A Letter written by a retired officer (Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran), 17 Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment ) addressing the passing out officers from Officers Training Academy (OTA) Chennai on 10 Seo 2016.
On 10 September this year, 249 of you (217 Gentlemen Cadets and 32 Lady Cadets) stepped over the “Antim Pag”, slow marching to the soulful Auld Lang Syne. At the majestic Parmeshwaran Parade Ground, you were accorded a unique privilege. You passed out of OTA Chennai, commissioned into the Indian Army as officers under the benign gaze of your Supreme Commander, the President of India. Addressing you, the Supreme Commander said, “A billion hopes rest on your young and brave shoulders”. Truer words have not been uttered.
You have been through Indian Army training. That’s just hell by another name. Give yourselves a pat on the back. You are a survivor.
As an old soldier, I would like to share a few thoughts with you. I hope these will find a corner in your hearts.
1. Your first loyalty is to India and its constitution. Mother India chooses its bravest daughters and sons to guard her honor. You have walked on fire to get those stars on your shoulders. Many a time during training, you may have wanted to quit. You did not. You are made of different molecules.
2. Your unit/ regiment is your family. You will live and die for India but you will live and die with your unit. This bond is unbreakable, even in death. You will be remembered for eternity.
3. Spend time with your troops. Get to know them. This is the brotherhood of Olive Green. You are their leader. If you are worthy, they will march with you to the very gates of hell. Remember the legend of martyr Lance Naik Hanumanthappa? Sometimes, it is possible for mortals to challenge the gods. Many of those mortals wear OG.
4. Train, learn and read. That is the only way to succeed in the Indian Army. All of you, without exception, should be scholar warriors. Read military history, read the future of warfare and read just about anything that you can get your hands on. Absorb knowledge. It will stand you in good stead.
5. Till the time you are a lieutenant, except breach of integrity, all sins are forgiven. Take advantage of this unwritten rule. Make mistakes but don’t stop learning. You have carte blanche.
6. When things go wrong, step forward and take responsibility. When things go right, step back and let your team take the credit.
7. The religion of your troops is your religion. If you are a Malyalee and posted into the Sikh Regiment, you will go to the Gurudwara. If you are a Muslim and your troops are Hindu, you will worship at a temple. And if you are a Hindu and your troops are Christian, you will kneel in church. If you see a Sikh in a mosque with a Quran, this is the Indian Army.
8. Your background is immaterial. Rich or poor, Hindu or Muslim, this caste or that, the Indian Army just does not care. We are in the business of killing the enemies of the state and protecting the nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Only merit counts. If there are any considerations other than merit, it will mean compromising on national security and that is something the Indian Army will NEVER do.
9. The uniform that you wear comes with the blessings of a billion Indians. You are trusted because the Indian Army is trusted. This trust cannot be broken, irrespective of consequence. Do whatever needs to be done to maintain this trust because this trust is sacred. A covenant with India is a covenant with God.
10. You will have more privileges than the soldiers you command. But when orders are given to flush out terrorists from a house in Kashmir, remember you will be the first one to smash through that door. You will make the first kill. Or take the first bullet on your chest. You will never give orders to attack. You will always say “FOLLOW ME”. That is the officer’s creed. This is your article of faith.
11. It is important that you understand that we are not only a powerful army. We are also a moral army. We are not strong because we have weapons. We are strong because we are right.
I wish you the very best and I hope you have an exciting and fulfilling life.
Go forth and Serve With Honour.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
17 Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment