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Saturday, April 04, 2020

Military Digest: 20 Sikh’s fire assault on the Line of Control

The promotion of officers with 26 years of service to the rank of Brigadier is a welcome improvement over previous decades.

Written by Mandeep Singh Bajwa | Published: February 28, 2020 3:05:14 pm
20 sikh Officers and JCOs of 20 Sikh at Jalandhar in 1993 before their induction in the LOC

On the Line of Control (LOC) it’s essential for an infantry battalion to dominate not only its area of responsibility to prevent infiltration but establish physical and moral ascendancy over the enemy opposite. This was just what was achieved by a spirited unit and its commander thinking out of the box and utilising high professional standards.

20 Sikh took over the Laleali-Keri segment between Akhnur and Sunderbani in April 1994, occupying 17 posts. Since the relieved unit had suffered casualties in an ambush caution was imposed on the battalion by their brigade commander. They were to observe and bide their time and not retaliate to enemy provocations or even fire. Troops complained though of the enemy resorting to fire along with verbal abuse. Matters came to a head one day when the divisional commander was fired upon while inspecting troops along the LOC. In his typical soft-spoken way, he ordered Colonel IS Gakhal (known universally as Injo), 20 Sikh’s intrepid commanding officer, to do something about the nuisance. Injo set about the task in his characteristic methodical way. He motivated and instructed his jawans, planning the retaliatory operation.

Determined to avoid casualties to his own troops, Injo wanted to position them in their protected shelters. Therefore, a fire assault was planned. The aim was the specific elimination of the enemy weapons emplacement codenamed ‘Tip’ to prevent any further interference with our own movement between posts.

Cp and 2IC on the eve of the fire assault

To cause casualties to the enemy, heavier weapons than were normally held by them as well as sector stores were to be used. Using personal liaison and the hugely effective regimental and Academy course-mates’ network, two Soviet 14.5mm KPV heavy machine-guns (normally mounted on the BTR-60 and Skot APCs) as well as two 7.62mm machine-guns (used in an air defence role on Soviet tanks) were procured and placed in well-protected bunkers. This was in addition to six heavy and medium machine-guns normally held by the battalion as well as extra weapons provided on the LOC.

Keeping secrecy in mind, a tunnel was dug for the deployment of a KPV at the Old Sarula picket. Firing was to be in single-shot mode. A public-address system was mounted on a jeep for psyops purposes. All preparations were done by last light on May 19.

Swear in peace saves blood in war- Simulator traiing that helped execute the fire assault

The next morning all weapons commenced firing at 6:30 am with a synchronised jaikara (Sikh war-cry). The fire assault lasted for an hour on selective targets. A total of 15,926 rounds of various calibres of heavy and medium machine-guns were fired with devastating effect. The Pakistani unit opposite, a battalion of the Mujahid Force, didn’t know what had hit them. The Tip bunker complex was completely destroyed, as was a company administrative base. Heavy damage was done to the post codenamed Slope Bunker. Three Pakistanis as well as two mules were killed. As a psyops follow-up, complete freedom was given to Havildar Bobban Singh to roundly abuse the enemy on the loudspeaker! Thereafter, peace reigned in 20 Sikh’s area of responsibility for the rest of their tenure (two and a half years). Injo had kept his word. Towering Twenty had triumphed.

New Brigadiers from the Mechanised Forces

Recently, No. 2 Selection Board was held for promotion of Colonels to Brigadiers in the combat stream. These consisted of fresh cases from the 1994 batch and first and second reviews from the 1993 and 1992 batches, respectively. Six officers from the Armoured Corps and three from the Mechanised Infantry Regiment were successful and will proceed on promotion and posting shortly.

The new Brigadiers from the Armoured Corps are Colonels MA Shaik, 67 Armoured Regiment, Deepak Sheoran, 63 Cavalry, Gopal Kapoor, 17 Horse, Shaqib Hussain, 47 Armoured Regiment, Rohit Teotia, 8th Cavalry and Anuj Kalia, 56 Armoured Regiment. The promotees from the Mechanised Infantry Regiment are Colonels AS Rawat, Narender Singh and Shantanu Goel belonging to the 3rd, 17th and 12th Battalions respectively.

Congratulations to the new Brigadiers!

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