Sometime ago, a reader to my weblog has suggested that the post of the Chief of Army (COA) that has traditionally been held by an infantry officer from the Royal Malay Regiment (RMR), be open to officers from other corps of the army. On hindsight, I personally think that this suggestion need to be considered.
Presently I believe, it is more of a practice rather than the rule that the post of the COA be held by a RMR officer. This practice however has been broken once in the early 80's, where the post of COA was held by an officer from the Reconnaissance Regiment (now referred to as the Armoured Corps). And at about the same period, the post of the Deputy COA was also held by an officer from the same regiment. The appointment of these two officers to the exulted army post had broken the long held practice, that the post be held by officers from the RMR Since then, the post has been continuously held by an officer from the RMR.
If one studies at the armies of the Commonwealth countries or for that matter, armies throughout the world, the post of the COA is not a 'privilege' to be held by officers from the infantry corps; rather it can be held by officers from the armoured, artillery, as well as from the engineer corps. These three corps are termed as the combat and combat support arms with sufficient experience of command of troops in the battlefield, as well as having been operational staff officers at field headquarters; ie. Brigades, Divisions and Field Command. In fact, the infantry, armour, artillery and the engineers forms the core of the fighting force that will face the brunt of battle. This being so, their officers are so trained (besides their specialised roles) to have the capability and experience of command in the field, which I suppose is an essential prerequsite to being the COA.
In the Malaysian scenario however, there is a preponderance of the infantry (including mechanised infantry, airborne and special forces units), over the other three combat and combat support arm units. The fighting formations i.e. Infantry Brigades and Infantry Divisions being structured and designated as such, are presently infantry bias. And because of this, the formations are usually commanded by infantry officers.
There has been cases in the past where Infantry Brigades and Infantry Divisions are commanded by officers, other than from the infantry, but this has become uncommon today. I do not believe that the non infantry officers are incapable of commanding Brigades and Divisions; rather I believe the sense of dominance among the infantry officers seems to be the reason why non infantry officers do not get to command fighting formations. This sense of false believe is no longer applicable today.
The lack of opportunity for combat and combat support arms officers to become COA can be overcome if the army fully implement the Combine Arms organisational structure; meaning that each Combine Arms Brigade or Division is augmented by a force that is balanced. This means that every fighting component within the formation has a definite role and task, and collectively they form a cohesive and formidable fighting entity. In other words, no single fighting component is capable of fighting on its own. If such a fighting structure can be fully implemented, this could justify a non infantry officer from assuming the command of the fighting formation, and subsequently qualifies him to the exulted post of COA or Deputy COA.
Be that as it may, certainly there is nothing to stop or to disqualify a non infantry officer from assuming the post of COA or Deputy COA in the present scenario. If it has worked well in other armies, it can certainly work well with the Malaysian army. I deemed the present non infantry officers are no less superior than the infantry officers. And can this also be a way to end the corruption that is so mired among the top echelon of the army today?
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION