Tour of Duty (ToD) entry scheme : Serious soldiering or trivial adventure?

Published: June 5, 2020 5:28 PM

As per the yet to be launched a scheme of entry, a person would serve for three years, including his training period, before being released from the Army to pursue work in the civil streets, most likely sans any post-retirement benefits.

Tour of Duty,Tour of Duty entry scheme, indian army, Short Service Commission, Indian Military Academy, Territorial Army,IAF, ToD scheme,defence newsIndustrial houses have also been quick to announce a possible recognition of the qualification for these individuals, post-retirement when they go on to join jobs outside.

By Wing Commander Amit Ranjan Giri

A proposal by the armed forces about a very short tenure of duty, mainly to tide over the persistent manpower crisis and rising pension bills has found considerable support over the social media. As per the yet to be launched a scheme of entry, a person would serve for three years, including his training period, before being released from the Army to pursue work in the civil streets, most likely sans any post-retirement benefits. Industrial houses have also been quick to announce a possible recognition of the qualification for these individuals, post-retirement when they go on to join jobs outside.

Like all proposals, this too has had its fair share of criticism, especially from the veteran community who saw it merely as an extension of summer camps or extended adventure camps. Soldiering, they said, was much more serious business. Yes, soldiering is a serious business and though, reeks of romanticism when seen from outside, the story inside is contrary to the perception. Blood, sweat, toil and tears flow in the making of a soldier and it’s not a short-lived adventure for him or her. Coming down to the specifics, the least amount of training to be an officer in the Indian Army is for a year, at the Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) for Short Service Commission (SSC) cadre. The officers who pass out from the OTA are not finished product but only moulded raw material, just like their Indian Military Academy (IMA) counterparts.

The real training begins now, on the job, and many would agree never stops throughout the career. A year off for training from the three year period in the ToD scheme, would not make the training cost-effective, neither would any reduction of training period make the person up to grade. The fact also remains that the entire exercise is based on voluntary service, which in any case, even now the forces are unable to find suitable volunteers for the SSC scheme. Does this mean, with this new proposal the Army would be ready to compromise on standards? Senior Army officials have also gone on record lauding and according to this scheme as an opportunity for the youth to taste the military way of life, which supposedly, has been the feedback from the various institution the publicity machinery of the Army visited.

Towards this, the existing projects funded by the government, the NCC and the Territorial Army being a couple of them, display adequacy. Why should a new scheme, albeit smaller, be more successful than these? Especially when a three-year tenure would be more or less compared to a passing affair. As far as the IAF and the Navy goes, the ToD scheme, in its present form, is virtually next to impossible to implement. Both being highly technology-intensive and equipment specific services, the training period to produce effective warriors is extensive. In the flying branch of the IAF, the gestation period for a pilot is anywhere from 3 to 6 years depending on the machine he flies and even then he is constantly learning, throughout his career.

“In one year we may make a pilot out of the boy, on a low tech trainer aircraft but teaching him the theories and tactical flying would take way longer than this, high-performance aircraft be it fighter, helicopters or transport is out of the question and once we complete, the service may have no defined gain from the entire exercise” opined an experienced Qualified Flying instructor, Group Captain Nair (Retd). The IAF could go the Coast Guard way of opening an SSC for Commercial Pilot Licence holders but even that was for 5 years and yes it did end for many individuals in sad stories sans any kind of post-retirement benefits. The entry has since been stopped. As far as the other branches of the IAF are concerned, training there too, is as extensive and like Army, the person learns mostly on the job, carefully guided by seniors, with requirements of passing internal assessments at every stage prior to new assignments. The Indian Navy too falls under the same category as the IAF.

“In three years he would barely learn to live with his seasickness let alone work” is a thought echoed by many sea-farers. The enthusiastic reaction of the Indian industries at this proposal is well-founded. During induction, they would get an individual who has had the privilege of organised group training and discipline. The ToD ‘graduate’ would have a better understanding of group dynamism and behaviour and the person would be more adept at crisis management than most of his peers who haven’t undergone the ToD. All these for a three year older person surely is a win-win situation for the industry.

In its present format, if shown the light of day, the ToD would effectively remain an adventure camp, in the Army only. It is envisaged that the entrants would dwindle, over subsequent courses, some thwarted by the idea of a bullet flying at them in CI/CT ops and some by the idea of wasting three years of prime time, on a career they never want permanently. For those still seeking the adventure and adrenaline rush, avenues already exist. With no foreseeable advantage to the armed forces, the ToD scheme at present seems to be a juvenile proposal aimed at closing some unrelated HR gaps in the existing system.

(The author is an IAF veteran. Views expressed are personal.)

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