Wednesday, October 1, 2014

THE MYTH OF “JOINTMANSHIP” – Humor in and out of Uniform


Here is a post from my Humor in Uniform” Archives - Have a Laugh !!! 

A Spoof


If you are familiar with military jargon I am sure you have come across the term called “jointmanship”.

At first, I thought that the concept of “jointmanship” had something to do with inter-service cooperation.

However, as I grew “wiser” in service, I realized that it was exactly the opposite of what I had earlier thought.


I first saw “jointmanship” in action in the early 1980’s when the Army evicted Naval Officers from the SP Marg Officers Mess in New Delhi.

In a retaliatory gesture of “jointmanship” the Navy evicted all Army Officers from the Kota House Officers Mess.

Those days Army and Navy had common officers’ messes (SP Marg and Kota House) whereas the Air Force, which always believes in keeping a safe distance from the “pongos”, had its iconic Central Vista (CV) Air Force Officers’ Mess on Janpath.

Later, as a result of the Army-Navy “jointmanship” wars, the spoils of war were divided.

The victorious Army won the bigger, better and modern SP Marg Officers Mess (which Army later renamed Battle Honours Mess to commemorate their victory in the “jointmanship” war  I wonder whether battle honours were awarded for this war victory).

The vanquished Navy was banished to the ancient decrepit Kota House Mess.

In this “jointmanship” battle for the Officers’ Messes, the Army had been roundly and soundly defeated the Navy.

Maybe this was because the Navy was “all at sea” in landlocked battleground of Delhi.

I had left the SP Marg Officers Mess by then, as I had got married and shifted to Curzon Road Apartments.

But it was quite sad to see friendly messmates who were living as buddies together being wrenched apart and separated as per the colour of their uniform just to suit the whims and fancies of some senior officers.

Even today, as I hark back, I fondly cherish my glorious days at SP Marg Officers Mess.

I remember that we had plenty of genuine jointmanship and inter-service camaraderie at the junior level.

Yes, among us junior officers, it was authentic and sincere jointmanship, not like the pseudo “jointmanship” which exists only on paper.

In fact, in the SP Marg Officers Mess, relations between us naval officers and our army messmates were excellent and we made a lot of army friends – lasting friendships which endure even till today.

Yes, indeed there was excellent “jointmanship” visible at the junior officer level – we all lived happily together in the Officers Mess and there was an atmosphere of bonhomie in the evenings when we all sat together on the lawns or in the bar enjoying our drinks.

That is why we were surprised when Naval Officers were peremptorily thrown out of SP Marg Mess – their very own home.

I wonder why the Army evicted Naval Officers from SP Marg Mess – which they promptly renamed “Battle Honours Mess”.

Yes, in order to commemorate their “victory” in the battle of the officers messes against the Navy, the Army has appropriately named this Officers Mess (the spoils of war) as the “Battle Honours Mess”. 

There were many stories doing the rounds, but everyone was unanimous that this unfortunate decision was a result of ego battles and turf wars between Generals and Admirals.

While the senior officers fought with each other, the junior officers suffered as a result of these internecine ego wars and personality clashes.

Of course, now each service has its own separate officers’ mess in New Delhi, so that senior officers can have their own separate fiefdoms.

I have seen the same thing happening in Mumbai too, where battle lines are drawn, as far as accommodation in officers messes are concerned.

Each service tries to set up its own officers institute, rather than integrate efforts in the true spirit of jointmanship, and turf wars for control of officers clubs are quite common.

On many occasions, I have heard Senior Officers lecturing and pontificating about the need for “jointmanship” in the Indian Armed Forces.

But tell me one thing.

What so-called “jointmanship” are you talking about when you can’t even have a Joint Officers Mess where Officers of the Army, Navy and Air Force can live together, drink together and eat together and build up camaraderie?

I think the first step towards achieving genuine jointmanship is to convert all single-service officers’ messes in Delhi into tri-service combined officers’ messes for officers of all the three services, army, navy and air force. 


Most other countries, including the big military powers, have separate training academies for the army, navy and air force.

Despite this, they seem to have achieved a lot of actual jointmanship.

In contrast, India has a joint training academy for all the three services – the National Defence Academy (NDA) at Khadakwasla near Pune.

Despite this common training at the cadet level, have we really achieved the desired level of jointmanship?

Or is jointmanship to be forgotten the moment a cadet graduates from NDA?

In fact, you may not believe it, but in many cases it is ex-NDA officers who don’t see eye to eye with each other when they reach senior ranks.

We witnessed a bitter “protocol battle” between two ex-NDA officers long back at IAT, an inter-service training institution.

Those days, promotions in the Navy were faster, and the Navy Captain was one course junior to the OC Adm who was still a Lieutenant Colonel awaiting his promotion to Colonel.

Later, the tables were turned, as the Army officer went on to become a Major General while the Navy officer retired as a Commodore.

The biggest irony was that the Heads of the Army and Navy Wings, who were daggers drawn with each other, were course-mates at NDA.

On the other hand, the Head of the Air Force Wing was a Direct Entry Technical Officer who got along well with everyone.

This “jointmanship” war percolated to lower levels too, sometimes with greater fury, with everyone trying to prove their “loyalty” to their respective bosses.

To add spice to the proceedings, a fourth actor entered the “jointmanship” fray – civilian scientists.

So now you had the soldiers, sailors, airmen and scientists engaging each other in the “jointmanship” melee.

The end result of all this “jointmanship” was that the institution suffered – IAT which was one of the finest inter-service training institutions is no longer the premier centre of excellence it once was.


We see manifestations of “jointmanship” everywhere.

For example, take residential housing schemes for ex-servicemen.

What is the need for a separate Housing Schemes – the AWHO (Army Welfare Housing Scheme) for the Army and the AFNHB (Air Force Naval Housing Board) for the Navy and Air Force?

Would it not have been better to have a single housing scheme for all the three services?

Each service has built its own educational institutions for children of their respective service.

Army has its own Schools, Colleges and Institutes and so have the Navy and Air Force.

It is the same story with other welfare facilities too.

Yes, as I said, there is plenty of inter-service camaraderie at the junior officer level, and you can get things done on the personal network.

But is it not true that when it comes to senior officers and the services as a whole, with each trying to protect its turf, it is a different story altogether?

Has common training, as embodied in the concept of NDA and other joint training institutions, achieved the desired level of jointmanship?


Well, I feel that jointmanship a question of culture.

Firstly, we still have a feudal culture, and the degree of feudalism varies from service to service.

Assets, human and material, are treated as personal fiefs and that is why ego battles and turf wars break out the moment someone tries to disturb the feudal equations.

I feel that genuine tri-service jointmanship can be achieved only by a top-down approach because if the Generals, Admirals and Air Marshals cannot see eye to eye, if senior officers are daggers drawn with each other, and if they keep fighting their private internecine wars and engage in turf battles with each other, then jointmanship will remain in the realm of wishful thinking.

A few months ago, the Navy Chief resigned on moral grounds, but we did not see his counterparts, the Army Chief and the Air Chief, showing solidarity with the Navy Chief, or try to convince him to reconsider.

Of course, there was no solidarity from within the navy too.

At the top level, with careerism the leitmotif, it seems to be  a case of each for himself.


Before I end, to cheer you up, let me give you a recent hilarious example of “jointmanship”.

(Remember, this is supposed to be a “humour in and out of uniform” story)

Customarily, the Navy Foundation Pune, has a get-together of retired veteran naval officers and families on the last day of the Navy Week, on the Sunday following Navy Day (4th December).

In mid-2013, the officer bearers had discovered a lovely venue for Navy Foundation get-togethers, and the meet held there was appreciated by one and all

Accordingly, a lunch was planned on the 8th of December 2013, at the popular convenient tried-and-tested venue, a hotel which is well located, having amenities like valet parking, affordable, with excellent ambiance and providing delicious food – ideal for senior citizen veterans and families.

However, a few “oldie-goldies” opined that the function should be held at a “Military” venue.

Though these oldie-goldies were in a miniscule minority, in deference to their wishes, the organizers agreed, and they duly approached the army authorities, only to be subjected to a profuse dose of “jointmanship”.

I heard that the army “pongos” put the navy veterans in a spin and made them run from pillar to post, and after having made the hapless navy veterans trudge back-and-forth obtaining so-called “approvals”, they finally agreed to give the RSI venue on 22nd of December (of course, the office bearers were warned that this could be cancelled anytime subject to “exigencies of service” – a euphemism for “whims and fancies” of the army in the context of this case).

The “pongos” did not seem to understand the sanctity of having a Navy Week function during the Navy Week – or maybe they just don’t care.

And the Navy Veterans can do nothing about it and they have no choice but to “like it or lump it” since here, in Pune, it is the Army that calls the shots.

So, thanks to “jointmanship”, the navy veterans of Pune had the Navy Week function two weeks after the Navy Week was over.

Now, thanks to “jointmanship”, all Navy Foundation Meetings in Pune are held at the hotel, which is much more convenient and flexible, with zero red tape, and better off in all respects, especially food-wise and ambience-wise.

The Navy Foundation Pune Chapter (NFPC) had a wonderful get-together at Lonavala last Sunday (thanks to warm hospitality of young naval officers).

On the way back, someone suggested NDA as the venue for the next NFPC meet.

“We will have to wait for some time, till a Navy Commandant comes,” the NFPC office-bearers said.

Maybe they did not want to have a repeat of the similar harrowing experience (narrated above) when the “pongos” had put them in a spin and made them run from pillar to post.

Cheers to “jointmanship”.

However, all is not lost.

There are still some rare examples of genuine “jointmanship”  albeit at a personal level – which you can see in bars of service clubs, institutes and messes, when the “spirits” go in. 

Hey, remember this is a spoof, so take it with a pinch of salt, have a laugh, and have good day.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

1. This blog post is a is a spoof, 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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Updated and Revised Version of my Article “JOINTMANSHIP” posted in my blog on 02 Dec 2013 First 

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