Maj. Gen. G.S. Kapoor (Retd.) has served the Indian Army for 36 years. A native of Bikaner, Rajasthan, he was commissioned into the Corp of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers of the army and eventually became the Colonel Commandant of the EME.
I had no plans of joining the army. It was a chain of coincidences that resulted in me joining the army. A family friend suggested that I fill in the form for the National Defence Academy (NDA) when I was in class XII. I did just that and was short-listed. After clearing the first round of interviews at Delhi I went for the second round at Lucknow, which I also cleared. It was only then that I started looking at the army as a serious option.
I wasn’t too sure of the kind of opportunities the army offered. So I just flipped a coin and said to myself, "Heads, I join the army, tails I don’t." and heads it was! So literally my joining the army was purely by chance.
My training at the NDA. When I joined in 1948 the NDA was located at Dehradun. I spent two years there and the next two at the Indian Military Academy, also at Dehradun. The training was on two levels.
We had to undergo physical training, drill and cross-country runs. The emphasis is also on building a strong character. This was more passive in nature and came in usually through interaction with officers and senior cadets. Qualities like fortitude, courage and determination are developed in the academy along with emphasis on sports to foster team spirit.
The two years at the NDA emphasised on academics while at the Indian Military Academy it was more about learning military subjects. After four years of training I was commissioned at the Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME).
My role as an officer in the EME. The EME is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of all the equipments of the Indian Army. Everything from small arms like pistols to tanks, missiles, telecommunication equipment and even helicopters need to be serviced at regular intervals.
My career graph. When I started off as a Second Lieutenant I was responsible for around 70 men. Being in the EME, I was required to do my B.E and later on I did my M.Tech. I also had the opportunity to study at the prestigious National Defence College, an institution designed to groom the future leaders both military and civilian.
The army is an organisation where you are continuously learning. There were numerous courses like the Junior Commanders Course, Senior Commanders Course, etc., which are interspersed with postings to various places. I was even posted at various training centres where at one point of time, I was responsible for the welfare of over 20,000 men! So in a way you could say that my career graph was steady with little bits of everything thrown into it for good measure.
My stint as Major General in the Indian Army. During my tenure, the Army Aviation Corps was being set up. I had to discuss and decide with my fellow officers as to how many electrical, mechanical and electronical engineers would be needed, what specialised training would be imparted to them, who would train them, where this training would be held, so on and so forth.
Besides this, I also had to review the status of the equipments of the Indian Army and decide, which equipments needed over hauling. Dandling manpower shortages, new equipments, training proceeding at the centres, etc., were my responsibilities.
Get an opportunity to experience life in different kinds of environments. Yes, the frequent transfers mean that you don’t really get to settle down at any one place. The kids are affected the most. The frequent change in schools and friends circle can be pretty tough on them. But on the flip side they get an opportunity to experience life in different kinds of environments and their overall personality certainly gets a boost.
Officers become very uncomfortable in an environment of corruption and in-discipline after retirement. Almost 80 per cent of army officers retire at the age of 52. They still have a lot of fire in them. The army teaches you to think like a man of action but act like a man of thought. The organisational skills of an army officer are far superior than any of their civilian counterparts. Most of them are easily absorbed into corporate world. However, I must admit that officers become very uncomfortable in an environment of corruption and in-discipline.
I feel proud to be part of an organisation, which is considered the country’s brightest ornament. The Indian Army is in fact renowned throughout the world for its devotion to duty and unparalleled bravery. Then there is the camaraderie. I may have retired from the army but I’m not out of it!
In Promotions - the army is very slow as compared to their equivalent counterparts in the civil Services. Another point of frustration albeit at the higher level is the fact that key military decisions are made by bureaucrats in the ministry of defence and not senior army officers.
Qualities required to be an army officer. Commitment to your work. That is an essential requirement. You should be bold and courageous but not foolhardy. In the army, your life will not be in your hands but it will depend on the other person’s professional conduct. So you need to have absolute trust in each other. There is no room for backbiting or corruption. Remember that it is okay to be afraid but never let your fear interfere with your duties.
People have some misconceptions about the army. They think that it’s all brawn and no brain. In fact after medicine and engineering, you study the most in the army. People also think that army officers drink too much and party all the time. The parties are an opportunity for officers to get to know their men better.
Army is like a family. Here you don’t just work 9 to 5 and go back to your own private life. You need to know about the problems of the men under your command and solve them. As far as the drinking is concerned, I don’t think any officer who drinks excessively could ever clear the stringent medical examinations held every year!
My advice to youngsters is that the army is not just about smart uniforms and endless parties. Get to know the army and its way of life before deciding to join. This career involves a lot of hardships. But it is definitely worth it!
My other interest and hobbies are that I read a lot. I love the works of P.G. Woodhouse and Jane Austen. I was pretty good at tennis too and took real pleasure in beating officers younger to me!