The Chetwode Motto is etched in the minds of those serving and of course the Veterans.
By Lt Col Manoj K Channan (Retd)
It’s natural that those who serve the Nation at the end of Service must retire. In the earlier days it was often quoted that “Old Soldiers Fade Away”. Nowadays the man in uniform after pensionable service explores a second career option. Some go through the director-general re-settlement for courses at the IIMs / MDI known as the Armed Forces Program a six months MBA diploma preparing the Serviceman for a Corporate environment.
Many have opted for pursuing a degree and have joined the print and electronic media to analyse and put forth the views on various subjects that are of interest. This is an encouraging sign as Service Officers in their careers do write Service Papers/dissertations and assessments on diverse subjects. Off late what is discernible is that the TV channels have explored nouveau methods to make their prime time shows interesting. A large number of TV channels, therefore, reach out to the Veterans who they feel will be able to debate and put across a Service Point of View. The topic is known and a set of possible questions are also shared to help prepare for the show. It is desirable that having known the topic, a perspective of the Service Headquarters be taken through the office of the ADGPI / equivalent in the Air and Naval Headquarters.
The quality of debate and viewpoint of the anchors are known. Those appearing for the debate need to conduct themselves as respected Veterans, now not under the Army Act and having relatively more “Freedom of Speech” vis-à-vis a service colleague who is not. The panellists/anchors are likely to draw the Veteran into making a controversial statement which shows the Services and Men / Women in Uniform in poor light.
Let’s step back and go back to the Academy for that’s where the grooming starts. The cadets are called Gentleman Cadets or GCs and Lady Cadets or LCs. The Chetwode Motto is etched in the minds of those serving and of course the Veterans. “The safety honour and welfare of the country comes 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”.
The mentoring of the cadets is under the watchful eyes of the cadet appointments and officer instructors known as Directing Staff. On joining the respective it’s under the seniors of the unit and is under a 360-degree review as now you have the Ladies of the unit observing you. At the various courses of instruction and in the annual confidential reports the “social” compatibility of the officer is reflected upon by the reporting officers in the Chain of Command. In operational areas, there is a code of conduct cards carried by each combatant serving.
A professional Army is tasked to assist the Civil Administration in carrying out its tasks in disturbed areas where the local law enforcement is challenged by its resources. Any operations carried out include the local police representatives.
Coming to the Veteran Major General’s conduct on a recent TV show brings many issues forward. Do the veterans need to be put under a code of conduct? What caused the Veteran to be vitriolic to suggest mass killing and rape of women. Did he forget that it was the very countrymen/women he had sworn to protect at the peril of his life? Does he have political ambitions and therefore by making a controversial statement wants to catch the eye of the Political Leadership? Most can only conjecture. The irreparable damage has been done.
The cue to the Veteran Fraternity is that the Defence Services are highly respected; it’s the responsibility of all Veterans that this is not compromised in any manner.
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To sum up I quote an example of a British Veteran. “The Veteran wearing his regimental tie boarded a bus to attend to some work. When he bought his ticket; he realised that he had received a few pennies more than what was due. He kept debating in his mind that should he keep the change, or should he return it, after all, it was just a matter of few pennies. On reaching his destination he walked across to the driver and returned the extra change. The driver of the bus told him, that he had recognised that the Gentleman was a Veteran by his regimental tie. Since his son was of age, he was contemplating to send his son to the Army. Just to make sure that he was making the right decision he decided to test the Veterans code of conduct; the Veteran thanked his stars that better sense prevailed or else for a few pennies his regiments name would have been tarnished forever.”
This anecdote carries a subtle message – do good work voluntarily – the Government gives a pension for meeting our Needs and let’s not get compromised by our Greed.
(The author is a veteran of the Indian Army. Views expressed are personal.)