Was it a Wasted Year?- The Train From Rajasthan
The train moved on……
Sand to our left, Sands to our right
Endless stretches of undulating sand in sight…..
Undaunted in spirit, Unshaken in resolve
Onward, towards Victory
We soldiers marched……….
We prepared for war in 2001 with a new found shine and sheen. An added spring in our step…..You have to read my previous post to get the gist of the 5 lines above. We looked forward to taste blood first and victory later. We got roasted in the desert heat; we drank brackish water that had a funny taste. Our vehicles ploughed their way through the loose sandy dunes a
nd our tanks cut through the sand. The Sun bore on our tents turning them a faded white from Olive Green. The sand got into our underpants. Undaunted still, we waited to go for the Kill.
A year passed by. 2002 came. Nothing happened. Just nothing. An empty feeling. Is this what we achieved? Is it for this that we spoke aloud, motivated our boys and geared them up to lay down their lives? Was it indeed a wasted year? What did we achieve, if at all we achieved something? Read on …….
Mobilisation. We achieved an actual mobilisation. Till then, we had only practiced training mobilisation, where at the bottom of the heart we knew that we had to only impress our superiors and not actually go to war. But here was a live situation where we had to impress ourselves first, and go to war. We had to load each and every piece of what we would actually need. There was a fear that we might miss the smallest thing when the actual time came. So we mobilised the way we trained but followed our gut feeling too. We achieved the perfect mobilisation. We learnt in the process. The lessons which each and every member of our team will remember for the rest of their lives.
Operational Move. We achieved actual move to the Op location. Erstwhile practice moves were only for a few kilometers. The unsaid rule then, was safety. Here we moved a thousand kilometers lock, stock and barrel. We got the entire Regiment in trucks, trains, and tank transporters across states into the deserts. The Army moved entire Commands, Corps and Divisions. We learnt how to do it in the least time, with least effort and with no casualties.
Affiliation & Training. We practiced the actual drills on ground. Till then, it was all a skeletal affair – One tank depicting 3, when we had practiced in peace locations. Never before had I and many others, seen an entire Combat Group (An Armoured unit consisting of nearly 60 Tanks including those of Engineers, Artillery, Air Defence and Signals) and Combat Command of over 300 tanks plus (An Armoured Brigade) moving. Sometimes I just stood atop a highest dune and the sight from there was awesome; to see over 60 AFVs grinding their way through the dunes. I felt powerful, felt invincible, such powerful emotions that can never be put on paper. The Commanding Officer of an Armoured Regiment I was affiliated to, remarked that he had never seen an entire Combat Group moving together like this in his entire service career. I am sure that some Commanders and their Commanders too would have agreed with him. We married up with the CG’s, got affiliated and had the best integration we could ever achieve. Each and every boy of my battery did exactly what he was supposed to do in war, and he was proud that he could do it well. We learnt the tricks of the trade, well enough to last us another 20 years. I could train young recruits in driving jeeps and tanks. With no traffic in sight this was easily achieved. That kind of opportunity to train, I wonder, would they ever get in life.
Survival. We lived in the harshest terrain in the worst winters and blazing summers. A full year, with sand in our food and water, in our clothes and body. We survived fighting fit, happy, and content. We shall never forget how to survive and survive well to live and to fight. We would have never learnt this art back home. The best of our ability to survive had to come out in the deserts in the face of adversity.
Bonding. We stood by each other. We rose above our daily trifles. We got together as one family. Our families got together, and supported each other back in the Garrison. Our new found camaraderie and spirit- de- corps was wonderful. We found we could trust our men, we found that they were indeed responsible men; they were ferociously loyal and had the best integrity. I would never have noticed these qualities in the peace location. These cannot be achieved in practice camps or through lectures and demonstrations. There needs to be the threat of war for such spirits to emerge.
Team Building. I got time to spend with my men. With hardly any administrative duty to bother about, I could spend days together to improve the quality of their lives, to solve their problems and to streamline the procedures in the subunit. We did what we were supposed to do and got tremendous satisfaction from it. I understood my boys better than what I ever knew about them. The so called distance between the Officers and the men reduced. We breathed as a team, our hearts beat together in synchrony. We achieved what we had never before achieved. A vibrant, fighting fit and raring to go to war – unit.
Confidence. We were sure that we could fight. We were sure that we could win. We got convinced that our training has after all not been fruitless. We got confidence in our equipment, in our Workshop and their ability to deliver. We believed in each other. We knew we were led by able men, by able Commanders. We achieved the confidence back in ourselves and in the Army. Our plans were good; that we were not able to test them is another story.
Coercive Diplomacy. At the national level much has been claimed that ours was a flawed move. But this was the very first time in the history of the world that an entire army had been mobilised for coercive diplomacy. Earlier, it was only Navies that did this job. We made Musharaff speak to the world twice in Jan 2002 and in May 2002, pledging to stop abetting terrorism. We turned the spotlight on Pakistan, got the world opinion against them. We got the J&K elections completed, achieving faith and trust of the world in conducting the democratic process and giving the healing touch.
We may not have achieved what we set out to go but we achieved much more than what we could have done otherwise. Admiral (retired) J G Nadkarni wrote “He who never dares is timid. But one who does not learn lessons from a failure is a fool. We have many lessons to learn from our year long deployment of the forces. Lessons in diplomacy, in timing, in both the application and limitation of force”.
In retrospect, like waves of a sea in the thick of a storm, we surged and rose with full froth and fury. We churned the sea, raring to go, to lash hard against the enemy shores….
But alas! Nothing happened. The storm passed. The waves receded back into the folds of the tranquil sea. The uneasy calm resumes….
Was it really a year wasted? It may appear so. But let’s think deeper. Let’s search our hearts honestly, and the answer, most fauji’s would find deep within. I end with a very famous quote – “The more we Sweat in Peace, the Less we Bleed in War”