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Cadet to General

CHITTORIANS PRIDE

Cadet to General

General Dalbir Singh PVSM UYSM AVSM VSM ADC , an alumnus of Sainik School, Chittorgarh, has taken over as the 26th Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army on July 31, 2014.His elevation to the coveted post is an inspiring saga of a young village boy's aspirations who wanted to be an army officer one day. By sheer hard work, resolve and dedication he not only succeeded in becoming an army officer, but also its topmost General, this day.

The story of his life is what dreams are made of; dreams that millions of youth see, but few realise. The story of the ascent of India's new Army Chief will most certainly inspire the youth who can now believe in themselves and their dreams, and with efforts, realise them too.

Early life, humble beginnings

General Dalbir Singh was born in Bishan village in Haryana's Jhajjar district on December 28, 1954. In a script that belies belief, the boy who would one day be a General and Chief of the Indian Army in the 21 st century had a far more humble beginnings than many would ever imagine. Dalbir began his schooling in the village primary school that had just about two brick-laid rooms to speak for any modicum of a school. Life in a village for a young boy then was much the same as is perhaps even today, in most rural settings. Nearly every village lad lends a helping hand in tilling or attending to the fields in their spare time or when the harvest season so demanded. Young Dalbir too would also help his family members in his own way. This would nurture a deep sense of respect for the motherland that bore them their daily bread. It also instilled a great deal of pride in the young lad who was destined for a far bigger role in future.

A cadet's life beckons at school

Sainik School, Chittorgarh (SSC) is the alma mater of the general. Gen Dalbir's granduncle was an equestrian instructor in the school, who suggested that he studied there. Thus began a journey of a life in uniform for Cadet Dalbir Singh on January 15, 1965, now almost half a century.

The flight from his village Bishan to his eventual alma mater at Chittorgarh would greatly shape his future to be an officer in the army. The process of transforming him with all-round abilities, conviction, courage and a steely resolve would be set forth here under the tutelage of some of the finest teachers of those times.

Those who taught him are today, understandably, a proud lot. Among them, are Shri K.S. Kang who had a 10-year stint as an instructor at Indian Military Academy (IMA) before joining SSC ,Shri H.S. Rathi and Shri OS Saxena national-awardee teachers, Shri BS Tyagi, Shri J.N. Bhargava, Late Shri BM Bhargava,Shri RS Rautela,Shri DN Vyas, Shri DL Suredia,Shri GS Acharya, Shri CS Dwivedi and Shri S Banerjee. All of them describe Cdt Dalbir as a “very sincere, hard-working, obedient and an excellent all-round cadet,” and also make a special mention of his sporting excellence. “He was also very good in sports and was a gifted basketball player,” they recall.

Leadership at Kumbha House

By the time he was in 9 th class, Gen Dalbir was nearly as tall as he is today. He would also pick up riding early in school that would put him in good stead later in life. Much of his leadership traits began to surface as a House Captain of Kumbha House under the house mastership of Shri KS Seetaramayya. In the school journal report of 1971-72, Kumbha House “Having won the highest points ever received by any Champion House in the history of this School, the Kumbhaites are justly proud of this collective achievement,” summing up the stellar leadership of Dalbir that helped Kumbha House practically sweep all competitive trophies that year.The 'Honour Roll' at the cadets’ mess of the school lists Cdt Dalbir Singh (Roll No-382) as the 82 nd overall, and among the 12 cadets who joined 44 th NDA course on July 20, 1970.

 Natinal Defence Academy

NDA only proved to be an extension of the school-like canvas, albeit at a wider and a more competitive level. Taking off from where he left at school in outdoor and other activities, he would go on to be a champion athlete and a sportsman par excellence. His riding skills would eventually lead him to be the President, Riding and Polo Club in NDA.

Life in the army

Gen Dalbir Singh was commissioned as 2/Lt, on June 1974 into 4/5 GR (FF), more easily understood as the 4 th Battalion of the 5th Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force).

With a lean and muscular frame at six-feet, the new Army Chief literally and figuratively stands tall not just in the army but also is the revered patriarch for the Gorkha troops as their senior-most serving General.

As a Major, he was an instructor at IMA when his battalion had moved to Sri Lanka for 'Op Pawan'. In a major operation at Jaffna, only two days after the unit had landed there, Commanding Officer (CO), and several others including officers and soldiers were killed in action.

Upon learning of the tragic news that had befallen his unit, he wasted no time in asking Army HQ to revert him back to his battalion, which was granted. Within 24 hours, he was back in his unit and assumed charge as a Company Commander. He remained with the unit till they were finally withdrawn after two years. His arrival would immensely boost the morale of his troops that had earlier suffered several casualties.

As time went by, he rose in rank and also distinguished himself. Besides undergoing various career-defining service courses, he added a few 'Masters' degrees to his qualifications including one for 'Management Studies' from Osmania University, and another on 'Strategic Studies' from Chennai University.

Among the prominent service courses he attended in India, include: 'Long Defence Management Course' at College of Defence Management, Secunderabad (1997-98), and the 'National Defence College' Course at New Delhi (2006), which incidentally, is also an M.Phil (Strategic Studies).

The courses attended abroad include an 'Executive Course' at APCSS (Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies), Hawaii (USA) in 2005, and 'Senior Mission Leaders Course' held by UN Peace Keeping Centre, Nairobi (Kenya) and also participated in an UN Exercise in Accra (Ghana) in May 2007, and PAM seminar in Jakarta in 2008.

As he grew in the army's chain of command in a distinguished career spanning four decades, he also held several critical 'Command' and 'Staff' appointments. All this while, he would also serve in active counter-insurgency (CI) and proxy war environments, both in the North-East and Jammu & Kashmir as well.

He raised and commanded a 'Rashtriya Rifles Battalion' in Nagaland, and later an 'Infantry Brigade' deeply committed in intense CI-operations in the Kashmir valley, for which he was awarded a Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM) for distinguished service of a high order.

He would also go on to command with great distinction a 'Mountain Division' in the Kargil-Drass sector, deployed on the 'Line of Control' in a high altitude area that earned him an Ati Vishist Seva Medal (AVSM) for distinguished service of a very high order.

He also served under the Cabinet Secretariat as an Inspector General, Special Frontier Force. On promotion, he was appointed General Officer Commanding (GOC) of a Corps, looking after the dual responsibility of CI operations in the North-Eastern States in addition to the conventional operational role along the Indo-China border.He would then be conferred an Uttam Yudh Seva Medal (UYSM).Subsequently, he was appointed Eastern Army Commander from June 16, 2012 to December 31, 2013, and later to the post of Vice Chief of the Army Staff (VCOAS) on January 1, 2014. The General Officer would also be honoured with the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM), the highest military decoration for services of exceptionally high order to the nation.

Having served in Army HQ in two prior assignments as a Director, and later as a Deputy Director General in the 'General Service and Staff Duties' (GS&SD) Directorate, he was well acquainted with the working environs in the highest echelons of the Services HQ. With seven months tenure as VCOAS behind him, he is aware of everything that he needs to know, which augurs well for the army in every respect.

A family man to the core

The general is married to Mrs Namita, a Political Science graduate from Delhi University, the daughter of a retired Naval officer on February 7, 1984. The couple would raise a family with daughters Pallavi, Priya and son, Sahil. With son-in-law Nishant now married to their eldest daughter Pallavi, the family picture is indeed a happy frame.

Family life in the armed forces has its own share of trials and tribulations. In the army, perhaps more so because of the frequent transfers. As Gen Dalbir rose through the hierarchy, his responsibilities also grew manifold. His profile is indicative of the hard areas he spent, where families were not permitted. This is when Mrs Namita Suhag would do well to take charge of managing her family and children when her husband was away.Yet, it was not her immediate family alone that she would have to take care of. The families of soldiers living separated, remained her concern too. “They are my family members too. I would visit them as often as I could and resolve some of their problems in whatever way possible,” says Mrs Suhag, in keeping with one of the finest welfare traditions of our army, where officers and their families invariably adopt the culture, language and customs of their troops.

Today, she is the President, Army Wives Welfare Association by virtue of being the 'First Lady' of the Indian Army, the larger army family can look forward to her benevolence, understanding and affection in a much grander way. This would include the welfare of 'Veer Naris' who remain integral to the army.

Gen Dalbir's family has past ties with the army, which includes a younger brother who is a serving Colonel with the Gorkha Regiment. Besides, his two sisters are also married to army officers. Mrs Namita Suhag`s eldest brother has since retired from the army. Of the two others who chose to join the Indian Navy, one has since retired while the other is still serving. Her sister is also married to an army officer, son of retired Col Hoshiar Singh, a Param Vir Chakra awardee.