Nao Sena Medal (Gallantry) Lt Cdr Shailendra Singh (05982-W)
The officer has been serving as Senior Pilot of Gharial Flight since 15 Aug 16. At about 1400 hrs on 15 Jun, a directive was received from HQENC regarding urgent deployment of Sea King 42 C helicopter based at INS Dega to prevent grounding of MV SSL Kolkata, laden with toxic chemicals. The officer, as ever, rose to the occasion and volunteered to undertake the mission. On 16 Jun, as the helicopter approached overhead the vessel, it was found that the ship was unsuitable for landing of personnel due to very heavy smoke. Non availability of Search and Rescue ship, inclement weather, strong winds (35-40 kts), dangerous list to one side and a very heavy helicopter with 15 personnel further made the situation more complex. At this juncture the officer realized that a no go would surely result in a major ecological disaster. The mission was time-critical mission as the vessel had to be stopped at any cost from crossing IMBL Bangladesh (20 nm away) and closing Sunderbans (08 nm away).
The officer carried out a quick operational risk assessment to safely lower four personnel (including 02 civilians) onto the foxle (front part of the ship). Whilst at hover, at about 0930 hrs, two huge explosions occurred on the ship with fire ball rising upto 100 feet in height and dangerously close to the helicopter. The officer displaying excellent piloting skills maneuvered the aircraft out of the explosion zone, maintaining his calm and composure even in the face of mortal danger. Considering the life threatening danger to the salvage crew, Lt Cdr Shailendra Singh showing raw courage and complete disregard to personal safety, maintained hover atop the vessel ablaze with random explosions, for over 20 minutes in heavy sulphur laden smoke-filled conditions and strong winds. During extraction, the winch malfunctioned and the officer displayed exceptional situational awareness to continue with the operation in emergency mode in near zero visibility conditions and successfully extracted the salvage team. The Officer while piloting the helicopter displayed immense courage, fortitude and valour in the face of adversities during the salvage operation of MV SSL Kolkata thereby not only preserving a National Heritage and averting an ecological disaster but also saving his helicopter and lives of all 15 personnel onboard. In view of his gallant act under the most trying circumstances, Lt Cdr Shailendra Singh has been awarded Nao Sena Medal (Gallantry).