Professional growth and remaining in the race is part of an intrinsic human system. Like Charles Darwin said survival of the fittest. Once there, then the idea of being relevant and noticeable takes over, the idea of being reckon-able for the right reason takes a back seat, this now is also what we loosely call the corporate culture. Being pertinent in a chain of systems through display of acute loyalty to individuals instead of an organisation and the credo for what it stands has existed for a long time, this has led to competitions. Although we can’t deny that, it has also led to what we perceive as great leaders and aided in some cases to area progressive exponential growth. But with it comes the challenges of unfair means, yes men, unhealthy competition and psycho paralysis of intelligent ideas. No out of the box idea ever came up by reading a book. Yes knowledge has to be gained, but to practice what you have learnt, building and gaining experience on ground and in the field is vital. Newton was under a tree when the apple fell. He could have eaten it cause that’s what the book says, but he bit into it and thought, why? There came the E = MC square.
Even Jesus wouldn’t be called the son of god if he didn’t perform the miracles he did. But the entire gambit of proving and the proven, constantly year after year, IO after IO is brutally based on an existential requirement of being seen and heard. Capability is defined as directly proportional to visibility. The ones that are silently working remain in the back ground, waking up to projection either too late, or at a time when it is totally inadequate to define finesse. As it is in the army, many a time, we are strewn with whimsical imagination and sheer nonsense in the garb of change being inevitable, of past precedence’s not being right and this is my time being the clause, therefore we will do it my way.
Someone’s leadership traits and his past exposures get garbled in incoherent analysis and a process is incorporated, that in a select few wisdoms get dictated as the need, which defines the requirement and then becomes a reality. This reality turns into a syllabus, the syllabus demands mechanical transfusion of literary theoretical ideas, that get understood as the only way . Suppressing the freedom of free thinking, consolidating ideas, validating procedures, incorporating changes and manifesting the reality.
The army is distinctly different as a profession and a way of life. Here leadership plays a major role. Leadership doesn’t come easy, it’s the responsibility and ownership of life and death. To stand tall you have to go through the rigmarole of having lived with your troops, slept in their tent, dug that trench along with him, tadka on the dal in crew cooking, shared happy moments like birth and marriages and sad occasions as in death and calamities. You need to be on the job 24x7 letting that man standing on that isolated post, or patrolling the LAC know that he has someone constantly looking out for him and his own. You don’t learn this in a class room and this is what is the need of the hour. Empathy is an essential ingredient of leadership and you need to start young.
Military course gradings define postings, appointments, promotions and opportunities. Gradings dictate what numbers the ACR will get you. Even the military secretary’s branch I think, takes cognisance of an ACR if it’s graded outstanding after JC if you have got a B or a C.
Courses don’t look at individual capabilities. It’s as if one size fits all. Even the employability of an officer after the knowledge gained in JC is confusing. It’s like the Pythagoras theorem taught to me in school. I still need to find a situation to use it. The syllabus tries to teach everything to everyone. Whatever the need be. Some use this knowledge to pass another entrance exam that’s Dssc, while some just collect the data and like my senior officers say, lug it around in wooden boxes for your complete military life, with the hope that it is of some use sometime.
Yes knowledge on all aspects is important, but not through mugging drills and procedures, or templated data. In the JC course we still find a bridgehead is being taught as a half perfect circle, the FUP perpendicular or parallel to the objective and the engineers perfecting the art of breaching and bridging in superhuman time. To people who are not exposed to this, they will always carry this visual semantics as the absolute fact. Never questioning if this is actually how it happens on ground, yes we get told that these are just the basic parameters and the formations would involve and evolve their own drills. But frankly all of us know that the bridgehead to most senior commanders even when he is about to retire is still semi circular.
Rote learning leads to good staff officers. Fit for HQs and keeping their bosses happy with fancy colourful graphs and empirical data. But sadly these officers are also the ones with good grading. The officer whose paramount card reads 73% field and modified field tenants appointments as per his perceived capability. Might be an Instructor grading, but not an AI. Often cause he is a ground soldier, he is sent to a brigade on the LC or LAC. An officer with an AI in DSSC, is sent to the army HQ, better still to the specialist branches so that in time he gets a lot more like him around. The ghetto culture of like minded yes men, ensuring the field commanders stay in the field and the course gradings hog up the portfolios of a safe posting and career progression.
It’s but natural that humans seek power, therefore the race has conscious participants that are focused and would leave no stone unturned to get there, even if it means beating your conscience and burying character.
What therefore is the solution to this quagmire of vanity. It’s actually simple. Do away with A, B, C gradings. The Q and the QI is adequate enough. Ensure all officers are on an equal plain in the learning curve by adequate pre course preparation. Application based training through discussions and debates with general ideas and validation by applicability on ground should find a way. Test the officer for situation based decision making and practical application of knowledge. Scrap the RE and the quiz test. If you want to have a test, make it application based, have it on situations and grade the officer as per his intelligence and its manifestation.
Build Military leaders that encourage free thinking, contrarian ideas, impeccable leadership and an indomitable spirit. It is important that officers and their capabilities are clearly defined through various scientific means in the first year of his service. Thereafter it’s the job of the MS branch to do career management and ensure growth and progression. An ordnance or an cyber qualified officer being taught infantry passing through drills, or armour move from bound to bound and then being tested for retention of the same is not only unfair but extremely parochial.
JC courses should be in two Phases, the first phase being the special to corps phase, 08 weeks, here every aspect of operations that is required is taught and discussed, ru at respective centre’s. The next joint phase being the conceptual operational application phase, IW, HR, administration, financial knowledge, military law and the management phase. 04 weeks. With this you would have knowledge of middle rung leadership requirements and this will help chose a path forward.
Do away with the DSSC, entrance test. It’s not a level playing field, some officers get a year to study, while some only 03 months. Some pass after studying for two years in their second or third attempt. The TAC A and TAC B papers are special to corps and totally biased to the fighting arms. DSSC, TSOC and all other courses like the logistics Staff officers course or the intelligence staff officers course should be as per nomination, right officer in the right course depending on future employability. Most of our courses seem to be converging around making the job of the MS branch easy, by supposedly sifting the wheat from the chaff through course gradings. Giving the MS branch a ready made score sheet. This should stop. An officers postings and appointments have to be all rounded and not dependent on course gradings.
Regimental service, fitness, games sports, adventure activities. Activities other than unit life. Specialisations including language skills and higher education should be taken cognisance of. After all it’s the Commanding officer along with his officers of the Battalion and the unit soldiers who win the battle of contact, on the ground and not the staff in the HQs.
A intelligent all rounded officer, with values based on military leadership is what is needed. Not the ones that we are creating, who would rather sit in a plush office in a great city, with amicable bosses. A bride with makeup always looks good cause there is time and money spent, but the changes are only superficial and under the skin. Once washed off, the plain Jane would not only be a fall from grace but also an aberration. Officers need to be leaders in the field. Text book soldiers won’t win you a war.