Second Lieutenant Ashok Kumar Sharma of the Army Ordance Corps came on attachment to a battalion on 8 July 1987 as a Company Officer, stationed at Bila base in the Bilafondla complex in Siachen Glacier. On the night of 23 September 1987, the enemy started heavy shelling on Bilafondla Complex and simultaneously launched an attack on two of our posts. As the Company Commander was at one post, he ordered Second Lieutenant Ashok Kumar Sharma to take his men and reinforce the other post. Moving in inhospitable terrain at sub-zero temperatures he guided his men managed to reinforce the other post well in time, and succeeded in repulsing numerous adversary attacks. Though injured in the left shoulder by a splinter, he refused to be evacuated.
Again on the night of 24 September 1987, the enemy launched a determined attack on the post in overwhelming numbers. When the position became critical, the Commander asked him to take his men to reinforce the post. Against heavy odds, he led his men inch by inch, traversing seemingly impossible ice ridges and managed to reach the post. However, just 50 yards short of the post, he was again severely injured in the back by an artillery shell and lost consciousness. But his timely action saved the post from being captured by the enemy.
What is posted above is the citation, which led to Ashok Kumar Sharma being awarded the Vir Chakra medal, which is Indian Army’s third highest gallantry award for bravery in the face of the enemy. It also made him the first man of the Ordnance Corps to be awarded the Vir Chakra.
Siachen is the world’s highest battlefield, with temperatures reaching near -50 Celsius ( -58 Fahrenheit) an altitude of around 20,0000 feet. To put things into perspective, Mt Everest is 29,029 feet high. At such heights, survival is a challenge. Wars are unimaginable. Ashok Kumar Sharma, along with around 30 men defended his post for around 2 days against around 600 enemies.
The post he defended was of critical importance, and even though it lay at the edge of the border, losing it would mean losing a large part of the Siachen glacier. At one point during the operation, to lead from the front, Ashok Kumar Sharma was at the edge of the post, with all Indian soldiers behind him. He scaled near vertical ice walls, and covered open ground, all under continuous fire from the enemy artillery. He was injured with multiple bullet and splinter wounds, but refused to be evacuated, saying that he was responsible for his men. All of this coming from a young soldier aged 23 years, who was commissioned into the Indian Army less than a year ago.