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Sunday, January 17, 1999

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Inculcating battle dynamism
By K. S. Bajwa

ONE of the primary organisational objectives of military leadership is inculcating battle dynamism— an essential tool for success. It implies an organisational capability to pursue achievement of the assigned tasks with grit, despite imponderables of enemy, terrain and weather that throw up adverse situations.

In battle these situations may or may not be visualised in advance. A positive orientation to create conditions for an impulsion for attainments beyond the immediate objectives is also needed. Basic to this development is pride, professional confidence, a well-defined collective identity, a firm belief in the legitimacy of the overall organisational aims, high morale and a winning tradition. Military organisations are leadership intensive, so it is the leader at every level who hones the dynamic cutting edge.

It is vital to fully identify military leaders with their commands. Soldiers being led in battle should have implicit confidence in the leadership attributes and professional capabilities of leaders. Military commanders at all levels must be well-tuned to achieve organisational objectives.

An aggressive initiative to exploit fleeting opportunities as well as weaknesses of the enemy is vital. Time, space, resources and decision-making are critical. A cardinal principle is to visualise the response needed to successfully manage the imponderables.

No commander can afford to wait for a failure to gather the resources needed. Since the resources at a particular level of command may not be adequate, command authority may pass up to the level where such resources exist or the resources and authority may be delegated to the commander conducting the actual battle.

In practice, delegation is a core strand running through the chain of the military command structure. Closely allied to delegation is the exercise of initiative by subordinate commanders. Elbow room, freedom of action within a given organisational design and a positive orientation to application of planned, and (what is more important) spontaneous effort towards a common objective, are essential for organisational achievement and leadership development.

Understanding of the ultimate organisational aim; articulation of the current task, intimate insight into the conceptual design of the overall commander; an appreciation of situational constraints and a smooth flow of intercommander interaction, create the climate for battle dynamism.

Conditions that promote sound delegation, generate the action ethos. Mutual confidence is essential and a downward thrust of loyalty is vital. The belief of a subordinate that his superior will stand by him and will watch his interests, (even at the cost of his own) creates a motivation for self-generated and sustained effort. This is often forgotten, especially during peace time.

In the interest of narrow organisational progress, which is invariably attuned to selfish motives of making a mark, subordinate leadership development and long time health of the organisation is often sacrificed.

What of the concern an executive leader feels about the outcome of task delegation? This is a genuine human reaction and obtains in almost all cases in varying degrees. Good feedback and an effective monitoring system, provide options of timely intervention. This keeps the anxiety level within tolerable limits. The content of information and the level it relates to is important.

If it delves too far down, a potential for interference is built up and the initiative of the subordinate leaders may be curbed. It is important for a leader to be forearmed with adequate information. He should intervene only when necessary for achievement of the task objectives.

Under no circumstances must he interfere. This results when he injects himself into a situation, well within the competence of his subordinates or uses the powers of veto.

Let us now look at some examples. December 1971, East Pakistan. Notwithstanding the controversy whether Dhaka was designated as an objective, it proved to be the key for a swift termination of the war for liberation of Bangladesh. The city was protected by barriers of the mighty Meghna and Padma Rivers, which were virtually inland seas.

It was the battle dynamism of two Indian commanders that led to its speedy capture. 4 Corps, led by Lt Gen Sagat Singh, advancing from the East did not have the resources ready to overcome the nearly 5 km wide Meghana. Time to successfully conclude the operations in the face of mounting US-China pressure was fast running out. It was here that Sagat displayed exceptional battle dynamism.

Accompanied by an equally dynamic Gp Capt Chandan Singh, he flew across the Meghana in a helicopter and landed at a place not held by the enemy. A battalion was swiftly ferried across in helicopters and a thrust launched onto Dacca.

Along with an advance from the North under another dynamic leader, Maj Gen Gandharv Nagra, the fate of Dacca was sealed. Much fighting was saved and the victory came at least 10 to 14 days earlier.

Kargil, June 1965. After the capture of Pt 13620 overlooking Kargil, Pakistanis had infiltrated onto a high ridge (later named Kala Pahar) near Kargil, which ran parallel to and overlooked the vital road to Leh. 1 Guards were brought in from Ladakh and given the task to evict the enemy. After a firm base was secured on one end of Kala Pahar by a daring night operation, 1 Guards supported by 85 Light Regiment, planned to attack and capture the long ridge in three phases.

After the completion of every phase, defence of the objectives captured was to be quickly consolidated to prepare to meet a possible counter-attack. Equally important was to so exploit beyond the assigned objectives as to facilitate the launching of the next phase. It is here that battle dynamism paid handsome dividends. In the first phase, despite the vigorous exhortations by Capt R.P. Singh (later Maj. Gen), the soldiers of D. Company, overtaken by pre-battle nerves, were reluctant to get up and form an assault line.

When he started towards the objective by himself, the assault finally got under way. The first objective, a high knoll was carried. R.P. Singh, finding the enemy dazed by the heavy and accurate artillery fire, chose to carry the assault beyond the first phase objectives.

Soon the second objectives were also captured. By this time the momentum of the attack had become unstoppable and men of D. Company, led by their dynamic leader, carried on to capture the third phase. The battle dynamism displayed firstly by R.P. Singh, closely followed by the soldiers of D. Company achieved what the whole battalion was slated to do.

Cultivation of self-restraint of senior commanders and below them, the development of self-confidence, conceptual reach and a healthy environment for exercise of initiative are absolutely vital for sustained battle dynamism in subordinate commanders.Back

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