Nicodemus Manohar Samuel

Through The Lens of An Armed Forces Pilot

Through The Lens of An Armed Forces Pilot

Nicodemus Manohar Samuel

Retd.Air Vice Marshal, Director Business Development at Boeing

Nicodemus Manohar Samuel

Samuel has superannuated as an Air Vice Marshal from the Indian Air Force after a career spanning 36 years, the best part of which was involved in aviation-related Operations, Experimental Test Flying and Defence Procurement related activities.

As a pilot in the IAF, he had flown extensively all over India, in the Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka, as part of the two scientific expeditions in Antarctica, and in Congo as part of the United Nations. These also included tenures as a Flying Instructor and a Senior Test Flying Instructor.

In the higher ranks in service, his expertise in test flying was utilised repeatedly for Defence Procurement-related activities, and he handled a number of projects for the IAF in various appointments at HQ and the Ministry of Defence. I was also appointed to manage Transport and Helicopter Operations at the highest level in Air HQ, and Joint Operations at the HQ IDS.

Samuel has retained his interest in academics and obtained a Master’s degree in Defence Studies and Management Studies, as well as a Master of Philosophy in Business Management, also serving as a Head of Faculty at the College of Defence Management. He uses this experience to give talks on Leadership at various forums in the Corporate sector.

While not working, he is either cycling, painting, reading or involved with music.

Take home these learnings

1. The journey of serving in the armed forces
2. The story of the scientific expedition
3. Losing fellow soldiers in a combat situation
4. The difference between officers and leaders

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Episode Transcript:

Intro: Atleast, I have never come across anyone who says they don’t like the armed forces uniform. The class, dignity, grace, and the pride that come along is unparallel…I don’t think, there is any bigger pride than serving your own country. BTW, have you wondered: What would that be to fly solo in a machine at 20, 000 feet above ground? What does it mean to loose a fellow soldier in a combat? What does it mean to loose 4 fellow travelers in an expedition? Welcome ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the podcast the xMonks Drive. I am your host Gaurav Arora and our today’s guest is Retd Air Vice Marshall Nicodemus Samuel. As a pilot in the Indian Air Force, he flew extensively all over India, in the Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka, as part of the two scientific expeditions in Antarctica, and in Congo as part of the United Nations. These also included tenures as a Flying Instructor and a Senior Test Flying Instructor. Without wasting even a single moment, let’s take a dive and listen to those life threatening experiences and those episodes that shook him to the core…. Outro: The more you sweat at the training field, the less you gonna bleed at the warfront. I have loads of learning from this episode be it: Leading from the front To understanding professionalism To the true meaning of Service and duty above all. What are your key learnings. Would love for you to rate and review the podcast and I look forward to meeting you next week with another interesting conversation. Till then, please take care and stay tuned ☺ 00:02 Thank you so much Samuel. Such an honour, privilege, pleasure to have you on this podcast. How are you doing? So? 00:10 Thank you. Thank you Gaurav. It's always a pleasure talking to you and I’m doing well. Thank you. Yeah. Just curious, should I call you Air Vice Marshall? Or just Samuel would go? Samuel is fine, perfectly. Yeah. You know, while I was going through the kind of work that you have done, the way you have served the country, the kinds of exhibitions that you've gone through, I was so fascinated and inspired by just going through your 00:37 list of accomplishments that you have done, would love to understand Sir 00:44 what was that moment when you decided to be a part of the Indian armed forces? 00:52 Samuel: Unlike a lot of others, I was I didn't have too much exposure to the defence services when I was young. In fact, if you look at my family, right, for many generations, there's nobody who's even vaguely connected to the defence. 01:09 And so when I finished, when I went through my education, I was preparing to do my engineering and medicine just like everyone else. At that time, these were the two main disciplines and everyone's got to do them. But I was always interested in the outdoors. And when I heard about the military training, it, some of my colleagues went and joined the National Defence Academy. And I was quite fascinated by that whole by their description of the academy and life there. And I was drawn towards that. Actually, while I was actually preparing to give my IIT exams, and when I went through the initial entrance exam, and I was called for the interview, I immediately made a decision that I would like to join the differences. That's how I met I happen to come into the defence force and join. wow. And 02:03 how was the journey of going through the training, going through the rigor writing exams, and then getting through it? How was that experience, if you can just share, for the benefit, the benefit of the people who might not be aware of that? Yeah, it is a fairly intense selection process for the National Defence Academy. I went through the National Defence Academy, ofcource there are more than one way of both joining the defence forces you can join even after doing a degree. But I joined the National Defence Academy after I finished my 12th standard That’s immediately after my school education. And the I basically felt that joining the defence will be bigger than just something ordinary to do. And I expected that it will be an exciting experience. And as it turned out, now, when I look back at my career, I don't think I can, I could, I could have been more right in what I thought because it was probably the most exciting career, far more than even I could have imagined at that time. 03:09 The selection process itself is quite intense. It I didn't have the benefit of going through coaching classes, like many people do nowadays. But I think I just was myself. And they found that I was suitable. So I'm happy that I was able to join at that time. 03:32 Yeah, yeah. And just curious, you know, my closest interaction with people from Navy from Air Force from 03:41 Army has always been that I've seen, you know, people from people from the armed forces. 03:50 And in the movies, right? What does it mean to wear that white uniform and serving the nation? What does it mean? How does that feel? 04:00 Samuel: Yeah, it's the white uniforms for the Navy, for the Air Force it was khaki when I joined. And within, after a few years, it changed over to the blue uniform, the air force now has a blue uniform. Wearing a uniform itself is a matter of great pride, it actually fills you with a lot of pride wearing a uniform, and that's because of the way you are trained, you always feel very proud. 04:27 That of joining us when I was in service, I was extremely proud to wear that uniform. And now that I have finished my service career, and I look back, I'm actually, I'm still proud that I was a part of the service for almost 40 years. And I think the whole concept of being proud of your uniform is a matter of the training itself. You're trained to be proud of what you're doing. 05:00 Proud of serving the country proud of, if necessary, giving a life for the country also. And that instils the whole training process itself. And life in service, the whole comradery. And the environment in which everyone does it’s jobs with a lot of professionalism instills a lot of pride in you. And that's what it feels to wear the uniform always. 05:28 Yeah, as you said, at times, you might have to give your life to that. And I've just loved all our interactions. I still remember one of our conversation when you mentioned that commercial flying, and flying for the armed forces are two different things. And I still remember in your words you mentioned, it is very different experience and it exposes you to different perspectives, especially when you're flying solo. 05:55 Tell me about that. What does that mean? 05:58 Samuel: When I joined the airforce, I didn't know anything about flying. In fact, at that time, when I joined the service, I was probably 17 years old and I had never flown even in a commercial aircraft. Because that time it was something which is not very common, flying in a civil airliner also. And so I had never been in an aircraft till I actually started flying in the air force. And 06:25 flying is a completely immersive activity. When you're flying. When you're handling the controls physically, you can't think of anything else. It is so immersive that you forget about everything else. It is thrilling it is 06:41 it there is a sense of 06:45 the sense of danger involved, which drives your adrenaline to very high levels. And it requires a kind of attention that completely involves you and completely immerses you. And when you actually go through this process of training and fly solo for the first time, that's a big day, because you kind of are deemed to have been made to have made it to becoming a pilot when you go solo. And flying solo is probably an experience which is second to none. Because that is something which is very difficult to describe. You, you fly, you're alone in a machine, you dig it up to whatever 20,000 feet in the sky. And you feel like you escaped from the world itself, you have a bird's eye view of the world itself. And it completely changed my perspective because and then you start doing a lot of aerobatics, you, you throw the aircraft around carefree, because you don't have roads in the air, you can do whatever you want. And it's Excel. There are no traffic ops as well. 07:56 No alarm, nothing. 07:58 Of course, there are rules you have to follow. And there are regulations you have to follow. But it's exhilarating. It's thrilling. And it's literally out of this world. So that's an experience, which that's why you find that every pilot once he starts flying, he just doesn't want to stop. He In fact it’s a nightmare that he will be asked to stop flying. 08:23 I still remember you said flying is addictive. Yeah. Tell me about that. What's so about flying? That, as you mentioned, there's no experience like that, once you start flying, you will not want to stop that. What about flying? How does that make you feel about yourself? And 08:42 what about that? 08:45 Flying the ability to take a machine into the air to do your task, whatever task you've been given to do with that machine, to bring it back and safely land at the field is something which gives you a lot of confidence in yourself. Because it's not an easy task you have worked with, you have to work very hard for it. It's the whole training process is extremely. 09:12 It's extremely tight, it's extremely, it's a process where you can't take anything easy for even for one day. And so, you have gone through that process, it gives you a lot of it gives you a sense of power, it gives you a sense of confidence and it gives you a sense of being able to do something which is out of the ordinary. So all these things make it actually gives you an adrenaline rush and that is what you get addicted to. So in armed forces, what are the various reasons for which you have to fly one is I understand when you are going for a war where you are supporting the army or military or when you have to 09:52 deliver ration at places where it's required when you have to drop VIPs what are the other reasons for you 10:00 to fly, if you can just help us understand because civilians most of the siblings might not be exposed to the world that you are coming from. Yeah, there are, broadly very broadly, the three types of 10:13 flying in the air force the three kinds of pilots in the Air Force, because you once you finish your flight training, which is common for everybody, you there is a trifurcation, where people go into three different streams. The one is a fighter stream, where people fly the fighter aircraft. And there you are trained for combat in the fighter planes. The second is the transport aircraft where you're flying the big transport aircraft and you're carrying passengers you're carrying troops in, you're doing combat missions in on in their fields and in enemy territory. And the third is helicopter flying, I think of all of the three, I've been a click of a pilot, probably I'm biassed towards it. But helicopter flying is the most diverse of all the three flying because there's a wide variety of activities involved with helicopter flying, you're, 11:09 Of course, getting passengers like transport flying is one of the things. But that's that's just that's just one, delivery in Galatians along the border to the army posts 11:21 rescuing people who are in distress, whether it is in floods, whether it is in 11:27 cyclones, or whether it is in any type of distress, even mountaineers who are lost in the hills, you rescue people, then you deliver in any kind of calamity or helicopters are always called upon to 11:43 give aid to people as well as rescue people. And then of course, you in combat, you also are trained to deliver ammunition, you can fire rockets, you can fire bombs, you can fire guns from the helicopters. So you're doing have such a wide variety of then you're trained to carry these 12:05 commandos into battle. 12:08 And in special operations, do those kinds of missions as well. 12:15 And my assumption is that you have been involved in all different kinds of diverse activities, be it firing bombs or missiles, I still still remember our conversation on the combats that you were involved in the year 991988 to 1990. So we will talk about that. You know, I'm very curious, since you spoke about the diverse activities that you might get involved in when you are flying helicopters. At times, you might come across situations when you have to fly for those individuals that you might not respect. There are certain politicians that you might not have deep respect for. And yet you have to do the service, because that's the mission that you're on to. 12:58 How does that feel? And how do you deal with that kind of situation? 13:03 Now, one thing that the military trains you for, and it does that very well, is to fill each pilot or each officer, the sense of duty, the sense of duty is the most important 13:20 aspect of our training and service. And the need to maintain that sense of duty and to complete the mission, as well as you can do it or as well is that you are expected to do it is irrelevant of the circumstances in spite of all circumstances, whatever the circumstances, we recognise very early in service that there is a need to separate personal emotions and prejudices from the job at hand. So your biases, your prejudices, your personal preferences, you keep it on one side, yes, just focus on what you're here for. Yes, so and the do your duty, right. And like, like I said earlier, flying, it helps that flying is an immersive activity. So it must in the job at hand. And in doing it well. It requires a lot of concentration irrespective of what you're doing. Because military flying is not like commercial flying, commercial flying is more or less taking off from an airfield. And landing in another airfield. This involves a lot of activity, which and without many of the AIDS which commercial pilots benefit from. So it helps that we don't really have the time to think of anything else while flying. So we just do our job we trained for that. And we respect the people in authority. we risk we have respect for this. I have respect for the service I work for, for the system that has trained me to do my job. I respect the authority of the person who's given me the task, and I will never let them down because that's what I've been trained to do. I don't find any contradiction in their day. 15:00 To me, 15:02 thank you for sharing that. I think that's where we get stuck from and I'll talk about myself at that how my own personal biases, my own prejudices and my own assumptions and beliefs. They come in the way. And I think that's what 15:17 keeps me away from serving the person and doing my duties. And that's one thing that I'm working on. 15:25 You know, Samuel, as a pilot in the Indian Air Force, you flew extensively all over the country. 15:33 And on several expeditions, and I still remember you spoke about in the peacemaking force in Sri Lanka, it was in the year 1988. If my memory supports me, that's what you mentioned. And when you spoke about the LTTE Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. 15:51 What do you think? How was that experience for you? And you spoke about the moment when you realise that's a rebirth for you. 16:02 Tell me about that. What was the moment? How did you manage to deal with that? 16:08 Yeah, in all my flying in my flying career, I've come across many situations where I've been in situations where we probably could have led to an accident. In fact, it happens all the time. That's the kind of flying that we do. But this one really stands out because it was very early in my career that I had this opportunity to go into a completely combat situation, where I was part of the Indian peacekeeping forces, went into Sri Lanka in 1988. And there, 16:42 I was there for almost two years, supporting the peacekeeping force. At one time, the peacekeeping force went into a full division of 80,000 people. And 16:56 we were involved in all kinds of 17:00 what you call guerrilla warfare, where they were hidden run episodes from the LTTE side. And we were involved in trying to deal with that. And one of the missions, we had to go and drop a commando team in a very densely 17:22 vegetated part of the jungle. There was no clearing in that area. So we went to look for clearing we couldn't find it. So we decided to go and ventured on people benching is a process which involves dropping each commando one by one, which takes a long time through it was an extremely dangerous mission, there was a lot of deliberation as to whether we should actually do it because it was the possibility of 17:50 being hit by 17:53 their small arms fire was very high. But it was decided that we'll go ahead. And so we did. And we took an escort of an attack helicopter with us. And but the jungle was so thick that we couldn't see anything. And when we started, we went and hovered at treetop level. And we started dropping the commanders one by one, that's when they started firing at us. And when you said 18:17 three top level, what was the level that you're talking about? And are you saying that you were flying a helicopter at that height? Is that what you meant? 18:27 What we do is we come in, we come to a hore at a height of 20 metres, that's just about the tree top level. 20 metres that's the limit. Is that because of holding a helicopter at 20 metres, yes. Wow. Okay. 18:44 Because and then we throw a rope of the helicopter, and the commandos come down with that rope. 18:52 It's actually in the case of winching it's steel, which low which we attach to a motor, which loads each one each one. And we were doing that, that takes obviously takes time because you have to lower them one by one, one by one. And because the clearing was so small, we had to do that. And while we were doing that, they started firing at us. And we couldn't take off immediately because we had to retrieve the person who had gone down. And so in that process we had to we were under fire for almost a minute I think. Wow. 60 seconds is long time when you're under fire. Yeah, yeah, motionless at 20 metres about at one place, and you're trying to retrieve everything that has gone down and put it back into the helicopter. And, of course, we took off after that. But and we landed at the nearest army base. But unfortunately, we lost the leader of the team, the commando team. He died because of the firing. And we realised that the helicopter was badly 20:00 It 26 bullets came to the helicopter, including the cockpit. My engineer and my copilot were all hit, but we managed to fly the helicopter out. So that was one experience which was, which stands out even now. And I distinctly remember every second of that 20:23 episode as, as, as it runs through my mind, like remember, the expressions on the faces of everybody and how they did their job. It was in spite of all the firing, everyone did his job, nobody panicked. And we managed to get out of that place. And what was going on in your mind? Because the controls were in your hand? Yes. So what was going on in your mind? 20:49 I think, 20:51 again, once again, I would say a training is so good, that we just concentrate on the mission at hand, we practice scenarios, where things are likely to happen to us. In flying, what typically happens is we practice all our emergencies before every sortie, irrespective of the fact that you've done it probably just one hour before we practice all the emergencies. 21:21 They're called react emergencies where you don't have time to think. So we practice all of them before we take off for a sortie. And, and we are trained to do that so rigorously, that we do it in spite of the fact that we know we've done just done it probably an hour before or two hours before we do it again. And that's what helps rigorous training 21:43 helps us to just go through with the motions of doing things as they're supposed to be done, because you've practised it so many times earlier. And that's what military training does. That's that's the importance and the that's why training is given so much importance in the military and 22:01 You know Samuel, this is something that I've never understood be it people from the armed forces, or people who are from the opposite 22:14 party when we are talking about terrorists, and when you are talking about LTTP What do you think, Why do people get so aggressive? And how could they get so aggressive and pick up the suicidal tendencies and willingness to kill others mercilessly? 22:30 What's your views on that? I think all human beings are the same when human beings are convinced that they have a cause. 22:43 Whether it's right or wrong is a matter of opinion. But if a human being is convinced that he's fighting for a cause, he's willing to do anything for that cause, like we are, like, we say that we are willing to lay down our lives if required for our country, because we believe in the cause. We believe that the security of the national security and the security of the countries is more important than the life of one individual, the same way each individual of 23:18 every organisation irrespective of which organisation really believes even a terrorist organisation, he believes that the cause is bigger than himself, that he himself, his life. And so that's what causes him to 23:35 ignore his own life, or gives lesser importance to his own life as compared to the cause. And we have you've seen that everywhere, wherever we've been. We've gone and dealt with these kinds of organisations. Yeah. 23:55 Something to really ponder on. I'm just wondering, I could relate to that given your life for the country. But as we're talking about the opposite organisation like terrorist organisations, what is it that that must be going on in their mind? What is the cause that they are fighting for? 24:15 They believe that they have not been given their due as members of society in that country. 24:26 And they believe that's a cause worth fighting for. And that's because what laying down their life's work. And once a person believes that the human spirit is so dominant that it actually is willing to do anything for that cause. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And I think these tendencies are so visible in day to day lives as well, right when we are dealing with people with reactive patterns, who start to shout at people who get angry, the road bridges that we see on a day to day basis. I think those are the same instinctive 25:01 patterns that we notice on day to day life as it is my understanding why? 25:05 Yeah, you're right in the sense that very often it is exactly that which comes out and which causes us to behave in a manner which, but I don't think most people do it very consciously in the sense like a person, people like the 25:27 LTTE are fighting for a cause. They've probably given it a lot of thought. And they've said, or people in the military, we've given it a lot of thought, and we've said that the cause is worth fighting for. 25:41 But in day to day life, when you are dealing with people, you are probably reacting to the base instinct of 25:52 safeguarding your interest without really giving it too much thought. Because if you had given it too much thought, and probably looked at it from a more holistic level, you'd realise that what you are abusing somebody for you, you're shouting at somebody for you're getting angry at somebody for, for losing a temper at somebody for is really not worth it. 26:15 If you look at it a little more holistically, if you're able to go to a higher level, and look at life a little more holistically, you will realise that these small things don't matter. And you won't lose your temper as often as you do. 26:33 Yeah, so true. So true. But I think it takes time, and we take a lot of time to realise that our reactions are not going to work, you know, the kind of experiences that you're talking about flying 20,000 feet above ground, or being involved in one of the combats that you're willing to give your life to. I don't think that when you are at that point, this point in your life, 27:01 I don't think you will give a thought to what's happening in the family front, whether you're getting water on a day to day basis, or not the kind of petty issues that most of the civilians, including me, get involved in. 27:13 Yeah, you're right in, you actually don't have time to think about those things. I'm not saying that is the right thing to do or not. But most often, when you're involved in situations like this, you don't have the time to think about that. That's why we give a lot of importance to the collective nature of our 27:35 society, in the military, the campus where we are, we try and help families try and live together and help each other because they know that very often, the officers themselves are not presented to deal with the routine, day to day, 27:53 issues of life. So the families have a lot of support from each other during times when we are not there to help them. 28:02 Yeah, you know, you've got amazing experiences in your life. And of course, at times it could be life threatening as well. The one experience that you spoke about. You spoke about a scientific expedition that you were involved in, in Antarctica, 28:17 one of those episodes of your life that shook you to the core dimension. 28:22 Tell me about that expedition. And what was it about that expedition in Antarctica? That shook you to the core? 28:31 Yeah, I always talk about my 28:36 expedition Antarctic Expedition experience as the high point of my life. Because it gives me I think it gave me a very different perspective of 28:47 the world itself. See, this was a scientific expedition in which the airforce was part of to. 28:59 We took two helicopters to transport the scientists and their equipment to and from the ship to the base. So we landed our helicopters on the ship, the ship sailed out to Antarctica, which there after about a month, 25 days, and then we started flying there. 29:15 And nobody knew what to expect, because Antarctica is a place where very few people have gone. Of course, you would hear accounts of people who have gone there earlier. But it's very difficult to imagine exactly how Antarctica was. one day you get up in the morning and it's like a fairy tale, the whole world has turned white. 29:34 And the whole atmosphere is so pure and unpolluted. Visibility is almost unlimited, air you feel so fresh, and you actually feel very healthy there. And that's when you realise that 29:51 possibly, that 29:57 that all the things that you're so bothered about 30:00 have, you know, you know, what you consider to be technological advancement. 30:05 And yes, which humanity is so proud of, 30:10 has it actually made a difference to the world as in terms of has it made it a more beautiful place, or it hasn't made it just comfortable for us, without making it more beautiful the earth as it was, Antarctic is, it's called the Lost wilderness, it's a place where it, which has remained untouched by largely remain untouched by till now in hand still now. And so you see the earth as it was probably, in the beginning, when there were no human beings to muck around with it. And you realise that is actually 30:50 it was it must have been far more beautiful when it was untouched by humans. 30:55 And that causes you to actually think about think a lot about life itself, all the things that you feel are very important in our lives, you know, we tend to feel that the gathering of material possessions are so important for us. Actually, I don't know how much I mean, if you look at the larger picture of the world, as it is, how we form a part of the world, we are part of nature. And what we are doing to nature, is probably actually making it less beautiful and destroying it rather than enhancing nature and the beauty of nature. 31:38 So true, so true. I've seen Antarctica only in the pictures, as I was asking you so pure, so white, white, dazzling, shining. And do you have penguins there as well? Did you? Did you come across any penguins? Thats a silly, stupid question. I know, I'm asking. We have've come across a lot of penguins. And they're extremely fascinating creatures, actually. You can spend hours watching penguins, the way they interact with each other, they move around and small colonies or groups, and very, very interesting to watch them. 32:13 So tell us what was the expedition? And 32:17 why was that the high point of your life? What happened in that expedition? 32:23 Yeah, well, the expedition by itself was one of the most like I said, it was one of the most interesting experiences. And it gave me it was the most thrilling experiences to fly around in Antarctica in a land where we were probably the areas we've been to nobody has ever been before that self is a drill by itself. But one of the there was an unfortunate accident in Antarctica, where we lost four of our scientists, 32:55 we, one of the tasks we had to do was take scientists in helicopters and drop them in the hills, light up in the hills at 10,000 feet, where they set up small camps to do the scientific experiments, they collected rock samples and other small 33:15 mass and other samples. And this, they would stay there for a week and we would go there every morning and give them rations so that they could continue their work. And we dropped four of the scientists there one day, they would stay in a small Arctic tent with one generator. And the next morning, when we went to give them rations, we found that there was no movement. Otherwise, they would normally come out to welcome the helicopter landing there. 33:43 And right till the times we stopped, nobody came out, we went to the tent and found 33:49 they seem to be sleeping there. And when we tried to interact with them, we realised that they were no more, all four of them had died. 34:01 This was an unfortunate accident involving carbon monoxide poisoning. They probably ran the generator in the tent for some time. And carbon monoxide being a silent killer, just finished all of them. 34:13 And this was something which of course, I had seen combat. Before that I had seen death, I had seen a lot of 34:22 I've been in a lot of situations in the military where we had to face our colleagues 34:28 losing our colleagues and in combat, but for an expedition which consists of 120 members, most of whom are civilians. 34:39 The we found that there was a big difference between the way we dealt with losing our colleagues with death and losing our colleagues and the way with 34:49 the others.dealt with that, because they were not trained for it, or they were not ready for it. 34:59 Probably nobody can train you for that. But they can train you for, to be ready for, to deal with it. 35:06 And that made a huge difference in the VA. And what we observed was that 35:12 the scientific part of the expedition almost collapsed at that point. And it was only with the help of the military personnel that the slowly had to be the slowly could come back. And we could continue the expedition. It was, it was it gave me a sense of 35:37 realised, again, give me a realisation as to how good the military is in what it does in training us to deal with situations in which the mission is the most important thing. We continue with the mission, in spite of what happens, there will be unfortunate instances like this, but we always continue with the mission. And we do it very often in honour of those who we lost. Yeah, so that's exactly what my question is in your squad. And what I understand is, it's a team of 25 pilots, which are under one commanding officer, when you lose somebody who's a part of your family, somebody is a part of your unit. How do you deal with that? What does death mean to you in that context? 36:23 Helicopter unit, or any unit, any flying unit is a very closely knit family actually, we have to build up the kind of camaraderie and brotherhood among ourselves. Because we have to watch out for each other in combat, we go into combat together, we have to watch out for each other, we are dependent on each other for our lives, not just for the mission. And so we develop a very close bonding between 36:55 the members of that unit, including the families, because the families are also dependent on us and the other families when we are away. And so we build a very close rapport with members of and we are all like one family. And so when we lose a member of the family, it hits everyone hard, there is no doubt about it, we are also human beings. Finally, the fact that we are trained in the military does not make us less of a human, we have to deal with grief, the same way everybody else deals with grief. 37:28 But that's when our training comes in where we realise that what we are doing is far more important than sitting down and grieving, grief can come later there will be a time for grief. And we are trained to carry on with the mission. 37:49 Till we are able to deal with their grief at a later time. And then we are able to do it deal with the mission as well as we would have otherwise. In fact, we would we do it with more 38:03 motivation because of somebody we have lost in the process. So it is a tradition and service in the airforce. That when we lose a colleague in military action, which do happen quite often. We do lose colleagues when I'm sure, I'm sure. So the next morning, it is a tradition that every pilot will fly. 38:26 And that's a tradition we follow very meticulously because we believe that that is the way it needs to be done. We honour our colleagues by doing that by continuing with the mission for which they have given their lives. 38:45 And noticing yourself what does it mean to fly? What does it mean to deal with emotion when you're surrounded by 38:52 and you've lost somebody who's a part of your family as you mentioned. 38:58 I have realised throughout my military career and my training that the human body can adapt to anything, including extreme physical hardship our training is at times. 39:15 We're very, very tough. And we go through a lot of hardship and the whole aim of this going through hardship, we probably it's not that we have to do that in actual wartime situation, we may never come across such such situation. But the whole aim is to 39:35 the whole aim is to reveal to us that the human body is capable of a lot more we have a lot more inner 39:45 strength and strength and resilience. Yeah. And power as you said, yeah. That then we even realise and so the human body can adapt to anything. It's just a matter of the mind. Putting your mind to it. 40:00 and training your body for it. Firstly, it is the mind and then it is a body which you have to train. Yeah, as always, the mind is more important than the body, the body will follow the mind as to be ready for it. 40:14 You know, it sounds easy, but I know how difficult it is to have them how difficult it is to deal with doing and continue with your task. But I think as you are emphasising on the way you are trained, probably I think that's what makes all the difference. 40:35 Is this essentially the training of course, and, and the whole environment in which you are 40:44 you You belong to and which you're a part of where everybody is involved in the process. And everybody realises that this has to be done. And you're always talking about it. Irrespective if we may be at peace, most of the time, but we are always training for war. And we're always talking about war because that's what we have that is the ultimate purpose of the military and defence forces. 41:11 Yeah, so Samuel, I'm just curious, we're talking about your experiences of being in Antarctica, you spoke about the combat that you were involved in, there were lots and lots of fights and 41:26 battles and the wars going on between our neighbouring countries, be it China, be it Pakistan. Have you experienced any kind of situation within Pakistan or China that you may want to share with us? 41:48 No, you're talking about combat situations or, or any, any exposure to any exposure to 41:57 as part of one, one of the experiences that I had, as part of my career is to fly with the United Nations. In Africa, I was part of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Congo. And I was the commanding officer of a helicopter unit there. So I took a helicopter unit, there were about 200 members, 20 pilots and the rest of the maintenance crew. 42:27 We were flying the same helicopters there. 42:31 And we have to fly with an army battalion like in combat, you always fly with the Army battalion, whether we do it here and we do it there. So when we went there, it was some of the battalion which was there. And but very shortly after we went there, this battalion was replaced by Pakistani battalion and created a big issue for us, because, as you know, 43:00 our western neighbour is our what we consider to be our primary enemy. Yeah. And our indoctrination, our training, whole mental setup, is considers it to be the enemy. Yeah. And a certain amount of the mental. 43:24 Yeah, animosity is built up towards, 43:28 we just possibly required so that you, you're able to deal with missions in the way you're supposed to deal with them. And so throughout your life, when you 43:43 thought when you're trained when you talk about him as the enemy, and suddenly, in the United Nations Environment, you are told that he is no more the enemy, you have to now fly with him and deal with the next with somebody else who's an enemy. 44:01 So how did how did you manage to keep the mission ahead of your personal sentiments, the sentiments that the nation has given you? And above all, convince your team to support them as well? 44:16 Yeah, so I, you know, there was a lot of resistance to this, which is expected because, you know, apart from the fact that we have a kind of a hatred for 44:34 the forces across the border, there is also the fact that we don't want him to understand how we operate. 44:44 Because that could that could reveal some part of operations if you don't want him to know. 44:52 But, you know, when I when I sat down and thought about what we should be doing, I 45:00 I have to redefine, or I had to define professionalism for myself. And the way I did it was that I consider professionalism to be the 45:16 the ability to use all my skill and expertise that I have gathered over the years and years of training to achieve the aims of the organisation. The aim of the organisation is the most important thing. And that aim can change over a period of time. It's not that the aim has to remain the same, it there was an aim when we were in India, and we are in country we are operating here. The organisation gave us a name. When we are operating in Africa, the aim changed. They said you will now follow what the UN tells you. The aim of the UN becomes our aim now, which is the name of the country. So because the country has sent us there. 45:59 And so when the aim changes, we need to adapt to it. And that's what we trained for at that's what and that's what is professionalism? Yeah, yeah. So we have to keep our emotions and passions aside. And I realised that we have to do that, and stand up to what the country is that is there to do. 46:21 So as I'm listening to you, I'm sorry, I'm just cutting you short. I think as I'm just listening to Samuel, the image which is coming to me is the image of a sage soldier, a soldier who's willing to pull the sword in service of others and to serve the country and to serve the mission? And what you're talking about is, how can I keep my emotions on one side? How can I keep my biases on one side? How can I keep the hatred and animosity that I've been building for so many years? On one side? 46:53 How is it possible this what you're talking about is the trait of a sage, it's a trait of a saint. And there you are fighting against a company? I mean, how do you get that kind of inner strength? 47:08 That's, again, I the way I did it was to consider professionalism to be a job. I mean, it is a task which is given to me. And a good professional is one who does that competently. And without get allowing his emotions to get in the way. That's what I can I consider to be competent and professional. 47:39 And so if I'm, if I consider myself to be a good professional, I will listen to the aims of the organisation, what the authorities are asking me to do. And I will be able to do that, irrespective of my personal feelings, my personal emotions and my personal biases towards 47:59 the people who will have to work with me. Yeah, so if 48:05 Samuel, now you're working in an organisation, you hold the senior position in one of the MNCs in the country? And picking up the thread that you just spoke about that? How can I hold the competence and the traits of a professional in the organisation? What do you see are the similarities or differences that you have noticed, by being working being being a part of the armed forces, and now you're being a part of one of them. And since 48:34 I think all human beings are the same. It's just that you mature in a certain way, depending on your experiences in life. And I believe that in the military, you mature faster, because you're put through to a lot of experiences at a very young stage in life, 48:56 possibly much more. With more stakes in at more, the stakes are much higher in the military. You're sometimes your life is at stake. The country's honour is at stake, like it happened in many situations. 49:11 The lives of others who are with you, or below you or above you are at stake. They're dependent on you for their lives. You're leading people so their lives are so I feel it's just a matter of maturing faster, we mature faster in the military, then plausibly others do. They are dealing with situations where the stakes are not so high. But otherwise, I firmly believe that all human beings are the same. My experiences in the military have given me more respect for human life. 49:45 As I went through my career, and we, perhaps I've realised faster than others, the what is important in life, it's not wealth or fame. It's respect for each other. It's honesty, integrity, kindness, these are the things which are more important than just material possessions and wealth and things. In fact, let me ask you another straight question. 50:11 Because I have my own biases, whatever limited experience that I have, to leaders from armed forces and the exposure and experience that I have of working with leaders at the corporate level, what's your take on what are the differences? How do you see a leader demonstrating leadership skills, traits, expertise, somebody who's from armed forces, and a leader demonstrating leadership traits, skills, expertise, in a corporate scenario? What is the difference that you've been able to note, is there, any startling difference that you'll notice? 50:52 I haven't spent too much time in the corporate sector to really come to any conclusion on that. But again, I feel it's just that the stakes are much higher than the military. And as, 51:13 as a practice, and as a discipline, we lead from the front and the military. officers who are leaders always lead from the front, we believe that we need to look after our primary duty is towards the mission. And to look after this. The second is towards the people we lead. And the third is for our own safety. And that's been the motto of the military everywhere. We may not be necessary in this in the corporate sector and civil world. This is a principle which our doctrine we follow in the military, because it's necessary in the military. It may not be necessary. So I'm not trying to judge anybody. I'm not saying this is right, or this is wrong. Yeah. Yeah. the environment is different. The situation is different. And so I'm sure everyone does what is right for his own organisation is just a little different. That's another is the 52:11 use of the same. Yeah. Thank you, Samuel, thank you so much. And it's my last question. If you were to give a piece of advice to your younger self, what advice would you offer? Would you still advise Samuel to join forces? Or would it be some other advice? What's your take? My hans says you would still say join forces? And if it is that, what other advice would you offer to Samuel? 52:39 I would definitely, if I had to live my life all over again, I don't think I would do anything differently. I would go through it exactly the same way that I did. Because it's been 52:53 an experience that I would not trade for anything else. It's been a wonderful experience being in the military. It's not been easy. But it's, it's something which I cherish and I would not want to exchange for anything else. If you're asking me about what would I would advise people is that I think everyone has to work out for himself. What is good for him? It's not necessarily that everyone, the defence forces are good for everyone. You know, it depends on your temperament, it depends on your bent of mind, it depends on your personality as to whether you will enjoy yourself enjoy life in the military or not. The military has different demands as compared to the corporate sector or any other discipline like so. It's not something which would probably suit everyone. It depends on your nature. That's the advice I would get for many of the college students who come and ask me, Should I join the defence forces? There is no clear yes or no answer for that. I think you have to work it out for yourself, depending on your what you want in life. 54:08 And yeah, of course it's not easy at a young age to decide what you want in life. But that's something you have to go through. And 54:17 yeah, yeah. 54:19 Thank you so much. Such a pleasure. having you on the podcast. Such a pleasure and honour listening to your experiences and these experiences, I'm sure. Very few people out there. Very few individuals out there, who get an opportunity to serve the nation directly the way you did it Samuel, and as I mentioned, such an honour for me to just to sit in front of you, and listen to your story. Listen to those stories that have definitely moved me and I'm sure everyone who's listening to this conversation would have experienced that within themselves. So lots and lots of respect to you gratitude to you 55:00 All the great work that you've done for the country Thank you Thanks a lot Gaurav. Always a pleasure interacting with you

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