Women have been serving the militaries of developed countries for a long time and the United States of America is a pioneer in it. There is almost 20 percent of women serving in US Armed Forces. With the speculation of women joining active combat roles in India getting rife and young officers like Avani Chaturvedi trying her hands on a fighter jet MiG-21, some marvelous leaders in Indian defense arena have emerged which have left behind their male counterparts. Here, we present a list of women stalwarts of Indian defense and their incredible stories.
Air Marshal Padmavathy Bandopadhyay
Air Marshal Padmavathy Bandopadhyay is the second woman in the entire history of Indian Air Force to get a three-star rank. She is also the first woman to become Air Marshal of the Indian Force, which is the third highest rank of the institution. A Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM) awardee, she was commended for her significant contribution in the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971. This prestigious award is given to armed forces personnel in order to command his or her exceptional service.
Flying Officer Gunjan Saxena
Flying Officer Gunjan Saxena proved her mettle when she dared to flew her Cheetah Helicopter during Operation Vijay in the extremely hostile terrains of Kargil. With just three years of her service in Indian Air Force, she was able to rescue several injured soldiers. After achieving this feat, she became the first Indian woman to fly a chopper in the combat zone. She was just 24 years old while she was chosen for this.
Lt. General Punita Arora
Lt. General Punita Arora donned the position of Lieutenant General of Indian Armed Forces and the Vice Admiral of Indian Navy simultaneously. She was the first woman to be promoted to a three-star rank. An alumnus of Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), she was awarded Vishist Sewa Medal for her exemplary treatment provided to soldiers during Kaluchak militant attack under her leadership at Military Hospital, Jammu.
Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi
From a recent trio that was undergoing training to fly fighter jets, Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi became the first young officer of Indian Air Force to fly a MiG-21 bison. She achieved this feat on February 19, 2018, and marked the highest landing and take-off speed in the world which was 340 kmph.
Flying Officer Mohana Singh
Not to be left out of the group is Flying Officer Mohana Singh who is also on the way to become another best fighter pilot of India. She got commissioned in the Indian Air Force with Bhawana Kanth and Avani Chaturvedi and is now undergoing training for fighter aircraft. Truly impersonating the motto of Indian Air Force, ‘‘Touch the sky with glory’, she is undeniably inspiring millions of young Indian woman.
Women were recruited only for medical positions in the armed forces till 1992. Last year, Indian Air Force opened its doors for women in combat pilot roles. This move was welcomed by many women aspiring for the active role in the forces. Though there’s a long way to go to achieve true gender equality, this decision from our armed forces has set a precedent for other military forces around the world.