Z – The Commanding Officer’s Jeep

Commanding Officers (CO) of all Artillery Regiments travel by a Jeep (light vehicle) which is identified by the alphabet ‘Z‘ painted on all its sides.  Most other arms/ services have ‘COMMANDING OFFICER’ written in the front of the CO’s vehicle. Needless to say, that it is the most decked up and mechanically fit vehicle of any unit, driven by the most competent and disciplined driver. It carries with it an air of sacred and infallible exclusivity.

Our unit was a cooperating unit of School of Artillery, Devlali.  We had to provide equipment and soldiers for smooth conduct of training of students of various courses. This was at a time when I was a single parent CO as Marina had migrated to Canada by then. The responsibility of bringing up our children now  rested solely on me.

My residence was about 400 m behind the unit with the Officers’ Mess in between.  Thus I could walk to the unit or Officers’ Mess at any time and hardly ever used the Z.

One day our daughter Nidhi, a grade 6 student, returning from school asked, “Dad, are you a CO?

Yes,” I replied “What ‘s the matter?

Everyone in my class tell me that you cannot be a CO,” she said.

But why?” I queried.

I was taken aback by her reason.  “They say that if I am a CO’s daughter, I would be dropped at school on a Z and not be cycling down to school,” she replied quite innocently.

OK. I am not a CO then.  You continue to cycle to school,” I justified.

One morning I received a call from a senior Staff Officer at the School of Artillery Headquarters.  His concern was that our Regimental officers travelled in jeeps while Colonels of Tactical and Field Wings – many approved as Brigadiers – were travelling on their scooters.  It was not that our officers were travelling on Jeeps, even their ladies used it.  Surely it was an eyesore for those Colonels who had commanded their regiments ‘well’; else they would not have been posted to School of Artillery.

I explained to this Staff Officer “When some of these Colonels were commanding their regiments, they had five Jeeps – one for the CO, one for his wife, one for his daughter, one for his son and one for his dog.  I have only one and the rest are shared by other officers.  It is my command, and I will decide what to do with my jeeps and henceforth please keep away from my command functions.”

On a Saturday I was informed by our Adjutant  that the in-laws of  Captain Vikrant, who joined us just a week before, are in station.

Then let us have a get together in the evening at the Officers’ Mess.  Please invite them too,” I suggested. The CO’s mild suggestions are invariably directions to be implicitly followed.

During the evening get together I asked Captain Vikrant “What are you doing tomorrow? It’s a Sunday.”

My in-laws want to visit Shirdi,” he replied.

How are you going?” I enquired.

I have booked seats in the School of Artillery bus leaving from the Club tomorrow morning.

When our officer’s parents or in-laws visit Shirdi, they take the Z.  Havildar Suresh, my driver will report to you tomorrow morning.”

Hearing this our Quartermaster, Captain Subhash passed the customary instructions to Havildar Suresh to include carriage of adequate water, soft drinks, sandwiches and a spare jerrycan of petrol.

Sunday morning at five, I was quite rudely awoken by the telephone ring.  It hardly ever rang unless there was some very very important information to be conveyed to the CO, which was indeed a rarity.

It was Captain Vikrant at the other end. “Good Morning Sir.  Sorry to disturb you at this hour. Your vehicle is standing in front of my residence.”

It’s there to take you all to Shirdi,” I confirmed.

I thought you were not serious when you told  me that,” he said, embarrassed and apologetic.

I shot off a volley of choicest  profanities in my vocabulary ending with, “Now you take the vehicle to Shirdi and on Monday morning see me in my office.”

On Monday morning Major Suresh Babu, our Second-in-Command escorted Captain Vikrant to my office and said “Sir, please don’t get angry with him.  He is only a week old in our unit.  He is yet to know you.”

I looked at Captain Vikrant and he said “This is my second unit.  Before this I served only in a Field Regiment for five years.  There the Z was regarded as something holy, something of an institution. I have never travelled in a Z till now.  That is why I called you early in the morning to reconfirm.

I dismissed both with the words “The Z did not come as a dowry to me when I got married to the Regiment.

25 thoughts on “Z – The Commanding Officer’s Jeep

  1. Not a dowry gift…Brilliantly said…Tightly written…Quality article.As CO in Patiala, as Commander in Gwalior, as GOC in Baramula, the Jawan or family or all passing on the road with luggage in hands/head sat in the staff car. If a woman was there, I got out and began walking…If a man, he sat in front…If two, one sat next to me.The staff car was not my dowry gift either.Warm regards,Raj

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  2. Reji it is typical of you When I served in AC Hyd Col Reddy was the Dy Car he allowed all officers to use his staff car when required He used say it is staff car for the use of staff not my private car Now a days people like him and you are not visible in Army

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  3. Wow Reji !!!! Bull’s eye. The dowry part was icing on the cake. My classic experience. I was posted to a new raising Air O P Flt in 1987. As per WE we got 5 new jeeps. One for each section. One heptr is one section and we have 5 heptrs in one flt. This arrangement is basically for the chopper to op independently att to any Bde HQ. Thus three for three Bdes and two choppers down for stringent periodical maintenance. So a Flt is equipped to cater for a Div requirement. At any one time there would be 7 to 10 pilots posted in a Flt. I was posted in this Flt as a QFI and also its 2ic. Our Flt Cdr would not allow any offr to use any of these jeeps. Even pregnant wives of young pilots were not allowed to go for regular check up to the Mil Hosp that was about 6 Kms away for our unit loc. Obviously thus putting strain on the young pilot. This was not good at all from the flt safety point of view. So all these young offrs approached me for a solution. So I told them that all must be present in the next day’s early morning briefing.
    Next morning after conducting the flying briefing I accosted the Flt Cdr and appraised the predicament. He will not budge. So I let go …. “sir, you are using a jeep as flt cdr, perfect. But you are also using another jeep to go to a place 15 kms away to buy chicken that was Rs.2/- cheaper than the local market. Your’s and mine wife will not get pregnant but surely these young couples will do so. Sir, kindly do not eat all the laddoos yourself. Distribute and eat. Also it is not good from flt safety point of view”. He went out of the briefing room with a gruff and with a loud grunt “OK”. Humorous though.

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  4. Dear Reji, Nice one. I posted my comments in the blog. Keep writing. This is a rare talent you have. Best wishes. “Love ends when you stop caring”. I pray to God for your good health & happiness. Lt Col Ranjan Kr Deb (Veteran – 53rd IMA). 09830039949 (M)

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  5. Incredible sir…
    In academy we taught to become Sam or Thimayya but in our Service people are like our last few Boss…
    Who are disgracing this elite institution for their personal & post retirement goals…

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  6. Hi Reji Sir,
    WoW!!!… So typical of you!!!… How are you???… Long time no hear… Did that beautiful course Intro SATA with you… Have very fond memories of that great time spent with you…
    Deep Regards…

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  7. How things have Changed with use of Public Property’!. I was commissioned in 1948, and Joined I Dogra, at Jalandhar. No one including the Commanding officer ever used any Public transport for any private or personal use, unless, it was specifically Hired, on payment of 8 Annas, equal ti 50 Paise, per Mile. The Duty slip was Made out in Red Ink, All offers , including the CO, use to come from the residence to Office/ Unit lines in their personal transport, that was mostly cycles. Sahayaks were allowed only in field units, and on payment of Rs. 30/- per Month. The same was deducted by CDA from pay. Ladies and Children were not allowed access to Officers Mess, except a specially dedicated Room, that was marked as Ladies Room.
    Officers never used any Government item, of Clothing and equipment. we purchased Cloth from Officer’s Shop, got our uniforms stitched to fit each individual at his own cost. One never saw an officer using regular Government issued Shoes for Other Ranks. We got our Service patron Boots made by Cobblers , own arrangements. There were No free rations for officers at peace stations. Officers Messes were run on Basis of No Profit No loss. Daily Messing costs were equally shared by all dining Members. Such was concern shown by officers towards use of Public property. to be able to earn the respect of the all ranks under their Command.


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