Editor's Note: A recent article on DSSC Wellington by veteran Col. Alok Asthana was published by WIRE. The same triggered an article from Neil John, a former senior instructor of DSSC. This piece was published by MVI and linked with an earlier MVI piece of Nov 2021 on the subject. The responses received to this article from both veterans and serving officers, mainly former students & instructors at DSSC are varied in perception and rich in content. These have been compiled as Part 2 & 3 of MVI Debate .We hope all these views / perceptions are read by concerned DSSC fraternity both past and present. In this Part 2 we are publishing the responses from the Veterans. Part 3 too follows.
The Article By Neil John:
Responses From Veterans
Col. Rajinder Kushwaha (Retd)
Change can never be anticipatory nor it can be thrust upon. Change adopts its own course and it spreads its wings gradually. We must know that Change can never be “agenda - driven”. Such an attempt often meets inner resistance and takes a path, contrary to the alleged “agenda”.
Change is “evolution” from the past to present and then, into the future. It transforms original product into a new “compound”.
Change, therefore, can never be predicted. It is self-driven; It happens. Therefore I do not agree with Neil John that Change was “Top -driven”.
Change is defined as the “Mile Stones” (MS) on the journey of time, where it sheds adopted path and take a different course. These MS are called the Turning Points (TPs), in the developmental process / life of any animated or inanimate system/ organisation/or even individuals.
As regards, DSSC, I have certain observations of my own, as its old alumni — 39 DSSC course in 1983. Basically , it is a “Grade- Oriented” course, which is subject to whims and fancies of “ instructional staff”, guided by the parochial affiliations of Regiment / Corps. As brought out by Neil John, the quality of three types of “Instructors” is highly questionable. They are bookish to the core and lack in originality. Thus, the discussions and debates in Tutorials remain confined to the books. In so doing, the “Applicability” of knowledge is a first quality. These are the people who grade students as “Instructional Material”. Therefore what do you expect but Garbage in ; Garbage out?
Whether it is Sand Model Discussions or Tutorials in class, even the Guest Lectures, the students are always conscious of the presence of overbearing “predators” (SIs and CI) who sneak in there. This consciousness is a big hinderance on free and fair discussion because of the fear of being exposed before the “predators”.
It is a staff course and everyone who qualify must be on the same grade, capable of holding any staff appointment — Grading is therefore a big Hurdle in real learning.
Again, it is not a “command” course — but it has become a “stepping stone” for command. It is time to make it “Command & Staff " course. It needs this orientation. What does it mean?
Simply, it would imply that the emphasis on “staff work teaching" be equitably shifted to various aspects of “command”. Too much time is wasted on writing of “Appreciations” and the Directing Staff (DS), while correcting them is focussed on “Minor SD” .
Emphasis must shift to Strategic and Security Environments and how to handle various situations at different levels of command. Sand Models in Operations of War — must give way to Jointmanship of Three Wings of Armed Forces. Operations of War are best debated at the formation level in different types of terrain.
There must be more guest lectures by eminent scholars/veterans and emphasis on exhaustive interaction by students, without any inhibitions.
Case studies of various wars/IS sits be made the main focus of learning. Students should be able to see how and why some decisions were made. Decision making is the principal function of command. Such presentations should be a weekly affair in DSSC. Aim should be to train commanders rather than making officers - “Dignified Clerks”. I don’t think emphasis currently is in “learning” but “stamping of Pre-course knowledge".
Finally, there is a need to train future staff officers and COs on legal matters.
All the above suggestions are NOT changes but “Reorientation” of the learning process at DSSC.
Gp Capt. Johnson Chacko (Retd)
The aim of the staff college is to train officers for staff jobs if I am not wrong? Bangladesh has a Defence Services Command and Staff College. Training for Command is also given.
At Wellington a lot is loaded in the syllabus other than stuff related to staff work. I was told to add CI in the Air Wg syllabus. I asked what should I remove from the joint syllabus? How does it help an Air Force officer on staff?
The CDM inducts DSs immediately after HDMC without any experience in the field whereas knowledge and subsequent experience are needed to teach. The HDMC is designed for Maj level officers to learn management principles to use when they command. Many student officers complain that if they had known what was being taught their command tenure would have been more effective. I was lucky to have done LDMC, 5 yrs before becoming a DS at CDM. I could try out many management tricks to solve many issues in the IAF.
However, with just HC, vacancies for a major course at Col level were few, so HDMC (previously LDMC) was upgraded to Col level and made equal to HC for promotions.
The sad part is that the contribution of these officers after the course from the knowledge gained is of no consequence for promotions.
ACRs are supposed to reflect the Character, Ability and Performance (commensurate with Ability). It is the last bit which is not mapped for promotions. Is the performance of a PSC , HC or HDMC officer greater than his counterparts who haven't done these courses or is the label of PSC, HC or HDMC adequate without any metrics for evaluation?
There is an urgent need to overhaul the Appraisal System. The 3 stars who have benefitted from the current system will definitely not agree?!
Brig. Sarvesh Dangwal (Retd)
There is much which has been written on the subject under discussion and Col Rajinder Kushwaha and Gp Capt Johnson Chacko have enriched that with their views. Not being an alumni of DSSC, I wouldn't want to delve into anything which is of a factual nature and can best be recounted by those who have been through the ropes at Wellington or Secunderabad. Be that as it may, few things could be introduced for greater betterment of learning in the Forces and the Army in particular.
There is an absence of stress on Humanities Studies in the curriculum of Courses of Instruction. Human feelings and emotions are a product of individual upbringing and the imbibing of societal values by officers, and therefore must be allowed to interface with the repository of literature and poetry as can best be dovetailed into our military syllabi. If higher leadership is about strategic maturity and character, then we are not addressing both adequately. The continuous scepticism and scoffing of our higher military leadership is indicative of something majorly wrong with our selection, training, grooming, nurturing, evaluation and selection system which cumulatively contributes to the woes of our poor perceptions about military leadership. Rank in the Services has ceased to reflect sagacity, prudence, competence, character and last but not the least leadership ability, which is commensurate to the military status of its officers. This is a trend which is on the upswing and is a worrywart for mediocrity in the senior echelons of our organisation. This is worrisome.
The rat race has to be broken some time soon and an Officer's spine resurrected to stand straight and tall at all times. If course gradings and CRs are going to make us submit to being roughshod by vapid and trite thoughts of our pedagoges and accept dogmatic prescriptions without reflection, only because it may upset our apple cart; then we are insidiously encouraging an ambient culture of pusillanimity to run wild in our officers. If a military is to be led by leaders, then we rather have those with character driven leadership as their leitmotif than strategic maturity. In a symbolic representation of my ongoing thought this is relevant to reiterate it.
Timmy rightly said to the PM that, if we can't defend the honour of our women, how can you expect us to defend our country. We have been caught in this trap conversely. If the officers cannot stand upsto, Not Parroting that which is predicated upon platitudinous and conventional wisdom and thought in schools of instruction and higher defence learning; then how do you expect them to stand up to the uncertainty, ambiguity, unpredictability and equivocality of operational demands, which shall be within the locus of their charge. I doubt it very much. To rise above individual exceptions and institutionalise a paradigm shift in our learning culture.
(Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)