Saturday Dec 3, 2022
Saturday Dec 3, 2022

British Gurkha: Mental resilience is the key

“Joining the army is a great opportunity for 18-21years old. But if you do not get selected then it can also be one of the most heartbreaking things"

2021 Dec 21, 17:53,

Gurkhas, also known as the best infantry troops in the world, have been part of the British Army since the Anglo war 1814-16. Every year almost 9 thousand young men apply for selection but only about 350 candidates get selected after passing an exhausting and physically challenging process.

Bikash Shrestha (left) and Prakash Gurung, owners of Quest Gurkha Academy
Bikash Shrestha (left) and Prakash Gurung, owners of Quest Gurkha Academy

“Laure selection not only tests physical discipline but also about mental capability and patience” explains Prakash Gurung, managing director of Quest Gurkha Academy.

The applicant first has to go through regional selection: British Gurkha Pokhara (BGP) for west Nepal and British Gurkha Dharan (BGD) for east.

In the initial selection, the potential recruits submit all the paperwork and pass medical screenings that include having to do pull-ups along with 800m running. They also have to go through whole-body medical check-ups including physical structure.

Dhoko running of the trainees.
Dhoko running of the trainees.
Education class in Quest Gurkha Academy
Education class in Quest Gurkha Academy

After the regional selection, if one passes they go for central selection. where they have to stay in camp for 12 to 14 days with no contacts outside. After being given a chest number they then report for medical checkups. The tests range from eyesight, blood pressure, body structure, scar test to heartbeat rate. After these tests, they have to go for running exams including having to run for 4.5 km carrying 25 kg weighted Doko running which should be completed in 46 minutes.

After the physical test, the recruits also have to go through IELTS tests including listening, speaking and writing. At last there is a board interview which decides if they are going to be recruited or not.

Lance Corporal Paras Gurung.
Lance Corporal Paras Gurung.

Paras Gurung talks about his journey after being enlisted in the British Army on 21 January 2018 as a mere 18 year old. Sharing his tremendous experience, he says “My days used to begin at 5 in the morning. Heading to college by 5:30 and returning home around 1 pm. Then I used to grab lunch and head to the training center for math and English classes that were designed for the army. Then train for two hours from 4 to 6 pm. Joining the army was my dream. So I used to push myself more every day. Besides the training, I also had to complete the college assignments. While my body felt drained by the end of the day I did not stop me from what I dreamt of,” adds Paras.

Lance Corporal Paras today works as the Docs of Military Personnel Administrator (MPA) for the service personnel and dependents who are stationed at British Forces Brunei. Paras says, “In the initial phase, there is hard training to mold the new recruits into professional soldiers. After the completion of 9 months long infantry training in Catterick Garrison, they are facilitated to serve in different units with the Brigade of Gurkhas.”

Lance Corporal Paras Gurung shares his photos of his training.
Lance Corporal Paras Gurung shares his photos of his training.

Talking about training centers in Nepal, Paras explains, “Most of the training centers lack a good Physical Training Instructor (PTI). They train and push the potential recruits beyond their limits without knowing their physical and mental strength. It is just about training and hard work. But stories and struggles that a potential recruit has are untold. They have to go through high-intensity exercises with a low diet and lack of good knowledge regarding the proper exercises and recovery.”

Prakash, a certified PTI, says, “Training centers are running in a more systematic way compared to the time I was training. The numbers of training centers were low and we used to believe that more hard work could land us in the army. However, in time I have come to realize that it’s about the strategy on how we train, and how much we should rest.”

As to why so many young men join the British army, Paras shares, “Majority of the soldiers I met and have known come from the middle class family or so in hope that they can support their families joining the British Army and will definitely help to be financially strong.”

Prakash adds, “Joining the army is a great opportunity for 18-21years old. But if you do not get selected then it can also be one of the most heartbreaking things as they have put their soul into it.”

Both of them explain how having a stable career for someone from a middle class family is an important thing. So most teenagers dream of becoming a British soldier not only for the stability but also the glamor they see through others who have joined the army and are traveling around the world on social media.

Prakash explains, “When a boy comes from a Mongolian family, he is prodded on by the parents to become a British soldier. Training becomes their one and only priority; only few of them carry on their studies. One of the main reasons why most who fail the tests suffer from depression. I was also one of them.”

Reminiscing on his own experience, he adds, “When I was not selected, I was completely lost. It was really challenging as the question ‘what’s next?’ came to my mind. As I come from a middle class family, having to invest so much money in the process of becoming a Laure and not getting selected at the end took a toll on me.”

However, learning from his mistakes, Prakash is now an owner of Gurkha recruit training center (Quest Gurkha Academy) along with his friend Bikash Shrestha that started in 2017. “Starting with 7 trainees, now there are around 125 trainees which I think is going well.” Prakash said.


Gurkha Army Gurkha Recruit Prakash Gurung Paras Gurung Army British Army
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