Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Life in AFA(Air Force Academy ) - pre reporting

After almost 9 month long process of CDS Written Exam, Selection Board at 1 AFSB and Medical Checkup at AFCME , the path to AFA was now clear.

It was just a formality but after the long and patient wait for the merit list of CDSE was over, the result was declared by UPSC. It was a really nice surprise to find my name on the top of the merit list. WOW !!!
So I was off to a good start. But as it happens with all of us everytime, once you have finished something a worry of the future starts to occupy your mind and in my case I started wondering if I could maintain my steam and will I be good enough to be selected for Fighter Stream after Trifurcation in the Academy.

The answer to this lied almost 1 year in future. To ease any worries I started off with a routine of daily morning running and other exercises to get in shape. Now as my bad luck would have it I found out the really hard and painful way that in my circumstances its better to avoid joining a Gym and more doing Dead-Lift without proper care. This caused me to have symptoms of hernia(or so I thought) and my subsequent lingering worries were not settled down till a Medical Examination in the Academy.

I am being so close to realizing a dream of a life time. I am sure life will rise to a different gear once the training start. Training in AFA will bring across several anecdotes and definitely a lot of memories which I will want to remember.

But the disappointing fact is that there is hardly any first person account which one comes across about life of a Flight Cadet in AFA. The purpose of this series will be to fill this gap, so that a lot of dreamers like me can know more about flying training in IAF.

Before I finish this post, I should mention one more incident.
Once I got through medicals, I went to a retired Maj. Gen. who was a faculty in my college, to get his advice on how to do well in Service. He had some gems of experience to recount.
He told me that in Defence Services a person is quite often identified by the company of people he is into. Like if you hang around with geeks you will be labeled as a geek similarly if you hang around with people having questionable incidences to their name, so will people think you to be. And in Service like Indian Airforce the size is not so big and your reputation, both good and bad, travels far and wide.

Another of his suggestion was that the Defence Services are such that they require a certain set of qualities and requirement and the training and subsequent service makes sure that you inculcate those qualities and the things in you which are not desirable gets filtered out. So one should always take care because we as a cadet and later as Officers will be judged all the time for the OLQs.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Airforce Medical checkup at AFCME

People clearing AFSB (Airforce Selection Board) are next send to AFCME i.e. Airforce Central Medical Establishment, New Delhi for a detailed medical checkup to certify that they are medically fit to discharge their duties in Indian Air Force. All different categories of candidate for IAF ie Flying Branch, Technical Entry and Ground Duty have the complete checkup at this venue. Apart from this this establishment is also the place where DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) send civilian pilots to have their medical fitness certificate issued or renewed.

AFCME is situated in the beautiful and very neatly maintained Western Air Command(WAC), Subroto Park which is located near to Dhaula Kuan. Except for Dental checkup , all other test, diagnostics and measurments are done in AFCME itself. For this its has several departments like Pathology(with the lab facilities), ENT, Radiology, Eyes, Ultrasound, Anthropology, Cardiac etc.

For the Airforce candidates the process is usually 4 day long. On our first day of arrival the business of the day started at 8:00 am with us filling a couple of forms and other necessary formalities. As usual these form filling take a lot of time and it was almost 11am by the time we were done.
Now the funny thing was that we were specifically told to come empty stomach for the tests otherwise it will take a day more. So there we were all fasting on empty stomach. and it turns out that now a days at AFCME there are no blood test done on first day so no need of the fasting(which b.t.w. sort of triggered a sinus pain in my eye, that too during the medical. what an irony !!!).
After the formalities we were send for the dental checkup which is done at a separate premise. In the dental clinic there were quite a few patients waiting for the doctors, so it took us around 3 hour time for the dental checkup to be done. Dental is usually straight forward affair and unless you have a decaying stuff up your jaws , its a clear affair. Though it is advised that you get teeth scaling done and take care of the decays or caries. In our group two guys were send to see doctor to get their nicotine marks removed.Since it became quite late so this was the only thing that was done on the first day.
I found that in almost all department and all the doctors were hard pressed with the load of the candidates, the civilian pilots and the patients. Its really a tough job for them to keep on doing their job without any mistakes or omissions.

Our lodging was in the Officers Mess and it was so tiring and hot day after getting the meal at 3 pm that for next three hours we slept deeply in the cozy dorms.

The next day again we reported at 7:30 am empty stomach and then our Chest measurement and Height and Weight measurements were taken. There is a height-weight-age chart for the candidates and its is strongly advised to get your tummy measure up to the numbers, Though the authorities give a lot of relaxation on these count. After this we were send to the pathology lab for Blood and Urine Tests. Next on card was the Ultrasound test in which abdomen, liver etc were checked if these parts were normal and to check there are no abnormal things like kidney stones and abnormal size of internal organs. Next we had Radiology in which around 5-6 X-Rays were taken of chest, Spine, Skull etc. Some of the people who had a large angle in the bones of the elbow had elbow X-ray done to determine that angle.After this we quickly had a couple of test one after another like ECG, Anthropological measurement(sitting height, leg length, thigh length and ENT.
For Ear they check for ear wax after that they apply a varying pressure to the ear and the machine generate a plot, it seemed like this test checks how the ear drum behaves in changing pressure. Then the Audio-metric test was done in which there is a headphone through which a few very faint beeps of different frequencies are emitted first in the left ear then in the right, on hearing each beep you have to press the button.The rest of the test of nose is basically one in which the doctor inserts a thong in your nose to check for DNS.
The last thing of the day was a basic test of the eyes in which we were to read a chart about 6mtrs away, a book of color blindness. After this we wore a setup with possibly a polarized lens and a light source was shined which caused a vertical line and a dot to appear.

The next day started with the detail checkup of eyes.Again this time the Medical Officer one by one made us read the Alphabet chart and the color blindness book.Next our eyes were dilated and something was checked by the doctor.
The results of ECG had come and in some cases there were doubts so two extra test 2D Color Doppler ECG and TMT or stress test was performed. In TMT I had to run for 15 minutes on a treadmill while the ECG machine was taking the reading continuously. The 2D Color Doppler ECG was similar to Ultrasound but only it was being done for Heart. Last but not the least we had surgical checkup in which different things like piles,hernia, flat foot , knocked knees etc are checked. Well this test requires you to divest of your clothes, it would seem funny , but actually this all feeling vanishes as soon as you are being checked.

So since we were a bit late our conference was scheduled for the next day. All the files of the candidates were compiled, completed and all the test results were included in the dossier.At last when all the files were completed , we were sent to the President of AFCME, who called us one by one and declared the results which was either you are medically fit to fly or whatever problem was found it was told.

In our group some of the problem which caused them to be declared TR(temporary unfit) were fracture in spine, anemia, too much angle in elbow, eyes sight problem. Since in every case of TR you are given an opportunity to appear before an Appeal Board. In this case you have to submit application for Appeal to Air HQ and then in a week or so you get the date to appear for the Appeal Board in Army R& R Hospital.

So once I was done with the Medical Board, now all is done for joining AFA.

Since lot of queries have been coming regarding individual medical conditions and suitability of these for IAF medical selection, but I am not a medical professional hence there will not much guidance I will be able to provide on the same.
However as a reference some of the links that you may go through to clarify some of your doubts are mentioned below.

General Physical Standards

Additional Medical Standards for Flying Branch 

A detailed list of probably all the applicable medical standards.