In ancient times, there were no salaried generals to wage wars and command the battlefields. Kings and princes used to wage wars, raise armies, and serve as commanders in the battlefields. Selection of the right man in the right place is a complex phenomenon. It is even more complex when it deals with Armed Forces because that demands sacrifice of human life for the right cause. Selection in defence organization has many changes throughout the ages. One method, which was adopted for centuries and still in vogue in some countries, is the ‘Method of Heredity’. This method was popular amongst autocratic rule because of its inherent advantage of continuity in the hierarchy of power to their families.
Later, as the educated and enlightened public opinion grew up, the method of heredity lost its credibility. The efficiency and suitability replaced the old concept of ‘Blue Blood’. In present days, the modern comprehensive selection method enables the individuals to compete for important appointments, including those of armed forces. As the quality of the officers’ corps influences the outcome of wars, so the officers in modern militaries are selected through scientific selection processes.
Today’s military operations are high-tech, faster, complex and more integrated; they demand fast thinking, outstanding information processing, and superior communication skills. Moreover, new missions have emerged since the end of the Cold War: humanitarian, peacekeeping, and peacemaking missions. The focus has moved from massive, high-intensity conflicts to smaller actions in which new tasks are required and new behavior is expected from officers. It warrants Changes in training goals and impact officer selection considerations.
Different countries follow different officer selection processes as officer selection systems are embedded in their national contexts. Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in the US army, the Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB) in the British Army and Inter Services Selection Board (ISSB) in the Bangladesh Army are responsible to select officers for respective militaries. However, During World Wars, experiments went on to develop a system to recruit right men into armed forces. In this process, towards the end of First World War, Intelligence Test was introduced in the US Army. Subsequently, Germany introduced psychological test in reconstruction of her war ravaged armed forces from 1927 onward. This provided better quality individuals to German Army. After some more experimentation, at the end of Second World War, three-dimensional assessment of candidates for selection has been evolved. Nowadays this method of selection is followed in most of the countries in the world. However, we follow the British officer selection system in Bangladesh and let us know about the AOSB for our better understanding.
The Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB)
AOSB is the modern version of the War Office Selection Boards (WOSBs) of World War II. In summer 1941, the British Army conducted ‘Edinburgh experiment’ with the German officer selection system and War Office Selection Board (WOSB) was established in on 15 February 1942. The methods of the WOSBs were intended to select candidates who were capable of managing men and relating well to others, as well as being intelligent and physically and technically capable. To select such candidates, a typical Board took place over a course of 3 days, during which new candidates were given written tests including questionnaires, psychological pointers, and tests of mental ability. Groups of candidates took part in Command Situations, which involved obstacle courses and/or discussions and Leaderless Group Tests. Interviews were conducted and the final conference was held at which Board staff made decisions on candidates. Opportunities were provided for candidates to receive feedback whether or not they had been successful.
During World War II, armed forces all over the world, including in India and Canada, adopted WOSBs selection methods. Civil Service Selection Boards (CSSBs) also adopted it for use by the Office of Strategic Services, Unilever and other commercial enterprises, and for fire services, police forces, etc.
Today AOSB is an assessment centre used by the British Army as part of the officer selection process for the regular army and Army Reserve and related scholarship schemes. The President AOSB, a Colonel in the British Army, commands it, supported by several vice-presidents. Now let us know about our Inter-Services Selection Board (ISSB) in Bangladesh.
The Inter-Services Selection Board (ISSB)
After the independence of Bangladesh, necessity was felt about setting up of a selection board for selecting officers for the Armed Forces. Firstly army took the initiative and accordingly Army Selection Board was formed in 1974. Similarly, candidates for Bangladesh Navy and Bangladesh Air Force also used to be selected by respective services headquarters through different boards. Subsequently, combining all the selection boards, the Inter Services Selection Board (ISSB) came into being in 1976. Since its inception, ISSB’s principal task is to select candidates for the Armed Forces of Bangladesh. The President ISSB, a Brigadier General in the Bangladesh Army, commands it, supported by several Deputy-presidents. However, the basic officer selection process around the world is almost similar and includes steps as under:
- Candidates register and apply online.
- The local recruiters invite candidates for Primary Health Tests and Interviews to know them better and let them ask questions.
- Candidates sit for Written Examinations.
- Candidates are sent to the Officer Selection Board.
- Finally, candidates are given an offer of employment and sent for officer cadet training at Military Academy.
However, in the next chapter you’ll know the basic qualifications needed to apply to join the Bangladesh Armed Forces as an officer.