Indian Army Officer Career Information
What an Indian Army Officer does
The main function of the Indian Army is to defend and protect the country against all external and internal threats. The army is also called in to help civilians during natural calamities and maintain law and order.
There are two types of commissions in the Army
Permanent commission - where you have to serve the Indian army for a minimum of 20 years.
Short service commission - where you have to serve for a minimum of 5 years. This can then be extended to permanent commission.
The army has two main divisions - Combat and Non-combat, which are further classified as per their functions.
Combat: This is where the action is. You actually get to kill enemies, use arms for destruction and let your other war fantasies come true. The various classifications in Combat are: Infantry: As an infantry officer you'll lead soldiers and be responsible for defending the borders as well as launching counter attacks on the enemy. You can expect a lot of walking here. There haven't been much advances in warfare technology and don't be surprised if you are involved in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy! In addition, you can volunteer to be a commando in the Special Forces.
Artillery: You'll be responsible for guns with a range up to 30 kilometres. Remember Bofors? 'Softening up' enemy positions before an attack by the infantry will be handled by you. You'll also handle surface-to-surface missiles in the artillery.
Under artillery, you could also join the Army Aviation Corps, as a helicopter pilot. Here you will search enemy positions and report them to the artillery. Air defence artillery is another offshoot of the artillery. Here you will be involved with air defence guns and missiles and shoot down enemy aircraft.
Armour: Simply speaking this means tank. You will hit the enemy fast and hit him hard. Mobility and firepower are the key factors in this field and you will devise new methods to implement them.
Now for the divisions in the Non-Combat group
Engineers: If you think this means a cushy, office job, then read on. Your work will vary from building bridges to clearing minefields. Lots of adventure here - blowing up dams and powerhouses. A wonderful way to compensate for all those drab years in college!
Signals: Here you'll be in charge of communications, develop methods to ensure secrecy and break enemy communication codes. You will also be responsible for the upkeep of the equipment.
Intelligence Corps: You'll be involved in the collection, analysis and interpretation of information like movement of troops, preparations etc. about the enemy.
Education Corps: Training is important. Huh? You will teach subjects from English language to new techniques of warfare and devise courses on subjects such as computers, communication, etc.
Judge Advocate General or Law Cadre: In the army discipline comes first (as if you didn't know that). As a lawyer or a judge in the JAG, you will be responsible for strictly enforcing the laws. You will also handle civilian cases brought against the army.
Veterinary Corps: Yes, animals too contribute to the defence of this country (I bet you didn't know of this one!) Your job will include training mules, donkeys, dogs, camels and ensuring their wellbeing.
Army Supply Corps and Ordinance Corps: Napoleon had rightly said "An army moves on its stomach." Here, you will be responsible for ensuring that and much more. You will deliver weapons, ammunition, clothing and medical supplies… in fact everything from a pin to a plane.
Army Medical Corps: You will be a doctor like no other. Your operation theatre will be a small tent lit with a kerosene lamp on a mountaintop (adventure comes in all shapes). With increasing casualties you got to be in line with the latest in medical treatment.
Army Nursing Corps: You will be working as nurse in army hospitals and in the war field. Only women are eligible.
Army Dental Corps: You will be working as dentists in army dental hospitals.
This is one field where the promotions are time-bound, unless you manage to do something exceptional. You enter the army as a Lieutenant and this will be your career graph:
• 5 years – Captain
• 11 years – Major
• 16 + years - Lt. Colonel
• 20 years – Colonel
• 23 years – Brigadier
• 25 years - Major General
• 28 years - Lieutenant General
• 28+ years – General
There are special selection boards that select candidates for higher ranks (i.e. Colonel and above) where your academic record and service performance is taken into consideration.
A soldier's profession is one of the oldest professions in the world and the demand is only on the upside. Ours is the second largest army in the world and still there is a shortage of officers. Women are welcome but not in combat arms.
Ex-army officers get good positions in the security or personnel departments of various companies, defence research, detective services and also at top management levels.
Abilities & Traits Required
• Be Patriotic
• Be a Team Player
• Have Leadership Qualities
• Be Problem solver
• Have a sense of Responsibility
• Good Stamina and Physical Fitness
• Adaptable to change
• Looking out for others
• Strong Determination
• Self Confident
You must be an Indian citizen (citizens of Bhutan, Nepal, Tibetan refugees or migrants from the rest of the Indian subcontinent with the intention of settling permanently in India can also apply)
• You must be physically fit and free from any disease/disability and excess fat. The minimum acceptable height is 157.5 cm. For Gurkhas and residents of northeastern India, Garhwal and Kumaon, the minimum acceptable height is 5 cm lower than the standard, and for candidates from Lakshadweep, the minimum height is lowered by 2 cm.
• Candidates must be able to read 6/6 in a distant vision chart with each eye, with or without glasses.
• Besides these general conditions, each training institute and exam has its own standards and requirements. There is a separate screening process for women planning to join the Indian Army.
• You need to be computer literate as IT is used in Information Warfare (IW).
Modes of Entry for Officers in the Indian Army
• National Defence Academy You have to be between 16½-19 years of age. The minimum educational requirement for entering the Indian Army is 10+2 or equivalent qualification. There are two courses beginning in January and June every year. Selection is on the basis of a written test which is objective in nature followed by a Service Selection Board (SSB) interview and a medical examination.
• Indian Military Academy It has the following modes of entry: Direct entry: This is for graduates in the age group on 19-24 years. Selection is on the basis of a written test which is objective in nature followed by a Service Selection Board (SSB) interview and a medical examination.
• NCC Entry: This is similar to the direct entry scheme except an additional requirement of having served for a minimum of three years in the National Cadet Corps. The cadets do not have to appear for a written examination and can report directly for the SSB interview.
• Technical Entry Scheme This is for engineering graduates in the age group of 20-27 years. The candidates are short-listed on the basis of their academic performance and achievements in extra curricular activities. They are then directly called in for the SSB interview followed by a medical examination. 10+2 Technical Entry Scheme to be an engineer in the Indian Army. On successful completion of 4 years training, candidates will be granted permanent commission in the rank of ‘Lieutenant’ in Arms/Services. Males between the age group of 18 to 21 years and who have secured more than 70 per cent marks in aggregate of physics, chemistry and maths at the 12th board exams. Short listed candidates will then be called for SSB interviews.
• University Entrance Scheme This is the army's version of a campus interview. Final and pre-final year engineering students in the age group of 18-24 years can appear for a basic interview. The short-listed candidates are then called for the comprehensive SSB interview and medical examination.
• Officer Training Academy (OTA) If you wish to serve the army for a short period of time (5 years) then this is the place to be. The OTA offers the following modes of entry:
• Short Service Commission (Non-Technical) This is for graduates in the age group on 19-25 years. Selection is on the basis of a written test which is objective in nature followed by a Service Selection Board (SSB) interview and a medical examination. Courses begin in May and November every year.
• Short Service commission (Technical) This is for engineering graduates in the age group of 20-27 years. The candidates are short-listed on the basis of their academic performance and achievements in extra curricular activities. They are then directly called in for the SSB interview followed by a medical examination.
• Short Service Commission (NCC special Entry Scheme) This is for graduates with 50 per cent aggregate marks, along with minimum of 'B' Grade in the 'C' certificate exam in NCC. Candidates are called in directly for the SSB interview, which is followed by a medical examination.
• Women Special Entry Scheme (Officers) This is for women in the age group 19-27 years with graduate and post-graduate qualifications. Openings exist in technical and non-technical branches. Candidates are short-listed on the basis of their academic performance and achievements in extra curricular activities. They are then directly called in for the SSB interview followed by a medical examination.
Besides these there are other specialised branches:
• Judge Advocate General (JAG) Department Law graduates between 21-27 years of age and 50 per cent marks are eligible to apply. A written examination is conducted by the JAG department, which is followed by an SSB interview.
• Remount Veterinary Corps Minimum eligibility is a BVSc/BVSc with Animal Husbandry and the age bar is between 21-32 years. Short-listed candidates are directly called in for SSB interview. Then there is the Armed Forces Medical College through which you can be a doctor in the Army, Navy or Air force. You need to be between 16 1/2-19 years with 10+2 in Science. The selection process is based on a written exam, which is followed by an interview. One must mention a bit about the interview conducted by the Services Selection Board (SSB): This interview, which lasts for 3 to 4 days, comprises of medical tests, written tests, outdoor physical tests, personal interview, psychological assessment and group tests. On clearing the interview you are directly enlisted into the various Training Centres of the Indian Army.
You have to be between 16½-19 years of age. The minimum educational requirement is 10+2 or equivalent qualification. There are two courses beginning in January and June every year.
Selection to this career in the Indian Army is on the basis of a written test which is objective in nature followed by a Service Selection Board (SSB) interview and a medical examination.
• Lieutenant: Rs 15600 – 39000
• Captain: Rs 15600 – 39000
• Major: Rs 15600 – 39000
• Lt.Colonel: Rs 37000 – 67000
• Colonel: Rs 37000 – 67000
• Brigadier: Rs 37000 – 67000
• Major General: Rs 37000 – 67000
• Lt. General: Rs 67000 – 69000
• Chief of Staff: Rs 70000
In addition to their basic pay army officers enjoy a number of allowances and extra facilities such as dearness allowances, group insurance schemes, leave benefit and travel concessions, furnished accommodation, soft loans, free ration, medical care, etc.
Interview with an Indian Army Officer
Maj. Gen. G.S. Kapoor (Retd.), Indian Army
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.
Did you always want to join the army? No. 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.
So what finally tilted the balance in favour of the army? It was purely by chance. 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.
Tell us something about the training you received 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).
What is the role of 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.
Could you chart your 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.
How was it being a Major General in the Indian Army? Pretty challenging! 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.
What about family life? 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.
What is the scope for an army personnel 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.
What is the best thing about the army? The organisation itself. 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!
What is it that you don’t like about the army? 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.
What are the 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.
What are people’s misconceptions about the army? 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!
What is your advice to youngsters? 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!
What are your other interest and hobbies? 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!
- Siddhartha Roy