|A Soldier's Diary||
Sunday, June 27, 1999
SCIENCE and technology have revolutionised warfare. Vast resources of energy are at the command of belligerent people. The precision and remoteness with which destructive potential can be unleashed seems to obscure the human factor. Outwardly, battles appear to acquire a push-button-science-thriller aspect. But analysis of the most sophisticated weapon system inevitably leads to the human core that conceived and created it; services it; decides when, where and how to use it and finally pulls the trigger. Admittedly computer programming can relieve human beings of a sizeable portion of the drudgery, but it can never replace the essence of a human being-the capacity to think, choose, decide and act no matter what the situation or the combination of circumstances. Human emotions and their interaction with other individuals and groups is and will remain central to the theme of soldiering. The point of steel gathers its awesome momentum when the many minds and sinews that are behind it, act in perfect unison. This kind of human dynamism needs motivation and productive man-leader equations.
What makes these relationships develop, grow and endure? A shared noble objective? Pulls of glory and tradition? Mutual benefits? All play their part, but more than anything it is mutual awareness and appreciation; an invovlement of one with the other, especially of the leader, beyond the cocoon of self-interest and mutual faith and confidence. And where does discipline come in? Of late, there has been much criticism of its rigours. Essentially, it consists of setting limits to individual and collective conduct and defining channels of endeavour, with a view to bend diverse minds and energies to a common purpose. The need for it is as valid in life in general as it is in the armed forces. It is only when its rationale to the point of purpose is obscured that it acquires an odium.
The experiences of a major, who joined an entirely new unit after a spell on the staff, were significant. Though he was the senior most major, he requested and obtained the command of a battery in addition to being the second-in-command of the mountain regiment. His battery was composed of Dogras, while the other three batteries were Sikhs. He immediately sensed that his rather docile Dogras were over shadowed by the aggressive presence of the Sikhs. Within the first few days and before he had established any meaningful communication with his troops his battery was ordered to carry out joint training with a Sikh battalion well known for its cult of physical toughness. A long days march was necessary to rendezvous with the Sikh battalion.
Early on a hot and sultry day, he marched out at the head of his battery column. Provided with chargers (a horse provided to an officer to ride is called a charger), he and his officers chose to march with the mule columns. Even before reaching half way he knew that all was not well with his command. The column had become ragged. The men were straggling and the animals fractious. After he reached his camp site at mid-afternoon, he marched back to gather in the stragglers. He came in with the last man and found exhaustion in step with chaos. The battery was ordered to parade and the major marched out with them for half a kilometer and then back to the camp. On return the animals were ministered to; weapons and equipment checked, cleaned and stored for the night; men inspected for foot care and the camp organised for an over-night stay.
After a little rest, the battery was called together and the days performance was reviewed. The major spoke to them of a sense of purpose, duty and pride of achievement. He reminded them of the glorious traditions of the Dogras. The next day there were no drop outs. In the exercise, the mountain gunners carrying cumbersome radio sets and secondry batteries were like shadows with the infantrymen carrying out outflanking manoeuvres in the hills and forests. At the end they were called our battery by the tough Sikhs. Marching back to the barracks, they had a bounce to their stride and a new lift to their shoulders. Back in the unit lines, the major, himself a Sikh, went to the mandir on Sunday mornings rather than to the gurdwara. He organised a thrust for professional expertise in every concievable manner. Tasks, targets and achievements slowly gathered a momentum of success and pride. The Dogras could look the Sikhs in the eye and keep their pace, if not steal the show.
All this came slowly and unobstrusively. In the meantime, the Sikh batteries were in no better shape. The regiment had come unstuck under the overly kind commanding officers, who had proceeded on leave. A murder, assaults and affrays, disobedience of orders and a whole gang over-staying leave were the visable consequences. The major was deeply mortified when the divisional commander pointed out the dubious distinction of the worst disciplined regiment at a unit commanders conference. He took careful stock and found that the officers had strayed away from genuine involvement with their commands and the limits of conduct for the men had been obscured. He launched a rescue and reconstruction operation with single minded purpose. He punished all infractions ruthlessly. A hard training regimen was introduced. Officers started spending more time with their men; training with them, playing games and knowing them better. While the certainity that breaches of discipline will be punished took hold, focus was on prevention of infringements. For instance, letters were written to men on leave, advising them to commence their return journeys by specific dates, so that they could rejoin in time. Toning up the administration improved living conditions. Hardships were shared. Where the improvised barracks that leaked in the incessant rains, could not be repaired, the officers led by the major would don rain-coats, move around in the downpour helping troops become more comfortable while they themselves became visibly soaked.
Individual attention was started to achieve better professional competence and the connected career advancement. Grievances and requests were attended to promptly. The officers and men soon rediscovered their mutual involvement and professional focus. In less than two months the regiment had turned the corner. That the men, like children, derived a reassuring warmth of care when limits were set to their conduct and enforced impartially, was obvious when an offender detected by the major and arraigned before a court-martial, asked for him as the friend during his trial. Here too, as so often before it, a firmness of military purpose and the warmth of human care had found a reinforcing convergence.
One of the very
important functions of executive leaders at all levels of
an organisation is to supervise their subordinates so
that they carry out the functions assigned to them and
act to achieve organisational objectives. Equally
important is to ensure that the subordinate act within
the charter of the organisation and laws specific to the
organisation as well as those of the land. Wherever
senior executives overlook these functions, whether by
design or by omission, the organisation is liable to lose
its cohesion and dynamism. This vital responsibility,
inherent to executive leadership, applies to all spheres
of organisational activity, whether in the Army or
government or industry or public life. Failures can have
serious repercussions whether it be the tightly
structured Army or the more amorphous life of the people.
Genuine involvement with those you lead is necessary.
Equally vital is to set moral and material limits to
conduct and enforce these strictly and impartially.
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