Monday, November 16, 2009

Women ready for war

A long-preserved male bastion in the Indian armed forces is about to fall. On Friday, the Naval Aviation, 56 years after its inception, will for the first time induct women combatant officers in its aviation cadre.

It was more than just a routine flight this Dornier 228 over the Southern Peninsula and back to the naval base in Kochi. Manning it were two lady officers who will be Indian Navy's first ever women Observers of maritime patrol aircraft.

This means Sub Lieutenant Seema Rani Sharma and Ambica Hooda would plan tactics, execute them, fire weapons and could even be in action in the harms way, which so far only the men have been doing.

"I am ready for this. I am well trained and ready to perform out there," Seema said.

Twenty two-year-old Sub Lieutenant Ambica Hooda's father, a retired Army officer in Haryana, wanted her to join the Army. But on Friday, when she would be inducted as Observer in the aviation cadre in the Navy she says her father would be the proudest man.

"My uncle was in the Navy and he had briefed me about this although, I didn't fully know what I would be doing when I pass out. All I knew was that it would be very thrilling and adventurous," she said.

As part of a pilot project, the Navy will induct Observers in its flying branch every six months after a 27-week-long rigorous training. Apart from Seema and Ambica, two male officers will wear the 'wings of gold'.

"Even if there are administrative difficulties, we will hope to keep this alive. The will is there, open-mindedness is there, so I think the path will follow," said Sridhar Warrior, Chief Instructor, Training.

The women may be raring to go, but a lot needs to change for them even in terms of infrastructure. The design of Indian warships at the moment are not women friendly. In fact even at the training camp, renovation work is still going on to ensure that the ladies have facilities like a separate changing rooms.

Some Asian countries like China may have overtaken India even in women power in its defence but India has finally taken the first step.

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