03rd June 2019 15:45:47 Hours
Amid true spirits of patriotism, goodwill, pride and dignity and hospitality of all ethnicities, the ‘Walk of Warriors’ (Ranakaminge Pagamana) of the Sri Lanka Army Air Mobile Brigade of the 53 Division which marks its 25th anniversary reached Kandy Sri Dalada Maligawa (Temple of Tooth) premises by Sunday (2) noon, completing the 5th day leg of the 310 km - long expedition.
The landmark anniversary spectacle after a brief inaugural ceremony commenced its expedition on Wednesday (29) from Medawachchiya town where the Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake, together with Major General Kumudu Perera, Commander, Security Forces - Wanni and several other Senior Officers flagged off for the journey.
During its journey across Galkulama, Habarana, Innamaluwa, Naula, Ukuwela and Kandy in the past five days, the participants in the ‘Walk of Warriors’ were hosted to rousing receptions, many of which have been organized by Buddhist monks, Catholic, Hindu and Muslim clergies, civil organizations, businessmen, Hindu devotees, Akurana Muslims, retired Army personnel, students and all walks of life.
When the walk began on 30 May (2nd day) from Galkulama, Major General Athula Kodippily, General Officer Commanding, 53 Division also joined when it reached Habarana junction covering a distance of about 46 km. The 3rd day leg covered 32 km from Innamaluwa to Naula. As it reached Dambulla town, a large crowd gathered on roadsides and entertained the Mobile Brigade troopers to special refreshments after extending a warm welcome to the participants. Mr U.B Ekanayake, Chairman, Dambulla Special Economic Centre with fellow-businessmen arranged the reception and the treat on a grand scale. By 7.00 pm the same day, the walk finished off for rest at the Special Forces Headquarters at Naula.
Hundreds of Hindu devotees, led by Hindu priests (Kurukkal) as the walk reached Matale Muttumari Amman Kovil on its 3rd day welcomed the participants and provided them with refreshments before the day’s segment culminated at 8 Gajaba Regiment Headquarters in Ukuwela.
Covering 22 km from Ukuwela to Kandy, the walkers were warmly received near the Alawathugoda Maha Vidyalaya by members of the Matale Sri Punyawardane Association, headed by Mr R.M Isuru Jayawardena. The marchers were treated to drinking water bottles and milk packets before a special memento was presented to the Commanding Officer of the March as a token of their gratitude towards Army Heroes undertaking the expedition.
In the centre of Akurana town, hundreds of Muslim civilians, headed by Rev Shiyam Moulavi distributed snack parcels among the troops on expedition and awarded a warm welcome to them on Saturday (1).
People of Dumbara meanwhile offered king coconuts and welcomed the troops as they reached Kalugala Sri Bodhimaluwa temple premises in Katugastota. Joined by sports clubs, youth clubs and civil organizations, the retired Sergeant Major Udugoda was instrumental in organizing the reception and the treat to the participants.
At 10.30 am on Sunday (2), the procession received another fillip when the Chief of Staff of the Army, Major General Shavendra Silva joined hands with Air Mobile Brigade troops on expedition and started walking up to the sacred Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy before the culmination of the 5th day leg of the expedition.
Both Diyawadana Nilame, Mr Pradeep Nilangadela Bandara and Major General Shavendra Silva afterwards participated in a blessing ceremony at the Magul Maduwa. Members of the Maha Sangha chanted ‘Seth Pirith’ and invoked blessings on the participants and extended greetings to the success of the entire project. Afterwards, the troops wended their way to 5 Sri Lanka Light Infantry and 1 Sri Lanka Rifle Corps camps in Pallekele, Kandy for rest and relaxation.
A total of 729 troops belonging to all units and training schools of the Air Mobile Brigade in addition to members of the Army band are taking part in the ‘Walk of Warriors’ who are expected to reach Colombo Independence Square by 8 June 2019 after 11 days via Anuradhapura, Habarana, Dambulla, Naula, Ukuwela, Matale, Kandy, Kadugannawa, Kegalle, Pasyala, Nittambuwa, Kadawatha and Borella.
When the ‘Walk of Warriors’ reaches Dematagoda, the Commander of the Army will join the walkers again and attend a special concluding ceremony to be held at the Independence Square where the founder of the Air Mobile Brigade were to be felicitated.
Air Mobile Brigade was founded on 1 May 1994 on a conceptual notion of Brigadier H.N Halangoda (Retd) who was then a Lieutenant Colonel as LTTE terrorism was escalating posing a great threat to the territorial integrity and unitary status of the country. Since then Air Mobile Brigade troopers sacrificing their precious lives and legs and limbs contributed to the culmination of the 30-year long war for peace using their exceptional skills in special and infantry operations while simultaneously improving their consistent training, new strategic and technical approaches to suit most modern warfare requirements.