Peek at army class system, via US eyes

Discussion in 'Indian Army' started by Ray, Nov 2, 2013.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Peek at army class system, via US eyes

    - American trainee talks of ‘pretty different’ culture of batmen serving officers


    SUJAN DUTTA

    [​IMG]
    Laura Condyles displays her battalion’s shirt in front of Taj Mahal


    New Delhi, Nov. 1: An American army officer’s account of her time training in Agra has given a glimpse into the class-system in the Indian Army and has stoked once again the debate of assigning sahayaks — or batmen — who are often required to do personal work of officers.

    First Lieutenant Laura Condyles’ account, narrated to the US army’s official publicity wing, suggests she had a grand time during her 52-day course at the Para Training School in Agra in August-September.

    But the insight it shares — that the Indian Army differentiates sharply between officers and soldiers and that it operates with poor infrastructure — have made senior officials here take note.

    There are exceptions to the sahayak rule — not all officers ask the batmen to do personal work — but that does not shine through in Condyles’ narration.

    The Indian Army’s structure “is pretty different,” the US army official wire release quotes the 25-year-old parachute rigger-qualified officer as saying.

    “When you are an officer on post, they cook your meal for you, or they deliver it to your room. They clean your bathroom for you every day. They mop your floors in your room every day. They even make your bed for you every day, and they do your laundry every single day,” says Condyles.

    The observations make Indian Army officers touchy. Former army chief General V.K. Singh had proposed to do away with the sahayak system and replace them with civilians. He had argued it was not proper for professional soldiers to be forced to do such work.

    A parliamentary standing committee has also recommended the abolition of the system dating back to the British Indian Army. The British have done away with it.

    But Condyles says that life was difficult in Agra, even with the conveniences. “I had electricity about 40 to 50 per cent of the time,” she says in the account.

    The parachute rigger-qualification course trains soldiers in lashing and packaging equipment, including food and hardware, for airdrops. Many of the Indian Army’s forward posts — such as those in Siachen — are “air-maintained”.

    Laura Condyles said she was the first foreign officer to qualify with an ‘I” grade — meaning she showed skills good enough for her to be an instructor. “I got it! I’m the first foreign officer that’s ever gotten the “i” grade before, so that was pretty neat!”

    “I loved it! I had a great time,” said Condyles. “The cool thing was I’m the first American that went to the course. They had other foreign officers that went to this course before too, one from Sri Lanka, one from Ethiopia, from Nepal, and Pakistan.”

    The American officer is wrong when she says a Pakistani was also part of the course. The Indian Army has no personnel exchange programme with Pakistan.

    “They drop live animals,” she was quoted. “They put chickens and goats on a platform and drop them in for food”.

    Condyles said cows would often enter the air force station in Agra and even the hangars in which the equipment was parachute-rigged. Among the rations dropped during the course were bagged items, tent supplies, bottles, hay, medical provisions, fish, meat on hoof, meat dressed, frozen meat, chicken dressed, chicken alive, fruits and vegetables, and fuel, oil and lubricants.

    “At their motor pools they have temples. So, before you get into a military vehicle and drive away, you have to pray to the gods.” Condyles said.

    Peek at army class system, via US eyes


    ***********************************************************

    This issue was brought to me yesterday by a poster through a PM.

    I could not answer him in details since I did not have much information on what the lady had said and the background.

    I will attempt to explain her conundrum.

    The problem with all human beings is that they compare perceptions with stereotypes and based on their own cultural background and environment.

    She has done merely a short course and her exposure to the Indian military and India's culture is limited. Further, she is basing her opinion on what is done in the US Army, which is totally different in culture, traditions as also technology assisting their way of life in the US.

    There is a difference in India between officers and men. Indeed, there is no scope for undue familiarity, because familiarity breeds contempt. Unlike the US Army which is actually run by the Sergeants, the Indian Army is run by officer and that is why WE Ewald found it extraordinary in that thread that Officer organise Golf Competition and wondered why it is not left to the Sergeants.

    Since there is very little difference between the soldier and the officer in background, too much of familiarity may give rise to questioning of orders and that does not encourage efficiency for an Army that is currently continuous 'at war', conventional and unconventional, since the Independence.

    On the issue of shayaks. They are called 'buddy' these days. Today's soldier is not the old ji hazoor, main baap class of the Raj and some part of post Independence Indian Army. They are educated and more aware and therefore, it would be a misconception that anyone would do menial work.

    Further, unlike the US Army, where an officer can be posted to 'n' number of unit, an officer of the Indian Army remains in the same unit from the day of his commissioning to the time he takes command of the unit. Therefore, the bonding between the officer and his boys is much more stronger than in the US Army. In fact, the unit is The Family, and in many units, there is the legacy of son following the father to that unit. I know of many fathers who were sahayaks to the father of the CO and it is obvious that he would have a soft corner for the CO and instruct his son to show deference to the CO since the father had practically brought the CO up and was like his own son.

    Obviously, the son, given Indian culture of obedience to the parent, would go out of his way to assist the CO in his discharge of duty that required the input of the son of the JCO, who was the CO's father's sahayak or in the unit working shoulder to shoulder.

    Therefore, the US Army lady officer found the 'looking after' aspect by soldiers a wee over the top.

    She does not have the luxury of remaining in one unit till she commands, and so she finds the bonding odd.

    As far a soldiers cooking the food and serving, I am not aware of what it is in the US Army.

    However, in the Indian Army, we have cooks authorised to the Officers Mess and to the Langars (cookhouse for troops).So, it is nothing usual that the IA cook cooks.

    As far as serving, Mess Waiters are authorised. And so they serve.

    And there is also a Masalchi authorised who grinds the masala and washes the utensils. These days the mixie is used extensively.

    One might add that Indian food, unlike Western food, is very elaborate and cannot be whipped up by dousing it with ready made sauces and sprinkled with herbs. Indians find Western food bland and most unpalatable and that is why the Indian contingent has rejected the Western rations while under the UN Flag.

    So, nothing unusual.

    Washing clothes and swabbing the floor?

    The washermen is authorised to all including troops. If they do not wash clothes what are they supposed to do?

    And these days, it is done through commercial washing machines!

    The safaiwala is authorised to all. They keep the lines and the rooms clean and hygienic.

    So, no one is doing anyone a favour.

    However, someone has failed to explain this to the US lady officer and so she has acted 'knowledgeable' with half baked information and perception, and may have appeared as an 'expert' for her domestic audience.

    As far as he 'observation' on power cuts in Agra, well, that is a part of life in many parts of India. Those parts are used to this phenomenon, but the lady is not and so she found it odd.

    That way Indians also find it odd that people can subsist on junk food and are so huge that US airlines contemplate charging such huge people two tickets for one person!

    Indeed at the MT Park (motor pool in the US), there is a religious structure. The lady finds that odd. That is because she does not know the Indian culture. Indians are very religious, more so, those who work in professions where life is cheap. Hence, before leaving the MT Park, the driver bends his head as he drives past. There is no hard and fast rule that the driver or the passengers have to halt and pray.

    In fact, in the Army there are many such places where there are small 'temples' of Pir (Muslim saints graves), Hindu temples, Sikh solider's memorial. along treacherous mountain routes, where it is customary for vehicles and convoys to halt and put an offering.

    I used to find it a waste of time. So, once I told my driver while going up the mountain road during winter on an emergency tactical situation, not to stop but drive on. Call it what you may, the jeep skidded half way through and halted just at the precipice! The result was that, even though I continued to be a non believer, I did not hesitate to halt. I possible did not want to challenge a belief lest the belief challenged me!

    That she has very little idea of Asia, its culture, its geopolitics or geostrategy, is evident that she feels that there was a Pakistani doing the Indian course with her.

    Therefore, she is entitled to her perception, but all I would say, it is misplaced since a 52-day course at the Para Training School in Agra would not have giving her an opportunity to understand India and its culture, traditions, customs and religious beliefs or to understand the Indian Army's customs and etiquettes. organisational imperatives etc, to comment knowledgeably.

    It is like the Indian 'been there, done that' tourist, who dips his or her toe in the Hudson river and becomes an expert on all aspects of the US and its society!
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013
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  3. Decklander

    Decklander New Member

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    IA must do away with this system as it will release nearly 3 divisions for work. IA has over 50k officers and each one has a batman. So we are looking at nearly divisions of troops deployed just for the officers. IAF & IN have a system of civilian orderlies and that shud be implemented in IA also. Compared to IAF & IN, IA does operate in areas where you can't have civilians available but we can make an exception for only such areas as in such areas the jawan will not be forced to do household duties and be at the whims and fancies of Officers wives. Infact in IN we remove the civilian staff from ships during war sailing. The laundry and uniform upkeep is done by civil orderlies in IN for the officers and we pay them directly from our pockets.
     
  4. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    What house hold duties does a buddy do?

    These days such activities will get you into trouble.

    IA has become very sensitive to the same.

    There will be aberrations and I won't deny that.

    The laundry is paid for, through the Mess bill.

    LIkewise, the safaiwala is paid for, again through the Mess Bill.

    Why through the Mess bill is because it will ensure that no one can default on that issue.

    And in training establishments, the orderlies are civilians and paid civil rates.

    In army units, even in peace stations, it would not be wise to have civilians milling around, in these days of uncertainties.

    I wonder if civilian orderlies do the uniform upkeep on board ship or while ships are in the dock.

    Flag Officers have stewards assigned to them.

    I have gone to INS Hamla on an official assignment and the manner in which your Stewards and Cooks are trained was most educative, fascinating and something that Indian Army has never experienced in its existence!

    In the IAF, I wonder if there are civilians around the operational areas to include the apron, runway, control tower, etc.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013
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  5. pkroyal

    pkroyal Regular Member

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    I did this course in PTS, Agra in 1996.

    Sahayaks are not authorized or available for the course.

    A civilian bearer, over 10 officers attending the course does the room, shoes and uniform etc.

    Yes the course is interesting with air drop being organized from "N" area Transit Camp and course students get to supervise drops on posts like " Kumar" etc.

    Getting an "I" is not a very big deal as 08 of us got it, out of 38 or so.

    This young lady has been given preferential treatment as she is a lady and guest from a friendly foreign country.( is USA friendly ?)

    Maybe she was given accommodation in the Para Brigade. (Airborne Trg & Drop) School is an adjunct of PTS at Agra.
     
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  6. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Thanks for this information about PTS.

    I forget that it was an IAF unit.

    I presume since she was a foreigner, it was laid thick so that she is 'pleased' and takes back a favourable memory of her time in India.
     
  7. pkroyal

    pkroyal Regular Member

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    During OP " Desert Storm" Gen Norman Schwazarkopf had four authorized orderlies (sahayaks). Their names and functions are well documented.

    Sahayaks in OP area ensure that the commander is relieved from mundane, time consuming, personal administrative functions and has the time and

    energy always available for the operational task at hand.

    Duties in peace stations may be reviewed .
     
  8. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    Reminds me of the US military saying, "At the Pentagon, captains (0-3) are used as hat racks."
     
  9. Decklander

    Decklander New Member

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    Sir, Our civilian orderlies sail onboard our ships during peacetime. they are disembarked during wartime or war patrols. the CO and flag ranks have cook and stewards posted for their support but they still have civilian orderlies who do up their laundry and shoes etc. The steward is their to serve the CO & his guests while the cook does the cooking only. You will be surprised to know that our stewards are known to be experts at making cocktails and serving every wine/scotch in the perfect manner. Their promotions are based on these. IN cooks and stewards are in high demand as bar tenders and cooks in five star hotels all over India and SE+ME countries.
    The IAF have NCs, they lookafter breakfast rooms, cooking in the sqn and other services like what stewards do but they are not allowed into operational areas without express permission.
     
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  10. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    I don't have a problem with flag officers having attendants, but junior officers don't have the responsibilities to not take time to do basic housekeeping. The waste of resources is staggering.
     
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  11. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    It is a misconception that the orderlies are at the beck and call of the officer or JCO 24 x 7.

    Technically, this cannot be fudged because their is a Annual Task Chart to include when the man went on leave and when he attended the training cycle etc.

    This is checked in the Annual Administrative Inspection.
     
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  12. Blood+

    Blood+ Regular Member

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    THANX sir.Here I would want to ask some questions:
    1.You mentioned that the US Army and USMC are in most part run by sgts.Sir,what's wrong with that??I mean why can't the IA implement the same here?Is it due to some deficiency in educational level here in India?

    2.Now, I don't know much (ok,may be nothing at all) wrt soldier-officer-NCO relation in US Army and USMC.But from the Hollywood pictures atleast,it seems that they share quite friendly relation,which it seems not quite the case here in IA.Now if the holy is true,then why can't such relationship be established here??
    I mean to say,it didn't create much problems for the US,atleast it doesn't seem it did if we look at their past wars-be it Vietnam,or A'stan or Iraq;in each and every war they inflicted massive casualties on their enemies compared to what they suffered-so why can't the Indians do the same?

    By the way,PLEASE don't think that I'm questioning your logic and knowledge.I neither have the intention nor the capability to do so,I'm merely trying to compare both countries.
     
  13. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Is this question for me?

    I have only a perfunctory knowledge about the workings of the US Army - some exposure and mostly, through written literature and studying of military history.

    From interaction and from all sources, I am led to believe that the NCOs play a very large part in the conduct of activities of the US Army.

    Indeed the Indian Army could do that, but then I presume the ethos has not taken shape and those who are NCOs prefer to leave the responsibilities to the officers, rather than hold the can. But then this could vary depending on the individual and his attitude. There are case of high degree of initiative shown by JCOs and NCOs too and even what used to be called Non Combatant UnEnrolled

    Only a few might be aware that a civilian Dhobi (Washerman), Ram Chander, won a MVC for rescuing an officer wounded during an ambush, shooting down several enemy troops in the process. Another civilian, a porter named M. Ismail, also won a MVC for similar heroism on the Zoji La front, while another porter Zuma Mohammad received the Vir Chakra for saving the life of Lt Col MM Khanna when he was severely wounded in an enemy ambush near Pandu.
    Operations - 1948 OPS

    I would not go by Hollywood movies, they exaggerate.

    I don't think that in the Indian Army, the Officer - JCO - Other Ranks relations is not good.

    The US' relations with NCOs have not really been that wonderful as one may believe, because 'fragging' became a household word and is now also happening with us. Of course, they had a conscript army.

    In war and reporting of war there is a chasm between truth and reality in any Army.
     
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  14. Blood+

    Blood+ Regular Member

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    Yes Sir,my questions were indeed for you.Who elso they would be for anyway?THANX for your replies.
    And I never said that the soldier-JCO-Officer relation in IA is not good.In many sites, there are many posters claiming to be US Army or USMC personels post various replies from which one might come to a conclusion that their officers,NCOs and privates share very 'friendly' relations to the extent that calling each other with pet names!!That did occur to me as quite over the top but then again what do I know?That's why I asked.

    And even though you may not have visited US,but I'm sure you must have met a few US Soldiers,NCOs etc or atleast heard about their ways,level of training etc from some of your US returned felow staff officers.So what do you think about their privates,NCOs etc.I mean are they like smarter,more educated,better trained etc etc compared to their Indian counter parts??
    Believe it or not that's the general idea among the common men here,I just want to know your views.

    THANX.
     
  15. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    I have taught US officers and have done a course with them (one became an Admiral in the US Navy) in India alright, but not the NCOs or privates.

    The Admiral was Admiral Walter F Doran (retd) of the United States Navy, whose association with India goes back 34 years reminisces his time and the friendships he built during his days at the Indian Defence Services Staff College in Wellington, Tamil Nadu.

    Erstwhile commander in chief of the United States Pacific fleet, Admiral Walter F Doran (retd), whose association with India goes back 34 years to his attendance at the Indian Defence Services Staff College in Wellington, Tamil Nadu, says it is imperative that Americans understand that "the US-India relationship is going to be a generational issue."
    http://www.terminalx.org/2012/11/fo...us-relationship-going-to-be-generational.html

    Waltar was a through gentleman and his wife was a lady with immense grace.

    Yes, in my interaction with those officers of the Indian Army who have visited the US on tours or courses, they have indicated that off parade hours there is no difference between an officer and the men, and it is not usual for them to visit each other's house for a drink or dinner.

    That does not happen in the Indian Army as a natural course of affairs, though it can't be said it does not happen since some troopers maybe from the officer's village or even his relative. Naturally, you cannot act an officer at that time.

    One of my uncle, who ran away from home, I met in service and he was a JCO. It is obvious that off parade I would not think he was a JCO and instead look on him as my uncle.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2013
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  16. Blood+

    Blood+ Regular Member

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    Thank you for your reply Ray sir.By the way,did you mean to say not unusual??

    And I think the 'friendly' interaction between Officers-JCOs-ORs should be encouraged in IA.Who knows,it might reduce the incidents of clashes between them.Though I also know it can not come over night.Anyways,just a thought I thought I should share.There are much more qualified men like you to make the decisions for the IA.

    Good night and VERY MANY THANX again.
     
  17. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    The clashes happened since the many aspects of professionalism, as also certain norms of the age old protocols of Officer Man relationship was overlooked.

    I will not go into details, if you please.
     
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  18. cobra commando

    cobra commando Tharki regiment Veteran Member Senior Member

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