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Ravi Ranjan asked: What lessons can the Indian Army draw from the empowerment of JCOs in the Air Force and the Navy?

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  • Vivek Chadha replies: The empowerment of Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) has remained an ongoing endeavour within the Armed Forces, irrespective of the specific service. Over a period of time, greater powers, including financial and administrative, have been delegated to ensure that JCOs take greater responsibility and their services can be best employed.

    The Air Force and the Navy have the advantage of taking airmen and seamen who are educationally empowered and have expertise in their area of work. They are specialists in their specific fields and therefore are able to take on responsibilities independently. This over time has further reinforced the culture of decentralisation.

    The Army witnesses similar employment in its technical arms and services, where JCOs function independently in small sub-units. This is evident from experience with the Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Medical Corps (AMC), Corps of Signals, etc. Even in arms like the Armoured Corps and the Artillery, where trade-based specialisation is the norm, one finds greater reliance for tasks on JCOs.

    The employment of the Army in counter insurgency (CI) operations has helped decentralise to a greater degree. One finds not only JCOs but also Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) taking on responsibilities independently. This instils greater confidence and the standing to function with their sub-units. The paucity of officers has also encouraged decentralisation over the years.

    Having said that, there is certainly scope for further encouraging this evolving trend. The nature and scope of the future battlefield will demand independent decision making and actions. To that extent, it is imperative that some of these initiatives are further honed in the future.

    Posted on June 07, 2018

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