My tenure as Colonel of the Mechanised Infantry Regiment from June 1st, 2013 to July 31st, 2015 was both eventful and satisfying in that, units of the Regiment performed extremely well in their respective formations, officers of the Regiment notched up many successes in the promotion boards and selections on competitive courses, and we were able to raise 26 Mech Inf – the raising of a new battalion for the Regiment after almost twenty one years. Most importantly, the Regimental flag continued to fly high in the Indian Army, in keeping with the proud reputation established by my worthy predecessors, in operational and professional matters as well as in the fields of sports and adventure.
The COR baton was handed over to me in May 2013 and I formally took charge on June 1st, 2013. As with my predecessors, I had no doubt that my responsibilities as COR would also entail strengthening the equation of the Regiment vis a vis the Guards Regiment, as part of the Mechanised Infantry Arm, as also the equation and standing of the Arm within the Mechanised Forces fraternity and the Army at large. When I look back at my tenure, I feel satisfied that we, as a Regiment, were able to strengthen the operational capabilities and image of the Arm and the Mechanised Forces by the dint of our sustained hard work and achievements. Needless to mention, the achievements during my tenure were a collective effort, ably assisted by my team of dedicated officers, headed by Brigadier (now Maj Gen) RS Mann, who functioned as my Deputy Military Secretary at Chandimandir and subsequently as my Military Assistant at the VCOAS Secretariat at Army Headquarters.
One of the achievements that I feel proud of was – restarting or rejuvenating the key equipment projects for the mech infantry, i.e. developing the future infantry combat vehicle (FICV), acquiring wheeled armoured personnel carriers (APCs) for our UN peacekeeping contingents and upgrading the older ICVs of the fleet. These efforts, I believe, would have gathered a momentum of their own by now and would be under various stages of fruition. Another important achievement – in concert with ARTRAC – we succeeded in redefining the role of the mechanized infantry, which had not been changed officially since the pre-ICV days, in a manner that it would be rearticulated in the curriculum at our training academies. Consequently, the pivotal role played independently by mechanized infantry in ‘mountain warfare’, ‘counter-terror operations in the plains/ hilly terrain’ and in ‘robust peacekeeping missions’ was also accorded formal recognition.
Concurrently, in keeping with the fact that we have been treated as a separate arm by the MS Branch since 2001, we insisted that our Regiment, along with the Guards Regiment, be provided a Sub- Directorate status at Army Headquarters, thus reversing an earlier effort to dilute and subordinate our identity. Coordination meetings with the COR Guards assisted in resolving mutual issues and strengthening bonds. The conduct of the first Mech Inf Arm Dinner by both the Regiments jointly at Chandimandir brought the serving and veteran officers together in combined bonhomie – it was clearly reflective of the way to go in the future!
We started a process of issuing periodic ‘training guidance’ on various operational issues (eg. on ‘employment of mech infantry sub units in counter terror operations in the plains’) as well as ‘administrative advisories’ to MIRC and all our units after taking into account the specific experiences of our units in particular and the Indian Army at large. This assisted the units to perform better in their respective formations and proactively implement a number of measures ‘to protect life and limb’. We also started a system of welcome DO letters from the COR to the young officers (and separately to their fathers or guardians) on the occasion of their commissioning into the Regiment.
We also made an effort to get our veterans their rightful dues of pensions. Records MIRC spearheaded a drive involving our units, based on their affiliations and geographical locations, to establish physical contact with our pensioners and widows, and make sure that they received their pending dues. A fillip was provided to enhancing regimental spirit and bonhomie by stepping up MIORA activities in a number of stations, especially Delhi, Chandimandir and Pune. Meeting our veterans, serving officers and ladies at the MIORA meets was always a source of immense joy and satisfaction for Sayona and me.
And finally, one of the issues where we made serious effort was to renovate and refurnish the Garud Sarath Officers Mess, specifically by adding the modern ‘Wine Cask’ circular bar, the new dining hall and the party place (‘the Nest’) upstairs. The furniture was also redone appropriately, with appropriate contributions from units of both regiments. The remarkable effort and ideas contributed by Brig (now Maj Gen) Abhay Karki and his team to bring the project to timely fruition was pivotal to our success. The Mess continues to be a source of pride and joy for all officers of the Mechanised Infantry arm and their families. Jai Hind!