The word infantry brings to mind many epic tales of last-ditch stands, of victorious conquests and a quiet professionalism. The indomitable spirit of infantry is best exemplified by actions such as these: Major Harwant Singh and 1st Sikh's stand at Pattan which saved the Kashmir Valley from the tribals, the men of 5 Jat fighting to the last man last round in defending their posts in Ladakh, Major Ranjit Dayal leading 1 Para while surmounting extreme difficulties to conquer Haji Pir, Brigadier JS Gharaya being wounded while personally leading the attack of 42 Brigade in the Jessore sector, 4 Kumaon being heli-lifted to their positions on the Saltoro Ridge braving bullets and the weather,18 Grenadiers taking Tiger Hill to break the back of Pakistani resistance.
The infantry as we see them today have come a long way from the days when it was treated as mere cannon fodder, incapable of using modern technology. Today's infantryman rides into battle in infantry combat vehicles, uses guided missiles to counter tanks and battlefield radars and mini-UAVs to maintain surveillance on his adversaries. Ground sensors help them keep a tab on intruders and neutralise them.
The next stage of modernisation will be the Futuristic Infantry Soldier As A System or F-INSAS programme which envisages turning the infantryman into fully networked and digitised, self-contained warriors in tune with the 21st Century battlefield. Yet, the infantry soldier maintains his well-known capability for improvisation, something that wins battles.
Today is Infantry Day observed to commemorate the occasion when the first army unit went into action to safeguard the integrity of a newly independent India.
The Sandhu family
Colonel Mukhpal Singh Sandhu from an old cavalry family passed away on the October 21 at Chandigarh. Commissioned into that fine regiment, the 8th Cavalry, he took their Sikh Squadron up to the Nathu La pass in Sikkim in the wake of the 1962 War, a considerable feat taking into account the height and the steep gradient. He was posted with the International Control Commission in Vietnam. As Second in Command of the newly raised 69 Armoured Regiment, he took part in the armoured thrust into North-West Bangladesh.
The regiment took the surrender of the Pakistani 29th Cavalry, an event recorded for posterity on their pouch-belts. Colonel Sandhu's father Major Didar Singh served with 6th Lancers and later with 7th Cavalry. His son Brigadier JS Sandhu after commanding 8th Cavalry is now Commander, 16 (Independent) Armoured Brigade. Jyoti as he's popularly known, is descended on his mother's side from the famous Risaldar Major Man Singh, one of the founders of Hodson's Horse. Such army families are the nation's valuable military heritage.
The Navy's ceremonial contingent
The Navy maintains a small contingent in Delhi as part of its commitment to ceremonials like inter-Services guards of honour. The contingent consists of 65 sailors posted in INS India, the naval shore establishment in the capital which provides logistic and administrative support to Naval HQ. An officer is detailed out of those posted at Naval HQ to act as guard commander by rotation, serving for a period of two months.
The Joint Director, Ceremonials in the Directorate of Personnel at NHQ coordinates all ceremonial functions in the capital and supervises the training and drill of the contingent. The Navy being the erstwhile Senior Service must set a good example in drill to the others!
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