I attended the SC Course from Sep to Nov 98. It was a very educative course. Important memories from the course are as follows:
Brig, Squash Player
Just about one week into the course I had gone to play Squash and met a Brig instructor. He told me that he had been posted at the College of Combat for over two years and he had not come across even one officer who could beat him in Squash. I told him that I would like to play with him but would need about one week to get into some touch with the game. Anyway, we played that day only and I beat him!
War Game: Artillery Brigade Commander (Arty Cdr)
Most of the officers from other Arms and Services were Lt Cols. In the first war-game I was appointed an Arty Cdr in a defensive battle. There was a Lt Col of Arty who was the exercise Col (GS). He had been an instructor at School of Artillery twice. He asked me to help him in setting up the Operations Room and consequently he would guide me make the Arty plan. I did my side of the bargain and when his turn came to help me he acted pricey. This behavior I have not accepted from practically anybody. I told him that I needed no help from him and would make the plan myself. I also challenged him to try and find faults in my plan, not informally but when my assessment was in progress by the instructors. He actually did so. To his surprise, he found that the other respected instructors of Arty were in agreement with my views rather than his.
Serious Argument with a Para Regiment Brig
During the course of a war-game on defensive operations one Para Regiment Brig found an Infantry officer’s plan unsuitable. He had actually commanded a Brigade in J&K and been decorated for his performance. He was overly focused on counter-infiltration operations and not conventional defense. He felt that I would be in agreement with him and asked me for views. I said exactly what I thought and stated that the Maj had made a good plan and the Brig’s views were incorrect. He got very annoyed with me. He said that with my poor understanding of tactics I would never even become a Lt Col and had probably wrongly come for this course. After this incident two instructors called me and advised me to be more diplomatic in future. This advice I have received numerous times in my life and always ignored.
Col Madhok was doing HC Course along with us doing SC. We have sports events in which JC, SC & HC compete against each other. It was well known that the teams of JC ( Capts & Majs) were physically the most unfit and serious competition was between SC & HC. Col Madhok, later retired as Army Cdr ARTRAC was the top Tennis player of HC. He had been a Blue in tennis from NDA & IMA. He played against me and was surprised to lose 6-0, 6-0. He asked me how this happened? I told him, “Ho jaata hai sir, chance ki baat hai”.
All Foreigners Brigade
In a war-game of canal and DCB based battle, I was the exercise Commander. To support me I had all foreign officers and all were senior to me in service. To take care of all the supporting arms was a Col from the Sri Lankan Army. To head the administration and logistics plan was a Lt Col from the Namibian Army. To assist as staff (BM) I had a Lt Col from the Nepalese Army. This was a memorable experience for me. Our instructor, Brig, told me that an error had occurred and the staff would change the composition of the team given to me. I declined the offer and said that I will work with the team I had got. The result was that I had to do all the work for the Sri Lankan and Nepalese officers. The Namibian officer did most of the work with little help from me. We made good friends. He had been a national level marathoner and shooter. I learned valuable lessons from him.
Playing Tennis with Tara
Tara, daughter of Brig SS Kanbargimath, an instructor at College of Combat was among the top 5-6 women Tennis players in India at that time. I enjoyed playing with her on Sundays. We were well matched. Her dad and I became friends and caught up much later at Bangalore, where he had settled down post retirement and I was posted at 17 SSB.
Outlast and Not Outsmart
The Cdr SC Wing was Gen M Shergill, a real class officer. He was the son of Gen Rajinder Singh, MVC (nicknamed, “Sparrow”), twice elected as MP. He took our final class on, “How to command a battalion?”. A very common question from the aspiring COs was: “I am okay in my attitude but how do I deal with other COs who would be trying to outsmart me?” In my perception Gen Shergill was not well in sync with the Indian mentality and hence he was unable to answer the question well. I sought his permission to answer the question on his behalf. He is a very well read cultured intellectual and permitted me to speak. I explained my philosophy of outlasting competitors rather than outsmarting them. I told the course that when I had joined NDA, I had realized that my competitors were far smarter than me, hence I had no chance of outsmarting them but I still considered myself a competitor. The only solution for me was to outlast my competitors, that was by keeping my mental peace by not trying to outsmart anyone, remaining physically fit and focusing on doing my job well. The course started laughing. The General said, “Though you are talking in a lighter vein, you have made a serious point.”
Just a Good Salute
We have our final interview with the General. He asked for my feedback about the course. I told him that I have no points to make but am glad to just give him a good salute in his office. I did that and left. I have found few inspiring leaders in the Defence Forces. He was one of them. Two others who come to mind are Gen M Thomas our IMA Commandant and Gen J Mehmood, who I worked with when he was the Cdr of Ganganagar Brigade.
Post SC Course I just touched 20 PUNJAB in Kandi-Budhal areas of Jammu in CT operations and was posted out to 23 PUNJAB with the plan of commanding the unit in due course. Gen Bindra, the GOC in Sikkim Division, who had also commanded 23 PUNJAB was the architect of this move. In the next blog I shall talk about joining 23 PUNJAB.