Alert and Anticipating: Two main characteristics of a military officer

A great many thanks to Anita. She joined the personal guidance programme coming all the way from Ranchi and discussions with her stimulated this article.

There are two perceptions of a military officer. First is the technical perception (I took the liberty of coining this term). It means how the assessors see a military officer. The rote of fifteen qualities under four factors is attached with the perception of the scientists of DIPR (Defence Institute of Psychological Research) and those trained by them. Conventional SSB coaching academies have been the biggest propagator of such perception. On the day a batch arrives- the list of qualities starting from ‘Effective Intelligence‘ to ‘Stamina‘ is supplied to the aspirant without consulting him whether he would like to see a military officer in any different way.

The second perception is that of a common man who is not DIPR trained or running a SSB coaching academy. The common man sees military officer who is smart, dashing, dutiful, energetic, disciplined and who fights for his country. He does not mind the loss of his life and limbs in pursuit of his duties. But I wish to bring here the two exclusive points about what a common man finds (sometimes expects) in a military officer. His perception is not based on a formal training but-rather on his expectations and his common-place knowledge of the role of military.

He believes that a military officer is ever ALERT and ANTICIPATING. He attaches great value to these words because he compares this with the behaviour pattern or the habit of those in non-military profession (call them civilians). He feels that military officers are `different’ from a civilian in a way that a military officer is not sloppy, sluggish and sleepy. He is opposite of these. He can quickly swing into action. He hates procrastination. He is ever ready because he is alert and anticipating. As he is alert and anticipating his actions are timely and appropriate.

But what is he Alert against? What he Anticipates?

He is alert against the possible dangers or threats. He anticipates the worst. He is alive and alert to the designs of the enemy. He is not surprised by the moves of the enemy. Remember the `element of surprise’ is one of the important principles of war. Surprise the enemy and don’t be surprised by the moves of your enemy.

His alertness and anticipation are reflected in his thoughts that guide his actions, emotions and behaviour pattern.

[themify_quote]A great life guiding principle goes like this- Love all, hate none, trust only a few![/themify_quote]

This principle tells you to be alert. By posing blind faith or over trusting- you simply give invitations to troubles. If you are not alert and anticipating the worst could hit you. Kargil War happened because we never expected (anticipated) that Pakis would occupy the posts that we vacated during the winters. A soldier on patrolling or while on sentry duty is supposed to be alert. Pilots are required to do mandatory pre-flight checks. They get weather briefing before taking off and they are told in advance to be alert while passing thru certain areas. Even while preparing for an examination you are told what questions are expected- so that you are well prepared.

When you are alert and expecting (anticipating) – you can REACT to the situation well. In military a proverb goes like this- `Being forewarned is being forearmed’. Some years back Naxalites successfully ambushed and killed many a dozen members of a political party when they were travelling in a group somewhere in Jharkhand – Chhattisgarh belt. The travelling party never expected (anticipated) this. Similarly a police party was ambushed in the same region in which about 60 policemen lost their lives. The ambush of Naxals was successful because the police party was neither alert- nor they were anticipating it.

The qualities of ‘Alertness’ and ‘Anticipation’ are reflected in your responses of the psychological tests and interview.

I’ve seen aspirants evaluating the situations as ‘Negative’ and ‘Positive’ before responding to them. How can any situation be negative to deal with!

Like many other SSB aspirants, Anita was also told by her last mentor- that this is ‘Negative’. As a student of psychology, I don’t understand the two words that have made their webs through different SSB coaching academies- i.e. POSITIVE and NEGATIVE. These two words have made the SSB coaching business so profitable.

In my opinion whatever positive or negative you are told- is very much the part of life. Murder, rape, death, injury, fall, defeat, theft, riots, deceit… all these happen in the life around us. You need to have the skills of managing the negativity- rather than denying the very existence!!!

[themify_quote] Mind you denial is one of the worst kinds of `defence-mechanisms’. [/themify_quote]

You must have read these lines written by an American soldier from the battle fronts of Vietnam –


A person with military mindset never deny any situation. He is alert and anticipating.