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LEADERSHIP
 

The officer corps strength versus commanded strength averages 7 to 8 per cent. After independence there was only one period (1963-65) when a need arose to offer short-term emergency commissions. That was when a pre-1962 planned expansion was compressed in terms of time leading to this call. The main brunt of the fighting in 1965 and 1971 at junior command levels was taken up by this group. Just as in the Second World War, they, along with their regular counterparts, responded with traditional elan. Over the years, a number of Commission streams had merged together. The last of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, graduates retired in 1969. The Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehra Dun, graduates, as well as the Short Service/Emergency Commissioned Officers of the Second World War formed the overwhelming bulk filling the fighting command slots in 1947-49; the King's Commission Indian Officers taking over the higher command appointments.

In 1949 a unique experiment was launched - that of cadet-level training for all the three Services together for three years and thereafter moving on to Service academies for pre-Commission training. This was the Joint Services Wing (Dehra Dun), which in later years became the National Defence Academy (NDA) Khadakvasla.

At present, the Army officer intake is from four distinct streams, namely the NDA; the graduate direct entry stream (IMA); cadets chosen from the ranks and initially trained at the Army Cadet College - an adjunct of the IMA; and a five-year Short Service Commission stream from the Officers Training Academy, Madras and Gaya. A few selected Junior Commissioned Officers (a grade existing only in the Indian and Pakistan Armies) are offered Regimental Commissions. The Short Service stream is offered Regular Commissions by choice and reassessment. Officers of the NDA have now reached three-star rank in all three Services. A common indicator of the type of leadership extent in the Army are casualty ratios. In all our wars, officer casualties have been high. Management experts point out to the high casualty figures of officers in Combat. The point, however, is that Officers of the combat arms lead from the front and is the strength of the Indian Army.

The sacrificial content of the leadership ethos built up over decades has served the Country well. But far more important, the ranks know for certain that there will be no directive commands by electronics or remote control.

A common perception of the army officer is that of a large, moustachioed, 'Neanderthal' with overhanging brows getting very physical round the clock. Another is that the real creme de la creme of the high school levels would never think of joining up. It never strikes the common observer that neither a gorilla nor a budding CV Raman, nor a future chief executive of, say, an ice cream manufacturing company may necessarily have combat leadership traits. Academic brilliance is just one plus point, and that is all that has been displayed by a teenager prefering to move into the civilian professional life at that point. If a young man cannot translate his manifest intelligence and brilliance into fast life-and-death decision-making in the field - or wishes to preserve his attributes for 'better' occasions when faced with a sticky situation, he is better utilized in an office, college or laboratory than on a battlefield. That is where he naturally belongs.

The training of the Indian army officer is meant to subsume his persona under a very demanding but explicit code. Which is given as under :-

"THE SAFETY, HONOUR AND WELFARE OF

YOUR COUNTRY COME FIRST, ALWAYS AND EVERY TIME.

THE HONOUR, WELFARE AND COMFORT OF

THE MEN YOU COMMAND COME NEXT.

YOUR OWN EASE, COMFORT AND SAFETY COME LAST,

ALWAYS AND EVERY TIME."

As the young officer grows in services he obtains professional training which helps to slot him into his increasing responsibilities. These training institutions were created from scratch. At their apex stands the National Defence College. In between are the professional All Arms and Services 'colleges' and special managerial expertise is provided by Corps and Service schools and colleges. Standing at the top here is the College of Defence Management. At the Higher Command levels the leader and the manager merge imperceptibly.

The phrase 'teeth and tail' has been hounding the Army ever since a manager with a piquant turn of phrase slotted it into the military lexicon some forty years ago. Someone will have to decide that if the teeth, (meaning the arms) are really to be effective, should not the tail (the logistic corps and services) be more aptly called the gums?

The underpinning of any force is the support services especially in the context of the terrain that we fight in. it is also an unfortunate fact that the more modern and sophisticated a field force, the logistic back-up rises exponentially to maintain it in reasonable shape. When a 50-tonne tank trundles past a saluting base, having replaced a 40-tonne tank, the general populace are appreciative of this new war machine not realizing that, probably, the logistic support to it has gone up 2.5 times. This needs to be known.

The Army Medical Corps gives pride of place in protocol and otherwise to the Military Nursing Service. Together with the Army Dental Corps, the medical services provide a composite, wide-spectrum, morale-boosting blanket of comfort. The men of this corps commence work from the forward-most line of contact. Their war record citations and awards bear testimony to their crucial function. 60 (Parachute) Field Ambulance became a favourite not only in the Commonwealth Division but with all formations of the United Nations Army in Korea. They brought home a Presidential Unit Citation.

The Army Service Corps (ASC) handles all supply and transport aspects while the Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) holds and issues close on half a million items held on inventory. The troika is formed by the Electrical and Mechanical Engineers who provide light to factory-level repairs to everything the Army uses. With their forward repair teams based on customized armoured vehicles, they function within a battlefield, recovering equipment casualties from their point of collapse. In Chhamb - 1971, six medium guns became immobile when their lyres burnt out. The enemy was sweeping the area with machine guns, at line of sight; yet working against time and hostile fire the guns were refitted, recovered, given a quick thump on the barrel and put back in action in less than 24 hours. Back at base workshop, they strip and rebuild anything that the Army owns be it fighting vehicles, electronics, or data processing equipment.

The Red Caps - the Military Police - are really not providing a service. It is a mix of service and combat visibility, the men being chosen for their presence'. They are the most visible form of military discipline and they do so even-handedly right to brigade levels.

Another keeper of the Army's morale is the Postal Corps. Today they dispense insurance, and other facilities of a standard post office of the Indian Union at any point where a unit of the Indian Army is sent. Mail and smiles go together.

      
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