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Ablaze in a Blizzard

Ablaze in a Blizzard - Col.(Retd.) P. Ganesan





The Regimentation & Confidential Reports



The Regimentation

So we had seen how the officers were of different types and how each category was serving by itself. If Patriotism was the main source of inspiration to join the Army then there might not be much difference. But it was not so in practical life and services of army. Each one was trying to play the game in such a way that he was always in the good book of the Commanding Officer. I was straight, blunt and physically very strong generally much better in overall performance. But these qualities might not seem to be sufficient enough to impress the Commanding Officer. The CO had his own way of assessing the performance of officers.

I returned to unit after my marriage and the unit had temporarily moved to Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. On one evening when the officers were playing games, the staff officer to CO called me, and gave the office locker key and requested me to trace my confidential report and sign it and return the key. I went and opened the locker and found that in a file about all officers' confidential reports. In the process of tracing my report I couldn't avoid seeing other officer's reports as well. To my surprise few of the officers who were much below standard than me, were graded much above me. I could not understand in what way I was inferior to them. However I could not complain as it was confidential and I was graded above average. But I was disappointed and felt that patriotism had different meaning in the Army.

4ER moved from Bangalore to LEH in Oct. 1974 and I was posted to MEG & Centre, Bangalore. But the CO ordered me to go by Air to Leh and wait for the Regiment to join. When the Regiment reached Leh I was ordered to move to Kargil and report to 121 Independent Brigade as their Field company Commander and relieve 411 Para Field Company. Though I did all these without any hesitation, I held the feeling that I had been rated below few officers and I was under orders of posting to MEG.

Since the Regiment moved to high altitude in Oct-Nov without much acclimatisation quite a number of officers and men were falling sick. The officer who was in charge of snow clearance at Changla to keep Leh-Dharbog road open, fell sick and I was asked to take over that task. I went there and happily doing the work. But there was heavy snow fall one day and my assistant officer also fell sick. I took him to Leh and got him admitted in the military hospital.

It was about 4 months after my posting out and still I was not relieved. Finally I had an argument with CO and left Leh in Feb 1975.

The confidential Reports

An incapable officer by virtue of his closeness to initiating officer (IO) might get an outstanding report. But the reporting officer (RO) if he was a gentleman and honest in his service would call the IO and warn him not to over assess officers. On the other hand if that person was also soft natured & liked, out of rules he would simply counter sign the IO report.

I was a Major commanding a Field Unit. Under me there were about 50 NCOs (non- commissioned officers). Like officers NCO and JCOs were also eligible for ACRs (Annual Confidential Reports). An ACR of one NCO returned from records for some technical reason. This ACR was initiated by his predecessor and the NCO was given 2 out of 4. I had spent about 3 months and I knew the NCO a radio operator by trade, a physically tough and well cooperative with other soldiers. Why he had been graded as average and given 2/4? Could there be personal reason? I called the NCO and interviewed him. The NCO was unknown to the Officer as he was with another subunit. So just for the formalities he had completed the ACR and sent. Fortunately there was a technical mistake and hence the ACR was to be re written.

I wrote a genuine and unbiased report and sent to records. After few days, higher promotion cadre started for NCOs at MEG & Centre Bangalore. Since these were on the basis of seniority those eligible NCOs were already at centre. For some reasons the vacancies were increased suddenly and eligible NCOs were called by telegram. In this case, my NCO was also called. But other officers objected to this as this NCO was very junior and in his place other senior NCO should be sent. The CO ruled out this and sent my NCO. This NCO became an asset to the Regiment and went to UN Mission and later became Sub Maj. of the Regiment. Officer's confidential reports were also like that only.

This had been my disadvantage. But I was aware of that and fully prepared to face the consequences of my act.

The Commanding Officer

A team of officers were already there when a CO took over. He might add or remove according to his wish. Some of the officers might be already known to him or some not. It should be the moral responsibility of the CO to look at everyone dispassionately and should take care of the team together as & when they performed. Many of the COs took this opportunity for elevating themself by using the Regimental resources, both men and materials. Some of the junior officers who questioned any misuse would obviously be in his bad book and might be victimised in the ACR.

This showed that the fire in the belly of the individual should always be burning for performance. Even though I had some unpleasant experience in Leh, the CO was a gentleman and hence things moved smoothly.

I reported to MEG & Centre, Bangalore and was appointed as Training officer of a Training Battalion. Thousands of young boys who knowingly or unknowingly opted to be soldiers were motivated, inspired and trained there. I dived like fish to deep water and enjoyed my tenure there.

Reflections



We had earlier seen the Army assessed its officers and other ranks through confidential reports. These reports were initiated by one and reported by seniors in the channel of command. The initiating officer should be in such position to observe the officer's activities on daily basis at least for three months. These confidential reports were the personal assessment of the initiating officer.


I was an outstanding sports man, physically very tough, and was doing very well in all trainings. But I was not soft natured and did not go out of the way to please seniors.


Irrespective of the levels in the chain of promotion, if one can reach Commanding a Battalion or its equivalent (Lt Col/Col) is the best appointment in the services. The Commanding Officer is the Godfather of all ranks of the Regiment, who will guard the tradition set by his predecessors and at the same time takes care of the welfare and trainings of his command during war and peace time. Commanding Officer is not an individual but an institution. He will train all ranks to the best of his abilities. His appointment shall be considered as an opportunity given to him to showcase the faith and integrity imposed by the system and improve on it depending upon the scientific and technological advancement existed at that time.


A capable officer whether he is a CO or a junior will in any case shine wherever be posted. For instance at one time an Officer, who was demoted for some reasons earlier, was later awarded as "Scientific Officer of the year".