The above three excerpts of letters detailing officers, men and units for the Christmas functions at two different Army formations have been doing the rounds in the social media the entire day today. No one knows for sure how they came to be floating on the internet but some attribute it to a cross-section which does not like Christmas/Santa Claus duties or has some different views on how Christmas should be celebrated in the Army.
One of the letter pertains to an Armoured Division while the other is ostensibly of a Mountain Division. There is no need to reproduce what they say as they are sufficiently legible and can be read in their present form.
My first reaction to these letters detailing Christmas duties among various units was that of amusement as this is how things are done in any military station when a major festival comes along and has to be celebrated in common. Every unit gets a piece of the responsibility and the task is fairly divided among all. This is how it has been done over the years. However, some of the remarks which have accompanied these letters in the social media, ostensibly by young serving officers, make it very clear that my views are not shared by the multitude.
It appears that some have taken offence to the fact that in one of the instructions, a Young Officer of a particular regiment has been asked to be detailed to dress up as Santa Claus to distribute gifts among children. While it appears to be a delightful task, especially since it involves children, it has not appealed to several who may have played an instrumental role that such orders end up on social media.
Be that as it may, the fact which must be discerned from this episode is that the speed with which information not appreciated by certain quarters is getting disseminated in outside world. Also, the rank and file also seem to be having reservations about performing such tasks, whether in individual capacity, or, as a unit.
There are pros and cons which have to be discussed internally by the Army and these leaks are only a sign of times. The times are certainly changing and the pulse of the organisation must be felt at regular intervals to ascertain their views on such programmes. If need be, there is no harm in outsourcing several functions in order to keep uniformed men out of them. Given the fact that such functions have a positive effect on the general morale of the environment and it is with this aim that these are held and conducted in the first place, there may also be a need to sensitise the participating units so that misunderstandings about the task at hand do not crop up.
This is a changing Army. With more aspirations, more finesse and much better calibre. It should not get reduced to a farcical exchange of comments on social media which damage its ethos and honour. And the onus of ensuring this rests with the senior officers.