Long and short of standing patrols | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Long and short of standing patrols

Field commanders’ perennial quest has been to know what lies on the other side of the hill. At the tactical level this is achieved through patrols deployed ahead of the frontline or seeking to probe the enemy’s defences. Writes Mandeep Singh Bajwa.

chandigarh Updated: Jun 15, 2014 09:00 IST
Mandeep Singh Bajwa

Field commanders’ perennial quest has been to know what lies on the other side of the hill. At the tactical level this is achieved through patrols deployed ahead of the frontline or seeking to probe the enemy’s defences.

In recent times, these boots on the ground have been backed up by technology in the shape of new and rapidly modernising equipment. Standing patrols range in size from half a section to a section (5-10 men) in size. These are static in nature and tasked to give early warning of hostile movements, provide information on enemy intentions or to offer security to physical features on the ground. These are of two types.

Listening posts (LPs) usually deployed during the night and as the name suggests keep track of enemy movements through sound. Of course, now they are equipped with high-end technology like battlefield surveillance radars, including manpack versions, thermal imagers and ground sensors to give early warning of the enemy’s intentions. Observation posts (OPs) do the same job during daytime but the advent of cuttingedge equipment like mini-UAVs has increased their effectiveness manifold. Sometimes these also act as delaying elements.

At Rezang La in 1962 an LP, one of three deployed informed that Chinese troops were advancing towards the defences of Charlie Company of 13 Kumaon. Naik Hukam Chand was sent forward to confirm the enemy movement. Seeing that the Chinese were in large numbers and moving with firm intentions, he took a machine-gun on to a flank and engaged them at the same time sending up a signal flare.

This enabled Major Shaitan Singh and his men to organise themselves to face the enemy onslaught.

Reconnaissance patrols’ mission is to establish enemy positions, otherwise provide information or contact the local population. This they do through stealth and the use of fieldcraft. Sighting the enemy the patrol could call in artillery or airstrikes. The extreme manifestation of such a manoeuvre is the long-range patrol (LRP) which could last weeks or even months. These are maintained logistically by other units along their route; caches of supplies established earlier, airdrops or even living off the.land. The late Colonel Hoshiar Singh, 3rd Grenadiers (Param Vir Chakra awardee of the 1971 war) told me about one such patrol which he went on during the mid-60s in Arunachal. A strict vegetarian, he finished the arduous trek over some most inhospitable terrain surviving on the flesh of wild animals!

THE CORRECT USE OF RANKS

Commissioned officers derive authority directly from a sovereign authority (in India, the President) and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office. This commission is for life and on retirement means superannuation from the active list but retention of the commission. Therefore it is incorrect to refer to a retired officer of the defence services as ‘ex-Colonel’ or ‘former General’ and causes offence to such personnel.

Adding retired before or after a rank is also wrong. Army HQ has clarified that the correct way to refer to a retired officer is to add ‘Retd’ or ‘Retired’ in brackets after his name and full decorations as in ‘General VP Malik, PVSM, AVSM (Retd)’.The P&T department’s refusal to print ranks of retired officers in its telephone directories in the past had particularly irked armed forces personnel.