Place of birth : Tejur, Karnataka
Service : Army
Last Rank : Lance Havildar
Unit : 19 Madras
Arm/Regt : The Madras Regiment
Operation : CI & IS Ops
Martyrdom : February 3, 2016
Lance Havildar S Kumar hailed from Tejur village in Hassan district of Karnataka. He was enrolled on October 31, 1998 into 19 Madras battalion of the Madras regiment, an infantry regiment with a long history of gallantry and battle honours. He had the rare distinction of serving in the Siachen Glacier twice. Volunteered to serve in the Siachen Glacier as a young soldier in 1999-2000, L Hav Kumar once again chose to serve in Northern Glacier with his own paltan. He also took the active part in ‘Operation Parakram’ on the Western Border from 2001-2002.
Thereafter L Hav Kumar served in Jammu & Kashmir fighting militancy and was actively involved in Counter Insurgency Operations. He also got an opportunity to serve in the North East and fought terrorists from 2009 to 2011. He then volunteered to serve in Rashtriya Rifles from 2011 to 2013 in Jammu and Kashmir. He was hand-picked by the Commanding Officer to be part of one of the most important posts situated at an altitude of 19,600 feet.
Sonam Post Avalanche: 03 Feb 2016
During 2015-16, L Hav Kumar’s unit 19 Madras battalion was deployed in Siachen area under the command of Col Um Bahadur Gurung. In Dec 2015, L Hav Kumar along with 9 other personnel were chosen to man the Sonam post, one of the highest manned military posts in the world atop Saltoro Ridge. The post that overlooked Siachen Glacier to the east and Pakistani occupied territories to the west was prone to devastating avalanches with extreme weather conditions. Besides L Hav Kumar, the other soldiers of the team included Sub Nagesha TT, Hav Elumalai , Lance Naik Sudheesh B, Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad, Sep Mahesha PN, Sep Ganesan G, Sep Rama Moorthy N, Sep Mustaq Ahmed S and Sep Sunil Suryawanshi. On the glacier, the soldiers contested an area where they had to deal with altitude sickness, high winds, frostbite and temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit). The rigorously trained soldiers needed to highly skilled in survival and sustenance. Besides the enemy fire, the soldiers had to brave the most unforgiving weather accompanied frequently by sudden avalanches and landslides. One such monstrous avalanche struck Sonam post in the morning of 03 Feb 2016.
Formed by enormous sized block of snow fracturing away form the mountain, it buried the post up to 25 feet deep snow in few seconds. Although the Army had a unit of the Snow Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) in Jammu and Kashmir, with several observatories at various locations to issue warnings and alerts to the Army formations and units, it could not detect this avalanche and the cause also could not be known. L Hav Kumar and 9 other soldiers got trapped under 25 feet of snow at an altitude of 20,500 feet. A massive rescue operation was launched by the Army which continued for 6 days to locate and rescue the trapped soldiers. The rescue operations were carried out by specialized teams of the Army and the Air Force which were being coordinated from Leh and Udhampur. The teams of Army and the Air Force undertook massive rescue operations under extreme weather conditions but could not save the life of this brave soldier. The nation will remain grateful to L Hav Kumar for his courage and supreme sacrifice.