Saturday, October 31, 2015

Humor in Uniform : RANK – The “BE-ALL AND END-ALL” of Military Life and Beyond

RANK – THE “BE-ALL AND END-ALL” OF MILITARY LIFE AND BEYOND
Musings of a Veteran
By
VIKRAM KARVE

At present – the hot topic for “Faujis” and Military Veterans is OROP (One Rank One Pension).

In the term OROP”  “One Rank One Pension” – the most prominent word is RANK.

Why not “Same Service Same Pension”...?

Why the emphasis on “Rank”...?

Even after retirement – for military veterans – “Rank” is the cardinal factor – since it is your rank that will determine your pension – unlike civilians – whose pension is primarily determined by years of service – which seems more just and fair.

Tell me – why should a Brigadier who retires after 25 years service get more pension that a Colonel who retires after 30 years service?

If you ask this question to any “fauji” – serving or retired – he will give you the quintessential military rhetoric: “Rank Has Its Privileges”.

This reminds me of an article on this topic I had written a few months ago.

Here is the article – once more – for you to read and ponder over...

RANK HAS ITS PRIVILEGES (RHIP)
A Spoof
By
VIKRAM KARVE


THE AIM OF AN OFFICER

During our training days – many senior officers were invited to give us talks on “Officer Like Qualities” (OLQ) – and give us tips on how to succeed in our Naval Careers.

Some officers gave us inspirational “pep talks” – some pontificated – giving us sermons on “Do’s and Don’ts” – and some tried to motivate us with “moral lectures”.

But there was one unique officer who was different.

He said: “The aim of an officer is to get promoted.”

We were taken aback. 

Most senior officers inspired us with patriotic and jingoistic speeches that the Military Ethos and Officer Like Qualities (OLQ) were all about ‘sacrifice honour service before self etc.

But this officer was telling us to be selfish ambitious careerists.

Seeing the confused expression in our faces – the senior officer reiterated: 

“Yes, gentlemen – you heard me right. 
Your primary aim is to get promoted
All other things are secondary. 
In the military – only one thing matters – the rank you wear on your shoulders
That is all that matters. 
Nothing else matters. 
Just remember that. 
So – wherever you are – analyze the situation – especially study your boss – your IO – the Officer who will be writing your Annual Confidential Report (ACR) – and work towards getting a good ACR. 
In the military – promotion depends on your ACRs – all that matters is your ACRs – so you must ensure that you get the best ACRs – for this you will have to be flexible and smart – you must adapt yourself depending on the likes and dislikes of your boss – since different officers have different yardsticks. 
Some bosses value professional performance – others value personal loyalty – and others – well – it is very subjective and varies from person to person. 
In every appointment – be alert – do your homework well – be smart – and ensure that you are in sync with your boss – and make sure you get outstanding ACRs at any cost. 
Performance does not matter.
Your ability to earn good ACRs matters – so focus all your efforts and resources on getting good ACRs.
If you do this – you will succeed – and you will reach high rank.”

At that point of time – we were young naïve idealistic officers.

We believed in romantic virtues like ‘moral values’ and ‘ethical principles’.

We were inspired by patriotic fervor.

We genuinely believed in the ‘military ethos’ enshrined in the “Chetwode Motto”:

“The safety, honour and welfare of your country comes first, always and every time.
The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command comes next.
Your own ease, comfort and safety comes last, always and every time.”

We were inspired by jingoistic slogans like “Service before Self”.

That is why we were appalled when we heard this senior officer telling us:

“The cardinal aim of an officer is to get promoted”

He was advising us that in order to achieve this prime objective – we must ensure sure that we get outstanding ACRs at any cost.

It was ironic.

This senior officer was an alumnus of the celebrated military training institution whose motto was “Service before Self”.

Despite this – he was propagating the exact opposite – and exhorting us to put “Self before Service”.

His “Self before Service” dictum seemed the exact opposite of what we believed in at that point of time.

That is why we were shocked and disappointed with this officer’s lecture.

This officer was propounding exactly the opposite of the values we cherished.

At first we thought that this officer was joking – maybe he was employing a rather sarcastic sense of humor just to entertain us.

But later – we realized that this officer “walked his talk”.

He was not a hypocrite – he practiced what he preached.

By “managing” his career astutely – by focusing on getting the best ACRs – by doing the right courses and appointments – by being in the right place at the right time under the right boss – by deploying all his resources – professional, personal, familial – towards realizing his prime objective of getting promoted – he had succeeded in attaining the highest possible rank and the most prestigious appointment in his branch.

As I said – at that point of time – after hearing his “pep talk” lecture on OLQ – I was quite skeptical.

I realized the true wisdom of his words 20 years later – when I witnessed an incident which convinced me – albeit too late in life – that – in the military: “The primary aim of an officer is to get promoted”.

This defining incident – and many other similar experiences throughout my long navy career – convinced me that in the military – it was only your rank that mattered.

In fact – even after retirement – this obsession with rank continues – for various retirement facilities like ECHS Healthcare, CSD Canteens etc.

Witness the latest “battle” being waged by retired military veterans for OROP (One Rank One Pension).

Even after retirement – for military veterans – “Rank” is the cardinal factor – since it is your rank that will determine your pension – unlike civilians – whose pension is primarily determined by years of service – which seems more just and fair.

Tell me – why should a Brigadier who retires after 25 years service get more pension that a Colonel who retires after 30 years service?

If you ask this question to any “fauji” – serving or retired – he will give you the quintessential military rhetoric: “Rank Has Its Privileges”.


RANK HAS ITS PRIVILEGES (RHIP)

The Military (Army Navy and Air Force) recognizes Rank – and is blind to everything else – including logic, reasoning or rationale.

By definition – the “superior” officer is the one who holds higher rank (and not higher intellect or qualifications).

Whenever there is a disagreement – professional, managerial, ethical or otherwise – the views of the higher ranking officer always prevail.

If there is an issue between two officers – the senior is always right.

If there is a perk or privilege to be given – the senior gets it first.

The Navy is a uniformed service – like the Army and Air Force.

A unique feature of a uniformed service is that your rank is visible to all – since you wear your rank badges or stripes on your shoulder.

This is not so in the civilian world where your “rank” is known only to your workplace colleagues.

In the military – Rank has its Privileges (RHIP) in all aspects of life – professional, social and personal.

In fact – if you are in the military – your rank is the “be-all and end-all” of life – from “womb” to “tomb”.

Like I said – thanks to OROP – even your pension depends on your rank – and not on your years of service, as in the case of civilians, who get equitable pension due to ACP, NFU, NFFU etc.

And while in service – there is visible and blatant ‘rank based discrimination’ in all aspects of life – professional, personal, social and familial.

This RHIP concept is sometimes taken to ridiculous limits – and even liquor quota depends on rank – the higher your rank – the more booze you get.

Yes – your rank is the “be-all and end-all” of life in the defence services.

That is why – as the shrewd senior officer said in his pep-talk:

“The primary aim of an officer is to get promoted to high rank at any cost.

You don’t agree?

Let me tell you a story.


AN UNFORGETTABLE INCIDENT – STIGMA OF SUPERSESSION

Now – as an illustrative example of RHIP – let me tell you about an unforgettable incident which happened more than 15 years ago.

One evening – after returning from work – I walked to the reception counter of our Navy Command Officers Mess to collect my cabin key.

I was delighted to see “B” sitting in waiting area.

“B” was around 2 years senior to me.

I knew “B” since our training days – and I had the highest respect and regard for him.

“B” was truly a first-rate officer in all aspects – he was professionally competent, morally upright – and he had the best “Officer Like Qualities” (OLQ).

As young Lieutenants – in the late 1970’s – “B” and I had served in sister ships of the frigate squadron in the fleet.

Whenever I needed help or advice – I knew that I could always turn to “B”  who was always ready to help any of his fellow officers.

After that – we went our different ways – transferred all over – depending on where our respective appointments took us.

As they say – the navy is a place of transient acquaintanceship – where friendships are like passing ships.

And now – after a gap of more than 20 years – I was meeting “B” again.

Sadly – despite being an excellent officer – “B” had been passed over for promotion – so – in naval parlance – “B” was a ‘superseded’ officer.

“B” had come on Temporary Duty for a ‘conference’.

“B” was waiting as there was some problem in allocation of a cabin for him.

He told me that another officer “A” (who had come with him from Vizag) was trying to sort out the issue.

“A” was around 5 years junior to “B”.

In fact “A” had been a student of “B” during specialization courses where “B” had been A’s instructor.

Later – “A” had worked under “B” both ashore and afloat – where “B” has been A’s direct boss.

“A” had the highest respect for “B” who had taught him and also been an excellent boss who had guided him in the early days of his naval career.

Now – the tables were turned – and “A” outranked “B” – since “A” had been recently promoted to the rank of Captain – whereas “B” remained a Commander – having been permanently superseded.

Now – since everything is ‘rank based’ in the navy – the ‘powers-that-be’ had decreed that ‘Captains and above’ were to be given Air-conditioned Cabins in the main block of the mess – and ‘Commanders and below’ were to be accommodated in the shabby cabins in the annexe.

“A” tried his best to convince the Mess Secretary – “A” told the Mess Secretary that“B” was much senior in service – “A” even volunteered to swap cabins with “B” – but the Mess Secretary would not budge – and he said to “A”: “Rules are rules – as far as I am concerned – “B” is just a Commander and he will be allotted a cabin in the annexe. It is not my fault that he got superseded – in any case – why have you brought a ‘written off’ officer for this important conference…?”

So – “A” enjoyed the cool comforts of a luxury air-conditioned cabin – whereas “B”sweated it out in a dilapidated cabin – and to add insult to injury – “B” was doubled up with another officer.

“B” had been specifically called to the conference because he was an expert on the issue being discussed – but I noticed that “B” had ‘switched-off’ – he maintained an indifferent silence and did not contribute anything.

It was evident that being passed over for promotion resulting in his supersession by his juniors had affected “B” very badly  and his personality had been transformed for the worse.

Like many passed over “written off” officers – “B” had lost his ‘spark’ and withdrawn into a shell and become disinterested in the service.

It was sad to see an excellent officer like “B” wither away.

But it was even sadder that the Navy could not benefit from his expertise and experiential knowledge, which were being wasted away.

In the Defence Services – Supersession is a “lose-lose” situation.

Besides career and financial loss – supersession is total “loss of face” for the officer – and at times for his family too.

In contrast – promotion is a “win-win” situation – since rank is the “be-all and end-all” of military life.


RANK – THE “BE-ALL AND END-ALL” OF MILITARY LIFE

The large number of representations, complaints, court cases and litigation pertaining to promotion issues bears testimony to the fact that something is immensely wrong with the military promotion system prevalent in the defence services.

I heard from someone – that the “integrated running pay scale” granted by the 4th Pay Commission, which delinked pay from rank, was scuttled by senior officers, who did not want superseded officers who had more service than them to draw more pay than them.

The result was that more than 90% of the officers lost out when the 5th Pay Commission scrapped the “running pay band” and once again linked salary to rank.

Someone told me an interesting story of the height of megalomania and egotism due to rank consciousness.

A few years ago – the government implemented Assured Career Progression (ACP) and Non-Functional Upgradation (NFU) for all Civilian Government Employees.

The person told me that government wanted to extend the benefit of Non-Functional Upgradation (NFU) to the Defence Services and, like the civil services (NFU) would have guaranteed time bound upgradation of pay of all officers (including superseded officers) so that towards the end of their service, at the time of superannuation, all officers would draw the pay of a Lieutenant General (and consequently their pensions would be higher too – like their civilian counterparts).

I heard that this NFU proposal was opposed and scuttled by senior officers who argued that NFU was not desirable since the “charm” of higher ranks would be diminished if there was no substantial salary differential.

After all – these overweening careerists felt that they had “earned” their ranks by “all round 360 degree efforts” and considered themselves superior to their unlucky comrades in arms who had been “passed over” for promotion.

Of course – those who have served in the defence services are aware of the various tactics and stratagems employed by careerist officers to get promoted to high rank.

A witty Naval Officer gave a metaphorical example of a Mumbai suburban local train at rush hour on a station like Dadar.

Those standing on the platform desperately wanted to get inside the train.

But once inside the train – they tried to prevent others from entering the train.

It is the same with these overweening careerists – they are desperate to get promoted – but once they are promoted to high rank – they don’t want their juniors to “get in”.

Here is an example.

In 2006 – as per AVS Cadre Review – all Lieutenant Colonel/Equivalents who had completed 26 years service were to be promoted to the rank of Colonel/Equivalent.

The Army and Air Force promoted all officers who had completed 26 years service (including Time Scale Lieutenant Colonel/Wing Commander) to the rank of Colonel/Group Captain.

However, the Navy did not promote Time Scale Commanders who had completed 26 years service to the rank of Captain giving the specious argument that this would “upset” inter-se seniority.

One wonders why the same argument was not used by the Army and Air Force?

Whereas, in the civilian world, organizations are becoming flatter and democratic – the opposite is happening in the Indian Armed Forces which are becoming increasingly feudal and hierarchy conscious – rank based discrimination is being taken to ridiculous limits – and megalomania and egotism due to rank consciousness is on the rise – which is visible in examples like the penchant for displaying “stars” at all sorts of places.

This obsession with rank continues even after retirement.

After having sabotaged NFU – now senior officers want “One Rank One Pension” (OROP).

So – now – they even want pension to be primarily dependent on rank – and not based on length of service, like it is for civilian employees.

In the term OROP – “One Rank One Pension” – the most prominent word is RANK.

Why not “Same Service Same Pension”?

Why the total emphasis on “Rank”?


CONCLUSION

In the defence services – whereas on the one hand – supersession is a total “lose-lose” situation – on the other hand – promotion is a total “win-win” situation.

Doesn’t this convince you that the advice given to us by that pragmatic officer was absolutely correct: 

“The primary aim of an officer is to get promoted to high rank” 

And – all other “dictums” and “Honour Codes” like “Chetwode Motto” and “Service Before Self” etc are mere slogans meant for lip-service.

As I told you – this wise officer was not a hypocrite – he “walked his talk”.

Sadly – there are many senior officers – who mouth platitudes about “military ethos and service values” before their juniors – but do exactly the opposite in their actions  in order to achieve their overweening career ambitions.

VIKRAM KARVE
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Disclaimer:
1. This article is a spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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