Tactically Speaking…
-A Soldier from the Line of Actual Control*

On 29 August 2020, as we had got ready to move, there was a feeling of expectancy. It had little to do with the devious adversary, the breath-taking heights, the extreme of weather or the severe windy conditions. Next morning as we were on Rezangla, Gurung Hill and other massifs, it all changed to exhilaration, kind of awe, to be privileged to be tasked to defend areas where history had been written in blood and ultimate valour in 1962. Some of the trenches (including one that presumably belonged to Major Shaitan Singh!) are there exactly the same, as they were 58 years ago, and winds are singing hymns and ballads of history.

The marvel lasted a moment, and the duty beckoned, to prepare to face the guile and cunning of the opponent. The preparation of defences is a systemic, drilled in training and exercises, the enfilade fire and the defiladed positions. The ‘defence brick’ is already on its way, the siting is validated; the entrenching tools flashed out, the alarm posts and observation posts occupied and the administration bases on the reverse slope prepared. Like clock-work, like a well-oiled machine, each man to the task, including those who were ordered to rest by roster. The Artillery Observation Posts are busy in their silent registration and fierce looking men in black dungarees are purposefully moving around. This is the test of years of institutional training and loads of experience; but this is not an exercise, it is as actual as it gets.

Lo and behold, there are reserve unit officers and troops around, our own practices for offence and defence are on, all pumped up in expectation. In little time, what looked barren heights earlier, there is hustle and bustle of a pre-Covid Saket Mall! By the night fall, defensive structures are nearly ready and the barbed wire is laid in low wire entanglements or concertina coils, with, ‘stand to’ practiced religiously. In no time the langar (cook house) was serving hot food on the reverse slope. The Commanding Officer spoke at the roll call – ‘this is God-sent opportunity for our unit’, and the adrenaline rush of expectancy brought glow on one and all. The men in the unit are elated at the prospects of the ‘…do do haath,’ to show their mettle.

Not too far, the multitudes of artillery guns are being readied, awaiting the call to fire. The armoured squadron commander is steadily moving the tanks up 2000feet of steep winding track, theoretical power to weight ratio be damned! The engineers are swiftly constructing tracks and helipads, and signallers are patching up communication, all prepared, as every one is saying, for the long haul. And soon came in the thundering roar of Indian Air Force fighter aircraft, flying along the Ladakh Range, wagging the wings in salute. Many of us waved and pumped the air, with a sense of pride and cheer, and immense satisfaction. Shortly, we saw one of our big helicopters with twin huge rotors – one not seen earlier in life – making a trial landing on a makeshift helipad. The ones on the helipad ran to have a peep inside! In one of the preliminary briefings, we were informed that the adversary has created combined arms units and brigades. Better late than never for him, we all stand combined in one fist, without the fancy combined arms nomenclature.

The adversary will come we are briefed; we have nearly done a coup in occupying the large frontage and paid him in his own coin. Did not have to wait for long; up the rolling climb from the shimmering blue waters of Spanggur Tso, came in the PLA. The sight is of a posse of soldiers, with rifles slung and facing downwards, carrying odd dandas (rods) with a dah (short sword) tied on top, bunched together. We had seen the improvised barbed wire coiled rods used in Galwan, but this is newer – looks as if the PLA units had an improvisation competition! The PLA soldiers were shouting indistinctly, but obviously implying to vacate the area, to which we responded in chaste Punjabi, with laughter all-around!

Certainly, this sight is unexpected, but so be it enemy is enemy! With fierce fire control in the best of training standards, we are busy in the defences, working to create overhead shelters and communication trenches. We are well trained and having been deployed often at the Line of Control under heavy firing, this is a kind of repeat, except that adversary is not entrenched and is in the open with some stone walls made to save themselves from the howling winds! This face-to-face at the stone’s throw distance has become as if permanent in nature, but keeps us vigilant and ready. Suddenly, there were some shots fired in a neighbouring locality, and in a fraction of a second our company was on stand to! Expectantly!

It’s been over two weeks here already, and many of us spoke to our families back home, reassuring them that all is well. Playing carom is like part of routine, we hope to get a volleyball court going shortly, though wind is a dampener. Sitting together yesterday night watching TV, we heard a gentleman waxing eloquently among a cacophony of voices, and talking about ‘62 mentality’. On asking, the young Lieutenant, still wet behind his ears, said gravely, sagely and poignantly – ‘…forgive them for they know not what they say…’!

* Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma (retd) paints a realistic picture of happenigs at the LAC.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>


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Proud to hear of such high spirits. Would have been prouder to hear of you braves attacking and dislodging the intruders from Indian soil.

 

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