We're proud to wear the uniform: IAF lady officers

By Vishnu Makhijani, Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh), Oct 3: Sarla Yadav and Shruti Yadav personify the Generation Next Indian women who have consciously chosen to pursue a career in the armed forces, saying they are proud to wear the uniform.

The duo, who are not related, are flight lieutenants in the Indian Air Force (IAF) and are among the 15 women who serve at this sprawling frontline air base in north India that has a little over 100 officers in totality.

"We're thoroughly enjoying our jobs," they said in unison.

"There's something to be learnt everyday," Sarla, who performs the extremely taxing job of an air traffic controller, told IANS.

"I wouldn't give this up for anything," added Shruti, who is posted in the administration section and is also the public relations officer of the air base.

The other women posted on the base echoed their views, never mind the fact that they can serve for only a maximum of 14 years as Short Service Commission (SSC) officers since only men are eligible for permanent commissions that enable them to serve, depending on the ranks they rise to, for as long as 43 years.

"I signed up with my eyes open, knowing fully well I would have to leave the service after 14 years unless the government amends the rules," said Shruti, the daughter of a retired IAF officer.

Asked if she faced any gender discrimination, she retorted with a very firm "No, not all".

Shruti's twin responsibilities ensure she has her hands full.

On the administration side, she handles, apart from mundane issues, exhaustive paperwork relating to the promotion of airmen and officers, as also the functioning of an Air Force School and a Kendriya Vidyalaya located on the base.

"I have a couple of men working under me and I am quite comfortable with them, as they are taking orders from me," she beamed.

"My seniors are very supportive and give me enough space, so it works out very nicely," she added.

And what about managing the non-military-savvy media in Bareilly, essentially a laidback small town?

"Let's just say, I manage," she replied diplomatically, adding, "They respect me and I respect them."

That's saying a lot, because small town journalists, particularly in a state like Uttar Pradesh, are often known to shoot from the hip without verifying their facts.

"I've never faced such a situation because we are very transparent about what we do here," Shruti explained, adding: "Every query is answered unless it relates to a matter concerning national security, in which case I pass it on to my seniors who are better equipped to deal with such issues."

Was she concerned over the fact that she can serve only 14 years?

"As I said, I joined with my eyes open. By the time I complete my 14 years, I hope the government will grant us permanent commissions but even it that does not happen, I will have gained enough experience to enable me fit into a civilian environment," Shruti maintained.

Granting women permanent commissions in the armed forces is a contentious issue, with the chiefs of staff committee, comprising the heads of the Indian Army, the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force saying the "time was not ripe" for this but that it could eventually happen.

This didn't bother Sarla.

"As part of our on-job training, we routinely visit (civilian) air traffic controls (across the country). So, even if I have to leave (after 14 years), I wouldn't have a problem getting a job I like doing," she explained.

That's saying a lot about a job that experts says is the third most stressful after neuro-surgery and scuba diving.

The IAF has 739 women officers, seven percent of its total officer cadre. Against this, the Indian Army has 945 women officers (2.67 percent of the total cadre) and the Indian Navy 236 women officers (2.94 percent).

Some day, a woman will fly a fighter jet on a combat mission, some day a woman tank commander will lead troops into battle, some day a woman will command a naval vessel. But when will that happen? No one is willing to hazard a guess.

--- IANS

Source : newkerala.com