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Tour of Duty: A Soldier’s View

Introduction

The Indian Army presently has two types of joining- Permanent Commission (PC) and Short Service Commission (SSC) for Officers whereas only permanent recruitment for jawans. While PC officers serve for a mandatory period of minimum 20 years and retire as per the age, SSC officers have a tenure of 10 years extendable upto 14 years of service. According to a new proposal, young working professionals from the civil street are to be recruited under the Tour of Duty Scheme who will be eligible to be deployed as combatants in key forward locations and there will be no restrictions in their roles.

The Proposal

As per the proposal, the volunteers will join the force for three years as officers and jawans in areas like logistics and front-line formations Apart from the civil working professionals, Army is also considering recruiting personnel from the paramilitary and central armed police forces for up to seven years, after which they would be allowed to return to their parent organisations.  The scheme is yet to be discussed and approved by the top Army Commanders. If the scheme is approved, it will be a voluntary engagement and there will be no dilution in selection criteria. Initially, 100 officers and 1,000 men are being considered for recruitment.

A Soldier’s View

Although, fine details of the scheme are yet to be known and finalized, however, it is felt that the following issues need to be considered and included in the proposal:

  • Whether the scheme will be applicable for only males only or for males/females?
  • Process of selection and the Qualitative Requirements of age, qualifications and medical standards
  • The proposed three-year tenure will be inclusive of the training period or exclusive of training?
  • In case young professionals are being considered, will they be paid(?), as most of them would already be earning and would not like to forego their incomes. In case of personnel from Paramilitary and Central Armed Police Forces, the issue of income will be minor as it will be a matter of book debit from MoD to MHA
  • Employment opportunities for such personnel post the three-year period. This is likely to be a big factor as the personnel would have lost touch with developments in their fields and ready absorption in their erstwhile organisations with ante date seniority would need to be assured. In case commitment from industry is not forthcoming, the personnel may not be attracted to the scheme
  • At the end of the tenure, will the personnel be given a choice for extension / be absorbed as SSC officers or jawans, if found fit and desirable? Considering the shortage of strength in the army, the same may be beneficial.
  • As per army norms, each individual is authorized 60 days of leave in a year amounting to a total of 6 months non-availability of the officer/jawan in a three-year period. It is therefore pertinent to consider the leave and other entitlements separately.
  • As the individuals cannot have an Ex-Servicemen Status post the three-year period, in order to attract the personnel, there needs to be an incentive given which can give a sense of pride to the individual and distinguish him from the rest. This may be in the form of permitting him to use his rank or any such privilege.

An Analysis of Three Years

Not only is the profession of arms an art, but with the advent of technology and modern trends in warfare coupled with cross border terrorism, it has become complex and multifaceted demanding profession requiring a sharp mind, sound knowledge base and ability to take quick, bold decisions under very testing circumstances of weather and combat conditions. The full wrath of the operations is largely faced by jawans and young officers in direct contact with the enemy and terrorists requiring quick adaptations and innovations to the methods to meet the dynamic situations developing on the ground. This, therefore, needs jawans and young officers to have sound basic military training, specialised training of their own arm/service, knowledge of all entities working in support and a detailed understanding of plans. At a jawan’s level, there is a need to have high weapon/ equipment handling skills, and other basic military training to understand and execute the military tasks assigned to him in the overall gambit of an operation/ event. It needs to be clearly understood that operational tasks at officers and jawans level need very detailed and seamless cooperation and coordination at all levels, the failure of which may cost lives. In view of the above, it has been experienced that a young fresh officer/jawan always needs constant supervision and back up to perform the assigned tasks. Despite the military training imparted to them, the “seasoning” of a soldier (officers included) takes anything from 6-9 months in operational tasks.

Keeping the above in mind, a three-year Tour Of Duty needs to be reviewed. Presently, an officer is being trained for 18 months in case of a PC and for 9 months in case of an SSC; whereas a jawan is imparted training for a period of 52 weeks. In the case of Officers, the training is basic military training with no specialised training of the arm/ service where he would serve. For this purpose, an officer is only considered “just fit” to handle tasks in his unit after he undergoes Young Officers course of six months imparting him specialised training of his arm. In the case of a jawan, limited specialised training about his arm is imparted as an integral part of his 52-week course. It would, therefore, be clear that an officer is only available for some limited professional tasks in his unit after a minimum training of 18 months (basic+ specialised) and a jawan after one year. As stated above, even if an officer/ jawan is seasoned in 6 months, a total time of 18working months (in case of a jawan) and 24 working months (in case of an officer) are consumed before he can be actually called “operational”. It will, therefore, be pertinent to decide that the three-year tenure should be exclusive of the training period.

The Selection Process

The present-day selection process of the army with a written exam, Service Selection Board (SSB) Interview and medical takes an approximate time of six months which may prove to be too long for this scheme. This would need to be reviewed.

Recommendations

After considering the above, the following are recommended for consideration by the Army HQ and MoD regarding the scheme

  • The tenure should be three years exclusive of the training period
  • It is recommended that to cut short the process of selection, IPS and Paramilitary force officers be selected for the tenure. This would give an added advantage of closer civil-military cooperation and better camaraderie in times to come. Officers of civil services such as IAS etc. can also be considered. This will give them a better understanding of military issues later in service
  • Post-tenure employment issues and incentives need to be worked out

Conclusion

The Army has proposed the scheme to save on training costs and utilize the funds saved for modernization of the army. However, this scheme should be viewed holistically to achieve larger results of better cooperation and camaraderie between civil services, military and the industry.

Col Manoj Mehrotra
Col Manoj Mehrotra
Author is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy and has now retired after 33 years of service. He was commissioned in the Army Air Defence and has a rich experience in different designations as well as locations. He has also been Principal Consultant to Department of Urban Development, Govt. of MP for Smart City Projects. He can be reached at his email manoj_42ch@yahoo.co.in.
Vipul Mehrotra
Vipul Mehrotra
Author is a seasoned management professional. Honourable Member of various Think Tanks and Associations in Defence & Security. He contributes in multiple research organizations and publications with his domain expertise in Defence & Security. He can be reached through his LinkedIn Profile: www.linkedin.com/in/vipul-mehrotra

1 reply on “Tour of Duty: A Soldier’s View”

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I further want to add…what about the individuals who loose their life or are incapacitated permanently or temporarily during these three years. Paying them a couple of lakhs is not the only answer. They would be young ….implying they would have young spouse and kid(s). In case incapacitated, they will have a full life ahead….



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