Goel excelled in the training in IMA too and in the third and final term, Praneet Goel was given the important appointment of Junior Under Officer (JUO).
JUO Praneet Goel was commissioned as an Officer in the highly decorated and valiant Assam Regiment on December 14, 1991 after an impressive Passing Out Parade (POP). Praneet’s parents who came for the POP from Roorkee, pipped one star on his either shoulder. Second Lieutenant Praneet Goel smartly saluted his Parents after being pipped by them and then touched their feet. His Parents embraced Praneet and tears of happiness flowed in the eyes of all three. It was a sombre and poignant moment as Praneet had achieved his ambition at a young and tender age of just 21 years.
After three weeks of post commissioning leave 2/Lt Praneet Goel reported to the Assam Regimental Centre in Shillong for orientation training. Because of his being good in Drill and having a smart soldierly bearing, 2/Lt Praneet Goel was selected as one of the two Stick Orderlies for the Eastern Command Investiture Ceremony which was to be held in Shillong. Being selected as a Stick Orderly for a Command Investiture Ceremony is a matter of great pride and honour.
Soon after he reported to his Battalion and after a few months itself he was given the coveted appointment of Adjutant. Shortly orders came for the Battalion to move on a Foreign Mission to Cambodia. The Battalion did exceedingly well in the foreign land and after completing their assigned tenure they came back to India. After a couple of prestigious staff and instructional postings, Major Praneet Goel cleared the prestigious Staff College Exam and went for a year’s course in the famed Defence Services Staff College located in the salubrious Wellington, nestled in the majestic Nilgiris. Praneet did well in this Course too.
After the Staff College Course, Major Praneet Goel was selected as the Staff Officer to a Formation Commander, who was also the Colonel of the Assam Regiment, of an important Operational Formation in Srinagar. One evening after office hours, as Praneet was playing Lawn Tennis in the Sports Complex of the Formation Headquarters, three terrorists attacked the Formation Headquarters in a Fidayeen (suicidal) attack.
Major Praneet Goel, in his sports dress and unmindful of his personal security and safety, grabbed an AK-47 from a nearby sentry and rushed to the place of attack. He immediately took over the control of the situation and within 40 minutes killed all the three terrorists. For this brave act of a very high order Major Praneet Goel was awarded the Sena Medal (Gallantry), one of the Nation’s prestigious awards for bravery.
As a Lieutenant Colonel for his very good performance as an Officer till date, Lt Col Praneet Goel, Sena Medal was selected for the prestigious appointment of United Nations Department of Peace Keeping Officer (UNDPKO) in the United Nations Headquarters in New York, USA. Praneet did very well as the UNDPKO and soon became an indispensable part of the team of the Secretary General, United Nations.
After the three-year tenure in the United Nations, Praneet was promoted to the coveted rank of Colonel and was assigned the command of his own Battalion, the very Battalion he was commissioned in as a 2/Lt. It is the dream of every Indian Army Officer to command the Battalion he is commissioned in.
Colonel Praneet Goel, Sena Medal assumed the command of his Battalion in the operational area of Poonch, Jammu & Kashmir. Praneet started leading his Battalion from the front, be it operationally or in training. The career of Praneet was on an upward trajectory and it was very certain now that Praneet would rise to the higher echelons of the Indian Army and would retire nothing less than a Lieutenant General.
But destiny had planned it otherwise.
On the evening of January 02, 2010, as one of the sub-units of Praneet was doing intensive training., Praneet reached their training location after darkness had set in and started monitoring their progress. After the training finished at around 1 am in the morning of January 03, 2010, Praneet headed back to his Battalion Headquarters which was at some distance away. At around 1.30 am as Praneet was on his way back in his official vehicle being driven by his trusted and well-trained driver, a huge truck which had steel reinforcement bars protruding out of it was reversing and in that process the steel bars broke the windshield of the Maruti Gypsy vehicle that Praneet was being driven in and brutally entered his chest and Praneet started bleeding profusely. The security vehicle following Praneet’s vehicle immediately evacuated Praneet to the nearby Military Hospital. Despite the best efforts of the Army Doctors to save him, Praneet left for heavenly abode. Colonel Praneet Goel, Sena Medal sacrificed his life in the duty of the Nation.
A bright career of a promising soldier came to an abrupt and tragic end.
As Daniel Webster, a famous American politician remarked “Although there is no sculptured marble in their memory, nor engraved stone of their deeds, yet their remembrance will be as lasting as the land they honoured”.
We pay homage to Colonel Praneet Goel, Sena Medal, on this solemn day. You shall forever remain in our hearts and memories and will always be a source of inspiration to all of us. Our prayers for your eternal peace.
About the Author
Lt Col JS Sodhi retired from the Corps of Engineers of the Indian Army and is an alumnus of NDA, Khadakwasla and IIT Kanpur. He is a M.Tech in Structures has also done MBA and LL.B and is a prolific writer and a public speaker. He features in the World Book of Records, London and the India Book of Records for his media contributions. He Tweets at @JassiSodhi24. The views expressed are personal.