Nov 12, 2008


Drill Sergeant (Afemo Omilami): Gump! What's your sole purpose in this army?
Forrest Gump: To do whatever you tell me, drill sergeant.
Drill Sergeant: God damn it, Gump! You're a goddamn genius. That's the most outstanding answer I've ever heard. You must have a goddamn IQ of 160. You are goddamn gifted, Private Gump.
Forrest Gump: Now for some reason I fit in the army like one of them round pegs. It's not really hard. You just make your bed real neat and remember to stand up straight and always answer every question with "Yes, drill sergeant."
- Dialogues excerpted from the movie 'Forrest Gump'.
The LTTE and Taliban can train in three months, the Army to train, takes years. Why? Because recruits and cadets are busier training on something called Cabin Cupboard, scrubbing and mansion polishing floors. And when they are done doing that, they are trying their utmost to dig up the tarmac on the parade ground with their heels. It's actually akin to banging ones head against the wall. And in both cases. the damage is to ones own brains.

While quite young I once heard someone say that Army was for duds. Having spent a fair bit of time in the Army I cannot but disagree, Army is not for duds. But to fit into the Army like one of those round pegs, one has to convert to a dud. A Commanding Officer is instructed by powers that be, that troops be warned, to guard against getting drugged on trains, warned, not to accept eatables from fellow passengers. I thought this kind of wisdom was required by small children who were about to undertake their maiden journey all by themselves, and not by soldiers who had children of their own. But to my horror and dismay, there was worse to come. Instructions were issued, to ensure that troops proceeding on leave or temporary duty  be provided cooked rations and water to last them their entire journey. Well, well, well! One thing is for sure, whoever got this ludicrous idea, would have had to have an IQ better than that of Forrest Gump.

Isn't it amazing, how soldiers, in numbers, large enough to ruffle feathers in the higher echelons, have been falling prey to instances of drugging. A guy is travelling to Goa, somewhere enroute he loses his senses. When he wakes up, he finds himself at Kanpur Railway Station, sans his luggage, money and the rest of it. We haven't heard of this kind of thing happening to adults from other walks of life. Have we? Why does it happen to soldiers ? Because soldiers are trained to fit into the Army like one of those round pegs. (Just like Forrest Gump)

The problem is that formal training of officers and recruits focuses much more on spit and polish than is necessary. The amount of time and energy spent trying to dig up the the parade ground with ones heels is not even funny. Why is it required? Because drill is supposed to be the bedrock of discipline? But the moment one is out of sight of the drill sergeant and his cane, all discipline gets thrown to the wind. Remember midterm mood? The sole motive of all the drill sergeants or for that matter any of the instructors especially NCOs and JCOs appears to be, to find faults in cadets and get them punished. The atmosphere in which training gets conducted, be that in the PT field, Parade ground firing range, or anywhere else, all of it, more often than not feels like punishment. It is no surprise therefore, that LTTE and Taliban are much faster on the uptake. They obviously don't waste time in frills, spit and polish or in military lingo 'BULLSHIT'. Remove all of these from Army training, make the whole process fun and informal and I am certain, results will speak for themselves.
However, what is most surprising is that nobody has so far, it appears, tried to change the training methodology. Curriculum, yes, but methodology, no. It's said that the Army trained the LTTE, which in turn gave it a bloody nose later. Is there a need for some introspection? Maybe we need to learn a thing or two from these militant outfits too.

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