OLQ for Military Officers

Source: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2015/09/olq-officer-like-qualities-in-nutshell.html

Link to my original post in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal:
http://karvediat.blogspot.in/201…

OFFICER LIKE QUALITIES (OLQ) IN A NUTSHELL

The OROP (One Rank One Pension) imbroglio is resulting in many ramifications – many unintended.

Before the OROP issue came to the forefront – most “faujis” and veterans were not aware that the “Top Brass” of the Defence Services were availing OROP by virtue of being in the “Apex Scale”.

In an article titled THE BITTER TRUTH ABOUT OROP a retired IAS Officer revealed that senior bureaucrats and armed forces top brass who retire in the “Apex Scale” would get OROP – that is, their pensions would always be linked to whatever revised Apex Scale the subsequent Pay Commissions decided. The Apex Scale has also been provided to the 3 Service Chiefs and many Lt Gens/Equivalents in Navy/Air Force – so this article implied that all these senior ranking officers are already getting OROP. The author aptly commented: “This may perhaps explain why we have not heard the top echelons of the forces coming out in public support of the demand for universal OROP”.

(Here is the link to the above article: The bitter truth about OROP

Since Generals have not denied the remarks in the above article so far – it is obvious that many retired Generals are getting OROP – and serving Generals/Equivalents will also get OROP irrespective of the outcome of the OROP protests.

Most veterans were aghast that many Generals/Equivalents were availing OROP while their junior officers and soldiers were deprived of OROP.

Is this not a violation of line 2 and 3 of the Chetwode Motto:

“The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time.
The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next.
Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.”

As per the Chetwode Motto – the Military Leadership (comprising Generals/Admirals/Air Marshals and other high ranking Top Brass) should have ensured that their men got OROP before taking OROP themselves.

But the Military Leadership did not do so – and they selfishly took OROP themselves – and as the author implies – since they are entitled for OROP themselves – the military top brass has not come out in support of OROP for their junior officers and soldiers.

Such selfish actions by senior officers lowers their credibility in the eyes of their juniors and military veterans – and even in the eyes of the common citizen

One wonders whether the concept of OLQ (Officer Like Qualities) exists in the Defence Services nowadays – or has OLQ become an antiquated concept which has been junked in the Armed Forces.

All this reminded me of a letter written by an erstwhile Army Chief to all Officers – which I had posted long ago in my blog.

So – let me delve into my blog – and pull out this post for you to read once again.

Long back – nearly 30 years ago – in 1986 – when I was on the faculty of IAT Pune – an Army colleague showed me an open letter his Chief General K Sundarji  had written to all army officers.

It was an open letter – exhorting each and every officer to live up to the high standards of professionalism, élan and values expected of each and every officer (“officer like qualities”).

It was a very inspiring letter – and it left a lasting impression on me.

Later – I searched for it on the internet and I found just one link – yes – just one link – to this famous letter.

We must thank that one person for preserving this motivating piece in cyberspace for posterity.

Though this letter was written almost 30 years ago – in Feb 1986 – I feel that this inspiring letter is most relevant today when the Indian Army is going through difficult times – especially on the moral and ethical front.

In these challenging times – it may be apt for all officers – senior and junior – to read this inspiring letter, ponder on the various points discussed, introspect and reflect on the reasons for the falling standards of OLQ (Officer Like Qualities) in the Defence Services – and take corrective action and aim for self-improvement and upholding service values and ethos.

In the context of OROP – as mentioned in para 8 of the letter – had the “running pay band” concept granted by the 4th Pay Commission been continued and extended to all ranks – the present OROP imbroglio could have been avoided.

But instead of strengthening and improving upon this excellent “integrated pay scale” concept which delinked pay from rank – this superb “running pay band” concept was scrapped – and now we have the OROP issue which is getting worse day by day.

I think it will be a good idea to re-issue this classic letter to all officers once more – especially for the benefit of those senior officers who seem to forgotten the Chetwode Motto and put self before service.

I am giving the url link below – and also – for your convenience – I am also posting the letter below for you to read.

(Courtesy Commander Debashis Mukherjee’s Website url: General K Sundarji)

OPEN LETTER BY THE ARMY CHIEF GENERAL K SUNDARJI TO ALL OFFICERS OF THE INDIAN ARMY

General K Sundarji, PVSM, ADC
Army Headquarters, New Delhi-110 001
1 Feb 86

Dear Brother Officer,

1. It is imperative that we have a totally combat effective Army to support the revitalised India of tomorrow in her rightful place in the world. This involves getting the ‘man-machine mix’ just right, improving the quality of both and placing them in a structure which will be effective in the battlefield milieu of the Nineties and the early decades of 2000. It is an exercise as exciting as it is challenging and I am fully confident that we will succeed.

2. Briefly mentioning the ‘machine’, we have thus far modernised only by discrete changes of weapons systems and equipment. We were also dependent mostly on imported equipment, which apart from not being designed to suit our exact requirements, were also not ‘state of the art’ and at least a generation behind those used by more modern armies. Much of this has changed and is fast changing. Our R & D has come of age and having had a close look at the scene for some years, I can assure you that we are on the verge of take-off. There are still some problems of translation of R & D into production, but these are also being solved fast. Therefore, the time has now come for us to take a total look at technology, threats, tactics and organisations in order to restructure our Army and develop doctrine for the future. This is in hand, and want each one of you to be involved in the process.

3. However, no amount of modernisation of arms, equipment, tactics and organisations can produce results unless we have the right kind of man in the right state of mind, manning the system. And that is what this letter of mine is about.

4. The fact that the Army is one of the national institutions which has, comparatively speaking, weathered the post-independence years and yet remains effective, should not make us complacent. Field Marshal Cariappa used to say, “Good officers – good Army; bad officers – bad Army”. This is as true today as it was then. We should, therefore look at ourselves first and be not only frank but hypercritical. As a whole, the Corps of Officers has lost much of its self esteem, pride and élan; it is becoming increasingly careerist, opportunist and sycophantic; standards of integrity have fallen and honour and patriotism are becoming unfashionable. Paradoxically, all this is happening, while in the narrow sense, professional competence has been going up at all levels since 1947. Broad-based though our intake has become, our young officers have proved in every action which they have fought, that they are brave and lead from the front – our officer casualty ratio in every action testifies to this. Where then, are we going wrong?

5. First, let us look at ourselves — the senior officers; most of us are senior to some of the others and so this includes almost all of us. We have obviously NOT set the right example. Many of us have not professionally kept ourselves up-to-date, doctrinally or technologically; we have felt that that we have ‘got it made’, and rested on our oars; we do not read enough; we do not think enough, and some of course, have been promoted well beyond their capability! In the practise of our profession, we have not insisted on standards being maintained and turn our eyes away from irregularities (living in a glass house?); we have not been tolerant of dissent during discussion and encourage sycophancy (a result of our having ‘switched off’ professionally?) we have not been accepting any mistakes (due to hankering after personal advancement?), thus encouraging our juniors to either do nothing worthwhile or to oversupervise their juniors, who in turn are not allowed to develop professionally or mature as men. This leads to frustration. Finally, some have perhaps unthinkingly developed a yen for 5-star culture and ostentation which flows from new-rich values in our society, where money is the prime indicator of success and social position. This adoption of mercenary values in an organisation like the Army which depends for its élan on values like honour, duty and country above self, is disastrous for its élan and for the self-esteem of the individual in it. Andonce we start thinking of ourselves as third class citizens, it is not long before our civilian brethren take us at our own valuation, and some of them perhaps not without a touch of glee!

6. I am not suggesting that woefully inadequate pay and poor compensation packages for hard and turbulent service conditions, and being forced to live slummily with a poor quality of life do not prevent the development of élan and self-esteem. They do. It is also a fact that the overall compensation package of the servicemen is poor and has deteriorated rapidly over the years. So is it a fact that the present dispensation is inequitable as far as the armed forces are concerned as compared to their peers in other government services. These facts have been brought forcefully to the notice of the Pay Commission and the Government and I will continue to press hard for a fair and equitable deal. I would also like to add that all my contacts with the authorities so far, have convinced me that they are sympathetically aware of our problems. The Prime Minister himself is aware of the psychological problems caused by the unwarranted and continued degradation of service officers in the Warrant of Precedence. He has ordered that this problem be analysed and put up to him. But to tell you all this is not the purpose of this letter; I want to dwell on what we can do, in-house, to increase the élan and self-esteem of the Officer Corps.

7. The bed-rock of élan is the professional competence of individuals and leaders, and the faith, confidence and pride in the effectiveness of the group – the section upwards, to the Army as a whole. In developing professional competence, I would like to emphasise developing an active technological curiosity without which one cannot cope with the battlefield of tomorrow. I want that we read more and seriously, think more and seriously, discuss more and seriously and write more and seriously about professional matters. This last, has been inhibited by our exaggerated and self-defeating system of security classifications and centralised clearance requirements. I intend putting this right speedily. As regards developing group effectiveness, we have to do much more towards making our training mission-oriented, interesting, competitive and effective inspite of the various constraints of which we are well aware. We should certainly avoid training for training’s sake which not only gets to be boring but moves further and further away from the realities of battle conditions. Let us not get to the mentality of the British Colonel of the regular army who is said to have remarked on 11 Nov 1918,“Thank God the war is over; now we can get back to some serious soldiering”!

8. All of us talk about ‘Officer Like Qualities’ and about being officers and gentlemen. I am not sure whether to many of us these terms means the same thing. Being a gentlemen does not mean Westernisation and becoming a poor imitation of a ‘White Sahib’; it does not mean a tie and a jacket or the ability to handle a knife and fork just so! It refers to the ‘Sharafat’ that is ingrained in the best of Indian culture; of honour and integrity; of putting the interests of the county, the Army, the unit and one’s subordinates before one’s own; of doggedness in defeat; of magnanimity in victory; of sympathy for the underdog; of a certain standard of behaviour and personal conduct in all circumstances; of behaving correctly towards one’s seniors, juniors and equals.I am very concerned about the increasing sycophancy towards seniors which unless checked will corrode the entire system. Much of this, I realise, is due to the pernicious system of recompense and financial advancement being totally linked to higher ranks. These are of necessity limited due to functional compulsions, and which notwithstanding cadre reviews, are microscopic compared to prospects of our peers in other Government services. And finally, prospects of promotion in rank, being totally dependent on the reports of the seniors. I am hopeful that the introduction of the ‘Running Pay Band’, which would offer equitable prospects without being fully tied to ranks, would break this vicious circle and help us to develop strong back-bones and guts. I would like to make a point regarding those officers who are unfortunate not to be cleared for promotion to various selection ranks. Barring a very small minority, the bulk of them have not been cleared, not because they are not good, but because the system functionally cannot absorb them in a higher rank, and generally it is a difficult choice. In any of the civil services, these officers would have passed through their respective selection grades with ease. The fact that they are retained in the Service upto the ages of 50, 52, 54 or 56 depending upon their rank, is not an act of philanthropy, but because the Army needs them for a vital function. They are not discards or deadwood; they are the salt of the earth and are required to lead companies, squadrons and batteries in war and it is at this level that actions are won or lost and fill equally vital positions in the various higher ranks at which they have got blocked. A running pay band will recompense them for the job they continue to do well and also restore their self-esteem.

9. On the symbolic and psychological plane, I would like to see much less of obsequious and compulsive ‘sirring’. A ‘Sir’ on the first meeting for the day ought to be adequate, followed up in later conversation by ‘Major’ or ‘Colonel’ or ‘General’ as the case may be. I am not suggesting familiarity or impertinence – seniors ought to be treated with due respect and courtesy but cringing must be avoided.

10. On the part of the seniors, there is an unfortunate tendency today of more or less sticking to one’s own rank level even in social intercourse and not mixing adequately with junior officers. This must be put right. We cannot afford to have a caste-system within the Officer Corps. In dealings with peers and juniors also, courtesy, consideration and good manners are equally essential. There is none so disgusting as a person who boot-licks the senior, boots the junior and cuts the throats of his peers. I also notice that of late there has been a regrettable communication gap developing between officers and men. I attribute this primarily to selfishness on the part of the officers and not caring enough about the men. This must be corrected. At all levels, we must insist that we live up to the Chetwodeian motto.

11. There is a lot that we can do to improve our quality of life. The standards of officers’ messes in all areas have deteriorated badly. Dust, dirt and grime, sloppily turned out mess staff, chipped and cracked crockery, unpolished furniture and silver etc, are more and more in evidence. A pseudo-plush decor is attempted, with expensive and garish curtains and upholstery, wall to wall carpeting and so on; these cannot compensate for lack of care, attention to detail and maintenance of standards; nor can aerosol room fresheners substitute for fresh air and cleanliness. Messes are generally run down and seedy on a daily basis and though special efforts are made to spruce them up for special occasions (generally following the aerosol route) the lack of standards still comes through. This must be put right by the painstaking method of insisting on standards. We must keep the messes traditional without opting for a 5-star decor. The standard of food is generally poor and lacking in variety, not because the ingredients are not available but because of lack of attention to organisation and poor training of cooks. With free rations, there is no reason as to why we cannot spend a little on training our cooks and modernising our kitchens. While on the quality of life, I must mention that by custom and usage of service, some privileges do go with added responsibility and senior rank, and I am sure that none would grudge these if used sensibly. However, in some cases senior officers tend to get delusions of grandeur and overdo their privileges on a Moghul style. This is bad and must stop. Otherwise privileges themselves might be withdrawn.

12. We must encourage our officers to make full use of the opportunities that the Service provides of developing a wide range of interests. We serve in all parts of the country, including inaccessible areas, to get where civilians have to invest in money and effort. We have the advantage of infrastructure available country-wide. Apart from opportunities for all kinds of adventure activities, interests in astronomy, photography, fishing, wild life, bird-watching, conservation and so on can be cultivated with little expense. There is a lot going for life in the Service and we must make the most of it.

13. Let us all resolve that we will :-

(a) Shed the dead weight of mediocrity and strive for excellence, each one in his own sphere.

(b) Hold fast to all that is best in our traditions and the finest in values, while doing away with the useless and meaningless.

(c) Avoid ostentation.

(d) Not sell our souls for a good ACR and promotion.

(e) Constantly enhance and update our professional competence.

(f) Sensibly decentralise authority and responsibility.

(g) Permit maximum initiative to our subordinates, and accept a fair quota of honest mistakes as necessary payment for their professional growth and maturity.

(h) Encourage dissent and new ideas at the policy formulation and discussion stage and insist on implicit obedience in the right spirit, post-decision, at the execution stage.

(j) Cultivate a justifiable pride in ourselves, our units, formations, the Army and the Country.

(k) And finally, live up to the motto:

“The safety, honour and welfare of your Country come first, always and everytime. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last always and everytime”.

14. Before I close, a word to our professional cynics! I can almost hear some say, “Well, we have known all this for quite a while but what’s been done? I’ll believe that something is going to be done when I see something happening on the ground”!

15. As a people, thus far, we have generally been waiting for initiatives from on top; for neatly gift-wrapped solutions from ‘authority’; we have waited for the ‘Sarkar’ or ‘Bhup Singh’ or whoever, to do it.

16. I put it to you, that YOU have to do something about it too. We have everything — the brains, the bravery, the technology, the skills, the ability — all we have to do is to get YOU moving and ‘Get our Act together’ and there is no stopping us!

God Speed!
Yours sincerely,
General K Sundarji

Isn’t this a truly inspiring letter?

Notice the frequent use of the term “élan”.

That’s what we believed in when we were in the Navy too – the Navy is not just a career, the Navy is a way of life, of which Élan and Self-Esteemare the bedrock.

Also – I wonder whether any other Chief has written a similar open letter to his officers and men.

Please comment. I appreciate your feedback.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: