By Lieutenant Commander C P Sudhakar

Quarterdeck: Vol. 18, 2005

"Preliminary sand model discussions on the concept of operations during AMPHEX-03 will be held at 6 Madras Sand Model Room. Addressees requested to attend."

Having assumed Command of LCU 37 only three days previously, in a Joint Service Command, this would be my first joint service interaction. LCU 37 was the only ship in harbour, completing a short refit. Thus the mantle of representing the Navy fell on my inexperienced shoulders. Only the memory of Army tea-breaks, most eagerly awaited occasions on visits to establishments from NDA, persuaded me to attend. As sand-model discussions commenced, the model was introduced to the syndicates by the Adjutant (6 Madras). The familiar language transported me back to the jungles and mountains surrounding Infantry School, Belgaum. Sand-model discussions in the midst of jungle provided Commando trainees the much required break for R&R. A floor seat in front of the Divisional Officer was most coveted, and the seniority of Naval Commandos vis--vis the young Army officers, quite literally carried its weight in gold! It was at Belgaum that the art of sleeping, with eyes wide open, was perfected, after initial training in Khadakvasla.

The penalty for being caught off guard was called for in terrain analysis, demolition charges, etc. Never an easy task! Quick learning of key words usually bailed me out. Of course, just being a Naval officer always helped at a pinch. For my Army counterparts, wrong terminology, chart instead of map, or counter line instead of ridgeline, was inexcusable. I generally sailed through, with a little prompting from my ever alert Army buddy. "Why can't the Navy carry out landing of troops at Safed Baalu?" The question barked by the CO of the Dogra Regiment brought me back to the present. I looked around for help, but realised I was the sole Naval representative. I reached into memory for those precious words that formed part of all sand-model discussions. "Terrain analysis of the Beach Gradient at Safed Baalu is not favourable for peace time landing Sir," and then, quickly calculating the distance between Safed Baalu and Campbell Bay, I added, "Sir, do you expect your troops to march such a long distance through tropical forest by night?" Tea break was promptly called, in reply. Having thoroughly raided the samosas, jalebis and vadas, I excused myself from post tea discussions. No one from the Army wanted me to miss important trials on board prior to AMPHEX-03: "The rolling & pitching trials alongside!"

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