Commanding Laungewala Battalion: 2001
I became a Commanding Officer (CO) in Jan 2001. Commanding a battalion is a dream of every officer. It is a great experience. It gave me the opportunity to execute the ideas which I had been living with over my career as a junior officer. As the 2IC, I was lucky to implement quite a few of my ideas. However, becoming the CO gave me a very free hand. Let me narrate three-four interesting incidents from my early command days.
Maj Ajay, 2 IC
In the first 2-3 days of my command, Ajay, the unit 2IC came to me to have a talk. He requested that I should facilitate his early posting out because he could be considered a part of the, “old culture” and that may not work now under the “Nehru culture”. He perceived that there would be unwanted friction, which would be harmful for the unit and he would suffer unnecessarily. I appreciated his straight talk. I asked him two questions:
“Do you doubt my loyalty to Laungewala Battalion?”
“Are you loyal to Laungewala Battalion?”
He answered that he did not doubt my loyalty to the unit and he was also loyal to the unit. I then told him:
“So long as both of us are loyal to the unit, our aims are convergent. Our differing perceptions would be helpful for the unit. I don’t need ‘yes men’. Together we will be able to run the unit well. I have no problems with him and so should he.” We made a very good team and our still great friends.
After about one month of command, I asked Ramkumar, my buddy, to give me an honest feedback about how things were going in the unit. He said,
“Sahab sab thik chal raha hai. Ek baat sabko ajeeb lag rahi hai. Eisa lagta hai ki paltan mein koi CO nahin hai. Kisi ka dar nahin hai. Jawan aap ko rok kar bolte hain: ‘Main busy tha, apse mil nahin paya, meri yeh problem hai, please ise hal kariye!’ CO ko rok kar jawan aisi baat kare, yeh koi tarika hai?”
I asked, “Meri vajah se koi garbar to nahin ho rahi?” He said, “Garbar to koi nahin hai.”
I said, “Phir paltan bina CO ke hi chalne de!”
Ramkumar is a Subedar now and likely to become a Subedar Major. We continue to be good friends.
Capt Vipin was in love with Mansi. They wanted to marry. Mansi’s parents were not supportive of the marriage. He told me this problem. I asked him to make an elaborate plan and discuss it with me. After two days he came up with a plan which had several weaknesses. With my experience, (not of running away with girls), but of life, I made the plan better. It was successfully executed.
Mansi had had a heart problem at a very young age. She was in urgent need of surgery and for that Vipin’s presence was vital and he had to get leave for that. He did not ask me for leave because in his perception, his presence in the unit was vital at that time. When I learnt about this, I got annoyed. I told him to go on leave immediately and get the operation done. Fortunately, the operation was done timely and Mansi became okay. They now have a son, Adi, who is much taller than Vipin. Shalini and I are Nana and Nani for him.
Command tenure has numerous interesting incidents and I will write about them in the next blog.
–By Col M M Nehru