Humor in Uniform : Supersession Shock

Vikram Karve
10 min readSep 8, 2023



Story by Veteran Vikram Karve




Story of a “Passed Over” Superseded Officer

Spoof By Vikram Karve




Lieutenant Commander “X”


Lieutenant Commander “X” was “passed over” for promotion to the rank of Commander.

This happened in the 1980’s — much before the AVS Cadre Review 2006 — when — in the Navy — Commander was a Select List Rank — and only a selected few became Commanders.

Now — after AVS Cadre Review 2006–100% Officers are promoted to the rank of Commander (Lt Col/Wg Cdr) after 13 years of Service.

Now — a similar situation of supersession can arise for promotion to the rank of Captain (Colonel/Group Captain) — and the agony of “passover” is delayed by one rank.


So — to come back to our story — the promotion board results were out — the Navy Promotion IG Signal was released — and the name of Lieutenant Commander “X” was missing from the “select list”.

Lieutenant Commander “X” was passed over for promotion to the rank of Commander.

“X” was devastated.

“X” was a typical service-minded officer.

“X” was an ex Sainik School — ex National Defence Academy (NDA) Officer — and — the only world he knew was the “fauji” military world.

And since he had joined the Navy after NDA — the Navy was the “be-all and end-all” of his life.

As far as “X” was concerned — getting superseded for promotion was the “end of the world”.

It was extremely cruel for a devoted service-minded officer like “X” to be told at the age of 35 that he was “useless” — and — that it was the “end of the road” as far as his naval career was concerned.

Observing how badly supersession had affected “X” — the Captain called all officers to the wardroom.

Then — in our presence — the Captain gave an inspirational “pep talk” to “X”.


The Captain said to the superseded Lieutenant Commander “X”:

“Come on — cheer up.

What is there in a promotion…?

The Navy is not everything.

Your career is not the “be-all and end-all” of your life.

There are so many other aspects to life.

Your career is just one small part of your life.

And just because you are superseded does not mean you are not a good officer.

There are just not enough vacancies to promote officers so even good officers get left out.

You must take it in your stride in the right spirit and keep working with full “josh” — yes — you must continue working with full zeal and enthusiasm.

Even as a superseded officer you can contribute a lot to the Navy…

…blah blah blah…

…you can take up a second innings in the civvy street too — so many ex-navy officers have succeeded in their civilian careers

…you must put the past behind you and move on…

…blah blah blah…”

the Captain went on and on with his platitudinous sermon — trying to console Lieutenant Commander “X” — who seemed heartbroken and inconsolable.


“X” wanted to put up a representation (grievance) against his supersession,

But — the Captain counselled him:

“There is no point fighting the “system”,

You must accept your destiny with grace…

…blah blah blah…”


The Captain continued to pontificate — uttering the usual platitudes of consolation and rhetoric of motivation.

But “X” was so heartbroken — that he was not convinced by the Captain’s comforting words.

“X” wanted to quit the Navy immediately — there and then — because he did not want to suffer the ignominy of serving under his juniors.

However — his friends and his wife convinced him to hang on for at least 5 years more — till he completed the minimum 20 years required for getting a pension.

“X” stuck on for 5 more years in the Navy — serving in insignificant appointments specifically meant for those officers who had “fallen by the wayside” — superseded officers who were considered to be “superseded deadwood”.

The moment “X” completed 20 years of service — he quit the Navy.


Meanwhile — the Captain did well in the Navy — and — in due course he was promoted to the Flag Rank of Rear Admiral.

Yes — the Captain got promoted to Admiral.

But — it was strange and ironic that — except the Captain — no other officer from his ship got promoted.

Even his Heads of Department — the XO, EO and LO — they were “passed over” for promotion.

Yes — everyone on the ship had missed their promotions — but the Captain had become a Rear Admiral.




The Captain Who Became a Rear Admiral


After a few years — one morning — I suddenly met “X” in the INCS Canteen in Mumbai.

As I had told you earlier — “X” had taken pre-mature retirement (PMR) from the Navy — the moment he had completed 20 years of service.

I took him over to the club — and we sat down for a glass of beer and talked of old times.

“X” told me that he had got a good job in the corporate sector.

“X” said that was happy he had quit the Navy and he was doing well in civilian life.

“X” looked at me and said:

“Our Captain was right — promotion isn’t everything.

There are so many aspects to life.

Now I feel that I was unnecessarily so upset that I did not get promoted…”

“X” seemed to have reconciled and settled down well in his second career in the civilian worlds.


Suddenly an ex-shipmate from the same ship came into the bar.

And — the moment he saw us — he joined us.

He had come on Temporary Duty from Delhi.

Our ex-Captain (now Rear Admiral) was also in Delhi.

So — “X” asked the ex-shipmate — the officer who had come from Delhi:

“So — how is our “Old Man” — our ex-Captain…?

I heard that he is a Rear Admiral now…”


“He is bad shape…” the officer said.

“He is in bad shape…? What happened to him..?” we asked.

“Don’t you know how desperate he was to get promoted…? He was so ambitious that he even wanted to be the Navy Chief. Unfortunately — he missed his promotion to Vice Admiral — and the shock of being “passed over” for promotion has driven him crazy…” the officer from Delhi said.

“What…? Has “Supersession Shock” has driven him crazy…?” we asked.

“Yes — the moment he came to know that he had been superseded for promotion — he went berserk — he put up representations, submitted statutory complaints, fought court cases — in fact — he is still fighting the system — and he has become very bitter and depressed…” the officer from Delhi said.


On hearing this — my friend “X” said:

“That is strange.

When I missed my promotion to Commander — I remember him consoling me and telling me that an officer must accept supersession with grace — and advising me that there is no point in fighting the system.

And now — he is fighting the system — and it looks like — he has not accepted his own supersession with grace…”


The Officer from Delhi said:

“Accepting supersession with grace…?

No. No…!

Not at all…!

He desperately wanted to get promoted to Vice Admiral — he even thought he would become the Chief.

His supersession has affected him so badly — that he has gone mentally crazy — and he has become extremely depressed and bitter — and even his physical health has been badly affected…”


“Health…? His health has been affected…?” we asked.

“Yes — he had a severe heart attack a few days ago — and he is still in hospital. Now — with a Low Medical Category — it is certainly the “end of the road” as far as his Naval Career is concerned…” the Officer from Delhi said.


Retired Lieutenant Commander “X” looked at us and he said:

“Our ex-Captain is a funny guy — isn’t he…?

When I was passed over for promotion — he gave me such a good “pep talk”.

And — I “walked his talk” — and here I am — doing well in life.

But — when supersession happened to him — he could not “walk his own talk” — and he has landed up having a heart attack…”


The Officer from Delhi said:

“It is easy to “talk” — but difficult to “walk the talk” — especially for these senior officers — who become more and more ambitious — as they climb the promotion ladder…”


I have observed this truism in many persons — especially in successful people and leaders.


It is easy to “talk” — but difficult to “walk the talk”.






Maybe it is apocryphal — but a fellow Veteran once told me that when OROP ACP NFU etc were offered to the Defence Services — the “Top Brass” was not too keen because they felt that granting OROP ACP NFU etc on par with Civil Services would affect the “charm of rank”.

He further said that the “Top Brass” had no qualms in accepting these benefits for themselves — while their juniors were denied the same benefits.

If true — one wonders if the Chetwode Credo has been jettisoned.






In his candid and controversial autobiography SPYCATCHER Peter Wright tells us about the lesson he learnt after meeting Klop Ustinov (father of actor Peter Ustinov) who was in near penury after retirement:

“…I learned a lesson I never forgot — that MI5 expects its officers to remain loyal unto the grave — without necessarily offering loyalty in return…”


When one observes the plight of Military Veterans and ex-servicemen — it seems the same holds true in our environment too.

In the Navy — I have seen officers giving their dedicated loyalty and devotion to the service.

But — the service does not reward them with loyalty in return once they retire from service — or worse — when they are superseded for promotion and fall by the wayside.

Maybe — it is the same in the Army and Air Force too.


Career Prospects in the Civil Services are much better than the Defence Services.

If you join the civil services — you get benefits like Assured Career Progression (ACP) and Non-Functional Upgradation (NFU).

Military Officers get no such benefits.

In fact — if you join the Defence Services as an Officer — you must be prepared for Assured Career Supersession (ACS).

Most Military Officers are passed over for promotion much earlier than their Civil Services counterparts.

If you join the military — you must be ready to suffer the ignominy of supersession.


The story narrated above happened many years ago — in the 1980’s — much before the 2006 AVS Cadre Review Bonanza — when there was a selection board for promotion from Lieutenant Commander to Commander rank after around 15–16 years of service.

Now — things are slightly better — and every officer automatically becomes a Commander (Lt Col/Wg Cdr) in 13 years — and supersession takes place at the next rank of Captain (Colonel/Group Captain).

In contrast — Civil Services Officers enjoy the bonanza of ACP/NFU to the Additional Secretary level (equivalent to Vice Admiral, Lieutenant General and Air Marshal)


If you are lucky to be selected for the Civil Services — you can look forward to Assured Career Progression (ACP) and Non-Functional Upgradation (NFU).

But — if you join the Defence Services — you must be ready for Assured Career Supersession (ACS) — and — at least till now — there is no facility of NFU in the Defence Services.

Now — disparity in OROP between ranks has further underscored the need for Assured Career Progression (ACP) and Non-Functional Upgradation (NFU) in the Defence Services.


So — Dear Reader,

If you want to join the Defence Services:

Are you ready for Assured Career Supersession (ACS)…?



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  1. This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
  2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
  3. E&OE

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No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.

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Link to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve:

Revised Extract of my Blog Posts earlier First Posted by me Vikram Karve around 9years ago in 2014 in my blog at 2/06/2014 01:49:00 PM titled CONSOLATION at url: ASSURED CAREER PROGRESSION Posted by Vikram Karve at 10/04/2014 06:22:00 PM at url: and and and etc

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Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, alumnus IIT Delhi, Lawrence School Lovedale, Vikram Karve is a retired Navy Officer turned full time Writer and Blogger