Col Manu Satti bid farewell to this world to be with his creator on January 25, 2023 at his home in Kakinada due to cardiac arrest. It came as a shock to me as I have been interacting with him through my blogs on various subjects.
He was a gentleman to the core who cherished great values, but was physically one among the toughest soldiers I came across.
Colonel Manu Satti graduated from Army Cadet College (ACC) and was a course senior to us at the Indian Military Academy. He was ever smiling and quiet. He was competing in the final bout of the inter-company boxing championship. His opponent was Gentleman Cadet (GC) Hamilton from Botswana. GC Hamilton was better built than GC Satti.
There was a psychological game being played against GC Satti – both by the GCs from the Hamilton’s company and by fellow GCs from Botswana – by claiming that GC Satti will not last the first round. Many made fun of him, teased him and he replied with his charming smile. GC Satti remained cool as a cucumber but was obviously boiling inside which everyone realised after what happened on the boxing ring.
Within five seconds of the gong sounding the commencement of the first round, GC Hamilton was on the mat, writhing in pain. Luckily the medical specialist at the Military Hospital Dehradun realised the seriousness of the injury suffered by GC Hamilton. He was immediately evacuated by helicopter to Command Hospital, Lucknow, and GC Hamilton’s life was saved. GC Satti’s punch was so powerful that GC Hamilton had a rupture of his small intestine and suffered heavy internal bleeding.
Colonel Satti was commissioned to 36 (Maratha) Medium Regiment in June 1982 when the Regiment was located at Meerut. We shared a good bonhomie as we were Second Lieutenants in the same Artillery Brigade. We competed fiercely on the games field and during various technical competitions, but our friendship was everlasting.
Generally, our Regiment, 75 Medium Regiment (Basantar River) used to comfortably win basketball and other games against 36 (M) Medium Regiment. But for a change, in 1985, 36 (M) Medium convincingly defeated 75 Medium. Colonel Satti was the Team Captain and the Marathas slogged for almost three months, practising morning and evening, ultimately to win the inter-regiment championship.
Colonel Mahavir Singh, our Commanding Officer played with our team. He had developed an immense liking for Colonel Satti – could be that he saw us, the Subalterns of our Regiment enjoying the company of Colonel Satti and that he was leading and coaching most sports teams of 36 (M) Medium Regiment.
In the year 1986, Colonel Satti’s father’s leg was amputated and required an artificial limp at Artificial Limb Centre (ALC) Pune. At that time, a vacancy for an officer to attend Field Engineering (FE) Course at College of Military Engineering (CME) Pune, was allotted to our Regiment. During a Commanding Officers’ conference, Colonel Mahavir came to know about his case and our Brigade Commander wanted a change of the course allotment from 75 Medium to 36 Medium.
Colonel Mahavir readily agreed once he came to know that it was Colonel Satti’s father. Such type of Commanding Officers is rare to be found. I was the nominated officer for the course and I was very happy that I could help Colonel Satti at a crucial time.
Now, Colonel Satti must be smiling at us from the heavens. Rest In Peace Buddy. We will cherish the memories and live on.
One Monday morning of 1995, all hell broke loose at the Northern Command HQ during the Army Commander’s morning prayer. Many Major Generals thundered that a Major had hijacked the Transit Camp Bus, leaving behind their PAs and Clerks. “How can the officer leave the soldiers behind. The officer got to be fixed. It should be a lesson for all,” opined various two starred Generals.
What lead to all these upheavals?
The young officers of Udhampur station were always critical of the Officers’ Transit Camp Bus plying between Udhampur and Jammu. Their grudge was that the senior officers, Colonels and above, travelled to Jammu on leave in Jeep, leaving the lesser mortals to travel by the Army Bus starting from the Officers’ Transit camp.
This bus was preferred by the sizeable number of clerical staff and sahayaks (helpers) of Command HQ. Every Saturday, they travelled by this bus to Jammu, spent the weekend with their families and returned Monday morning.
On Saturdays, by the time the officers reached the transit camp, all seats were occupied by these VIPs and it was a herculean task to remove them. The VIPs were stuck to their seats with bond stronger than that of Fevicol. If an officer requested for a seat, these VIPs turned their head in the opposite direction. Fevicol was not allowing them to get up and their ego of being the personal staff of Generals did not permit them to move. The bus driver and conductor remained helpless and the transit camp NCO responsible for allotment of seats tactically vanished from the scene. No one wanted to annoy the VIPs, typically following the famous Malayalam saying, You must be equally scared of the elephant shit as much as the real elephant.
On social occasions, after a few drinks, young officers of Udhampur did vent their ire on Army Service Corps (ASC) Officers and after few more drinks cursed the ASC as the bus was from one of the ASC battalions in Udhampur. It made no difference to them if the officer was from the Animal Transport Battalion. They said “Yes, AT and MT are same. Both are transport only.” Now, who would argue that Animal Transport had mules and that the technology was ages behind Motor Transport?
On that fateful Saturday, this Major reached the transit camp to travel to Jammu to see off his four-year-old daughter who had joined him for a week during Dussehra holidays. His wife, staying in SF accommodation in Delhi, had boarded her at the Delhi airport as an unaccompanied minor.
As the Major got into the bus, he found all seats occupied by the VIPs. His request to provide him a seat fell on deaf ears and the bus driver pleaded helplessness. Officers senior to him, seated in the bus did not take any action. The Major took a command decision and ordered all the JCOs/OR to get down. Reluctantly and expecting this to be some sort of prank, one by one, they came down from the bus. Finally, with the last VIP disembarked, the Major ordered the driver to start the bus and leave for Jammu. So, the officer, his daughter and another five officers left for Jammu in a bus with a seating capacity of 42 passengers.
The VIPs had been wronged! They vowed to fight together and avenge insult to their status!
“Mera 25 saal naukri mein aisa kabhi nahin hua,” (In my 25 years of service, it never happened like this,) declared the PA of Brig A. The rest nodded in agreement. “Iska kuch karna hoga,” (We got to do something about it,) and the rest again agreed. They then boarded a Shakthiman truck from the JCOs/OR transit camp, fuming at the insult to their status.
Bad news spreads fast but gossip spreads faster. My Company Second-in-Command (2IC,) receiver, and broadcaster of all gossip in Udhampur, came to me with the news that a Major had hijacked the Officer’s Bus and was moving to Jammu with the bus.
I laughed. The 2IC lost his senses. He stared at me as if I was also a hijacker. In between laughter, I assured him that the Major will come out of it. He still could not understand. He said, “Do you know, PA of Brig A had to travel in a Shakthiman truck?” I was soon identified as course-mate of the hijacker.
On that Monday, I was summoned by the DDST to enquire about the Major. With a straight face, I answered all his queries and found him to be appreciative of the Major. The Generals and Brigadiers wanted to order a Court of Inquiry and fix the officer. The Major requested for the same under Army Rule 180, wherein the person against whom allegations have been made has to be present and ask questions to the witnesses.
Since there were many loose ends and it was revealed that many of the Command HQ staff did not have official leave approval; the case was left to die a natural death.
The happiest were the ASC officers as we did not have to listen to complaints on social occasions. The ASC Branch was happy that someone had the guts to take such an action. Orders were passed that the Officers’ Transit Camp Bus was meant only for Officers and all the VIP JCOs and NCOs were barred from travelling in it, giving some relief and respect to young officers.
Two weeks later, the hijacker proceeded on Technical Staff Course at AIT, Pune and the case was finally closed.
You must be itching to know who the officer was?
None other than Reji Koduvath nick named ‘Kaduva’ (Meaning Tiger in Malayalam,) a veteran of several such battles. As a Lieutenant, while serving in Delhi, he had thrashed a Superintendent of Police and sorted out many senior Police officials.
Historically armies practised drill to prepare soldiers for battle. Drill enabled commanders to quickly move their forces from one point to another, mass their forces into a battle formation that afforded concentration of both human effort and firepower and maneuver the forces as the situation developed – akin to our school morning assembly.
The first lesson of Drill or Foot Drill for most of us was the school morning assembly. We trooped into the Assembly Hall/ Ground, wearing our school uniform, from our classrooms in single file, mostly led by our class teacher. The files then assembled, aligning in a straight line from the front and to our sides. We stood at ‘Attention’ for the prayer and the national anthem and for the rest of the assembly was in ‘Stand at Ease’ position.
The drill was employed to train soldiers over and over until a task became second nature and everyone knew how the whole formation moved at any given time. It was in fact Drilled into every soldier that they reacted to commands than thought. The Greeks and Romans had the phalanx involving the soldiers standing side by side in ranks. Just before contact with the enemy, the soldiers moved in very close together so that each man’s shield helped to protect the man on his left. In the beginning, drill gave the soldiers the ability to lock their shields together and form a moving wall of swords and spears. Today, this drill is employed by police across the globe for riot control by locking their shields.
Mahabharata describes Chakravyuh (nodal point defence), Kamalvyuh (lotus array formation), Ardh-Chandravyuh (half-moon array formation) and Shakaatvyuh (T shape formation with a Chakra on it.) Vyuh is a geometrical shape formed for battle with battle drills by maneuvering foot-soldiers, horses, chariots, and elephants. To beat any formation, it was by Makarvyuh (assaulting human waves) which the Indian Army employed during Kargil War. The origin of chess is attributed to these arrays so that the new maneuvers and formations could be war-gamed to surround the enemies.
The hallmarks of military drill are efficiency, precision, and dignity. These qualities are developed through self-discipline and practice. They lead to unit pride and cohesion. Military troops which display constant competence in drill are considered highly trained, well-disciplined, and professional. Drill develops individual pride, mental alertness, precision, and esprit-de-corps which will assist the soldiers to always carry out orders instinctively. Good drill, well-rehearsed, closely supervised, and precise, is an exercise in obedience and alertness. It builds a sense of confidence between commanders and subordinates that is essential to high morale.
The personal qualities developed on the parade ground must be maintained in all aspects of military life. Commanders must insist on the same high standards both on and off parade, to instill these qualities strongly enough to endure the strain of military duty in peace or war. The systematic correction of minor errors strengthens these characteristics and improves both individual and unit standards.
Goose Stepping, throwing their legs as high as they could while marching was a form of extreme marching held by German, Prussian, and Russian militaries to be an ultimate display of the unbreakable will and discipline of its soldiers. While marching, they do not dig their heels hard. Most modern armies have done away with this ‘fascist’ approach to marching as being too extreme. Only a few countries use it as a powerful display of military discipline.
Today, foot drill is a fundamental activity of the military and is practised regularly during initial military training. Foot drill involves marching with an exaggerated heel strike, and regimented manoeuvres performed while marching and standing characterised by an exaggerated stamping of one foot into the ground.
High levels of bone strain caused by such exaggerated drills results in stress fracture. It may also cause micro-damage to bones. Digging down of heels, especially with the foot raised over the head may cause severe strain to the neck and spine and brain damage. These soldiers may also end up with joint pains, migraines, and headaches.
A recent post on the social media that the large number of stress fracture of the hips among Lady Cadets in OTA was attributed was the difference in bone structure of women and the fact that the female hips are not meant to take the same stress as males because they have widened pelvis to enable childbearing. This made me research into the subject of stress fracture during military training.
Stress fractures represent one of the most common and potentially serious overuse injuries, especially among recruits and Officer Cadets the world over. Repetitive weight-bearing activities such as running and marching are the most frequently reported causes of stress fracture. Stress fractures have been reported in most bones of the limbs, as well as the ribs and the spine, but the most common location is the lower limb.
Military foot drill generates higher forces, loading rates and accelerations on the human body and especially the lower limbs compared to running and load carriage. This large biomechanical loading of foot drill may contribute to the high rate of stress fracture during initial military training. Lower limb injury rates, in particular stress fractures, are reportedly higher for running in women compared with men. [i]
A US Army study found that 14% of women suffered stress fractures[ii] compared to 2.3% of men. Women have an anatomical disadvantage that increase their risk of developing stress fractures. Women have wider pelvic breadths, which negatively alter loading strains. A wider pelvis alters the angular tilt on the hips and knees, increasing the stress on these bones and on those of the lower leg and foot. This anatomical difference may explain the greater distribution of stress fractures in the pelvis and hip observed in female recruits.[iii]
In female Army cadets, women who had fewer than 10 menstrual cycles in the year preceding training had significantly lower spine and hip Bone Mineral Density (BMD) than women with at least 10 cycles. In studies of elite Australian female athletes, those who suffered from stress fractures had significantly fewer menstrual cycles/year. Thus, female bones may be more sensitive to severe energy deficiencies that cause depressed estrogen levels and altered bone remodeling.[iv]
3,025 US Marine recruits were studied for 12 weeks of training at Parris Island, South Carolina. Polymer and standard mesh insoles were systematically distributed in boots that were issued to members of odd and even numbered platoons. The most important finding was that an elastic polymer insole with good shock absorbency properties did not prevent stress reactions of bone during a 12-week period of vigorous physical training.[v]
Another study that examined 1,299,332 US Soldiers found that female soldiers had a 3.6-fold higher incidence of stress fracture than male soldiers. They examined age, sex, Body Mass Index (BMI,) and race-origin of stress fracture cases. In both sexes, non-Hispanic white men and women had the highest risk of stress fracture, with a 59% and 92% higher risk respectively, than non-Hispanic blacks. The second highest risk group was Hispanics, with Hispanic men and women having a 19% and 65% greater risk respectively, than non-Hispanic black men and women. Among Native Americans /Native Alaskans and Asians, only women showed increased stress fracture risk compared with their non-Hispanic black counterparts. Asian women had 32%, higher risk of stress fracture than non-Hispanic black women.[vi]
Notwithstanding women joining the Indian Army, it is time to revisit the training norms – both for drill and Physical Training (PT.)
That brings me to the Gun Drill of the Regiment of Artillery where the detachments are trained to bring the gun into/ out of action and engagement of targets, as if in a war situation. Here too, over a period, exaggerated movements did creep in, causing skeletal damage to soldiers.
[i] Force and acceleration characteristics of military foot drill: implications for injury risk in recruits : Patrick P J Carden, Rachel M Izard, Julie P Greeves, Jason P Lake, Stephen D Myers
[ii] The impact of lifestyle factors on stress-fractures in female Army recruits: Lappe JM , Stegman MR , Recker RR :.
[iii] Females Have a Greater Incidence of Stress Fractures Than Males in Both Military and Athletic Populations: A Systemic Review Laurel Wentz , MS, RD ; Pei-Yang Liu , PhD, RD ; Emily Haymes , PhD ; Jasminka Z. Ilich , PhD, RD
[iv] Bone density of elite female athletes with stress-fractures : Carbon R , Sambrook PN , Deakin V , et al :. Med J Aust 1990..
[v] Prevention of lower extremity stress fractures: a controlled trial of a shock absorbent insole. L I Gardner, Jr, J E Dziados, B H Jones, J F Brundage, J M Harris, R Sullivan, and P Gill
[vi] Risk of Stress Fracture Varies by Race/Ethnic Origin in a Cohort Study of 1.3 Million US Army Soldiers. Lakmini Bulathsinhala, Julie M Hughes, Craig J McKinnon, Joseph R Kardouni, Katelyn I Guerriere, Kristin L Popp, Ronald W Matheny Jr, Mary L Bouxsein