The Guard

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THE GUARD

For a brief moment, while waiting for my instructor to check the plotter, I glanced out through the window of the gunnery storeroom at the surrounding Ambala countryside. It lay green and crisp beneath a crackling December sun. Winter was already tightening its cold embrace over North India.

Behind me lay the boundary fence of the command Air Force base, the largest air force station north of Delhi. And beyond the Air Force station was the Grand Trunk Road, the life line connecting Srinagar with New Delhi. The constant shrieking take offs & touch downs of fighter planes certainly disturbed the cantonment ambience and was an ever present source of irritation for us. It is better to have well trained fighter pilots I thought, than have semi skilled ones who may drop missiles at our own advancing troops in the frenzy of a war!

Ahead of me was the parade ground of our regiment – First Field Regiment, flanked by twin rows of Asoka trees, which were now gently swaying in the breeze. Beyond the ground were the barracks – the living quarters of Jawans, behind which were the M T vehicle park. To my left were the regimental office buildings, all single story lines of rooms with a quarter guard and its regimental flag, Sentry & Kote where the regimental weapons were safely kept. Far away to my right stood the air field tower like a Qutab Minar under the winter sun.

I had just joined the oldest Artillery Regiment of Indian Army soon after passing out of Officers Training School. All officers were to undergo a course called Young Officers course soon after commissioning and I was preparing for that grueling six months course. A newly commissioned officer would be really useful only after the Y.O course and it was that one does well in that course, I was told.

From the corner of my eyes I Could see the quarter guard sentry hurrying towards us. He gave a smart salute & barked: C O Saab wants to see you sir. Taking permission from my instructor, I took my

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