Meet The Red Socks, The Corps Which Trains Soldiers and Officers of the Indian Army

The Indian Army is one of leanest and meanest fighting forces in the world, with its personnel training to be in the peak of physical condition so that they can be sent to take on the nation’s security challenges, in a moment’s notice! One look at a soldier and it is evident that they have taken part in gruelling physical regimens set under the watchful eyes of menacing drill ustaads and training officers, to be considered fighting fit, however, have you ever wondered who trains those who train Indian soldiers?

It is the Indian Army’s famed Army Physical Training Corps (APTC) which was willed into existence under the leadership of Major General Mahinda Singh, a Lieutenant Colonel at the time, is in charge of training curriculum and the practical physical training of personnel in the Indian Army. The APTC consisting of a small body of dedicated service members on deputation from other arms and services form the smallest, yet perhaps the most potent corps of the Indian Army!

Soldiers undergoing vertical rope climbing

The officers, JCO’s and NCO’s who are attached to the training establishment, are the cream of the crop in terms of overall physical fitness, and it is their responsibility to  “raise, maintain and further improve the standard of physical training, and to ensure a uniform procedure and method of instruction in physical and recreational training of the Army.” Simply put, their job is to forge recruits into mentally and physically robust soldiers and gentlemen cadets into able-bodied officers! However the task of these physical training officers does not end by churning soldiers out of young civilian recruit, they are also tasked to scout for talent and groom those who have the potential to represent India at the highest level of sports!

A brief history of the Army Institute of Physical Training, the spiritual home of the corps!

The APTC is housed at the Army Institute of Physical Training (AIPT) situated near the Chusal Lines, Pune along the Sholapur road in Maharashtra. The institute has an illustrious history dating back to a few years after the end of the First World War, in 1923. Before the establishment of an apex physical training centre in 1923, the physical training for soldiers in the British Indian Army took place in three separate schools, built-in Pune, Ambala and Lucknow. The training centres at Pune and Ambala were command PT wings while the one at Lucknow was a smaller establishment.

AIPT Pune (Picture courtesy ADGPI)

The centre housed in Pune closed down, and training facility in Ambala was soon rechristened as the Central Army School of Physical Training (CASPT) which became the military’s physical proficiency enhancement centre for the entire country, in other words, it became the apex body for recruit physical training in British India.

The summer headquarters of the then newly christened facility was located in Kasauli. Between 1923 to 1940 only British military recruits were trained at both Ambala and Kasauli, while Indian recruits underwent their physical training at the Ambala cantonment. Following 1940 even Indian recruits were permitted to undertake their training in Kasauli.

Following India’s Independence in 1947, the CASPT was relocated to Wasouirie in Pune. The location of the apex training institution was shifted for the second time post-independence in January 19951 to Eve’s estate, Pune. Courses were limited In its initial days with the training centre offering only in Boxing and Athletics.

However different sporting disciplines were steadily inducted to the school, and in 1964 the CASPT held the National Gymnastics coaching camp for the Tokyo Olympics. All six gymnasts who made to the national team were service athletes belonging to the Indian Army.

The institute has come a long way and now officers a multitude of different athletic disciplines such as Basketball, Volleyball, Yoga, Judo, Karate, Swimming and Lifesaving, Refereeing and Judging apart from Boxing and Athletics. The past decade has witnessed a surge in sporting and physical training infrastructure designed to enhance military training meeting modern warfare requirements and boost sporting performance at the international levels.

The Indian Army is renowned for its performance in equestrian sports

The Indian Army established the Army Gymnastic Node at the CASPT in 2004, offering specialist training in five gymnastics disciplines; Artistic gymnastics,  Aerobic gymnastics,  Acrobatic, Tumbling and Trampoline. However, as of 2015 the Gymnastic Node of the Indian Army exclusively trains gymnasts in Artistic gymnastics to groom athletes for the Olympics and Gymnastic World championships. Training in Non-Olympic gymnastics formats has been moved to the regimental centres.

The year 2005 says the rechristening of the Central Army School for Physical Training into the Army Institute of Physical Training, the name it is known by today. The training institute has been completely revamped to meet modern-day military fitness standards with the incorporation of functional strength training using Kettlebells inculcated by Parag Mehtre, the founder of Energy Kettlebell Fitness Academy into the Indian Army’s physical training curriculum through the AIPT. 

The AIPT offers a plethora of instructor course exclusively to the men and officers of the Indian Army. Such as the Assitant Instructor Basic course (AIBC), the Swimming and Lifesaving Course, the Boxing Instructor Course, the Basketball Coaching Course, The Volleyball Coaching Course, the Refereeing and Judging Course and the yoga course. These courses allow the men and officers to gain a degree of mastery over their sport of choice and will enable them to train service athletes at the highest levels.

The APTC plays a crucial role in forging a recruit into a soldier

Another basic course offered in the renowned institute is the Officers Physical Training Course. This course, unlike the others, is not a competitive sport-specific instructional module, but instead caters to the battle proficiency side of physical training. Commissioned Officers are prepared in this eight-week course to become qualified Physical Training Officers (PTO’s) who will be subsequently posted to the regimental training centres to overlook and contribute to recruiting training.

GC During in the middle of an obstacle course at OTA Chennai

This coveted instructional course generally takes place six times a year, however, has been cut in half due to the massive shortage of officers in the Indian Army. The Army took concrete steps to bolster fitness amongst its personnel following lowering physical standards.

This pressing matter was discussed in depth during a 2017 Army Commanders conference in May in which it was recommended that a vacancy of 24 positions be created in the Officers Physical Training Course, with the Military Secretory branch inviting officers with the required merit to pass the course and subsequently go on deputation to the APTC where they will be posted the regimental centres, to create a uniform and streamlined training curriculum.

This move had been welcomed by the military community with Brigadier P.K.M Raja speaking to The Times Of India about how this move will play a “crucial role a the regimental centres” The Brigadier further told the national newspaper that having “A qualified Physical Training Officer is the need of the hour, as he plays a crucial role in identifying sporting talent among the recruits.” “This will help the Army improve its sporting standards,” he added further.

Lady Cadets at OTA doing dips for build strength

The Indian Army’s Physical Training Corps has tirelessly strived to enhance the already high standard of the Indian Army and according to the ADG PI “have been unflinchingly training and conditioning all ranks of the Indian Army to perform at levels of excellence under the most trying of circumstances.” Further acknowledging the efforts of this otherwise small but potent corps, the ADG PI goes on say “The premier Institute of physical training in the Indian Army, has shown seamless transition incorporating modern fitness methods over decades.”

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