The portrait of women as warriors and soldiers has been indisputable and bare-faced in the history of India. Right from the age of Rani of Jhansi or Razia Sultan to this day, the nation has explicitly recorded a fair share of women in the Indian Military. There are a set of facts about the woman officers of the Armed Forces of India, probably you didn’t know about.
1- Major Priya Jhingan became the first lady cadet to join the Indian Army in 1992 and got commissioned into the Judge Advocate General in 1993. She was in class X when she wrote a letter to the then Chief of Army Staff, demanding to induct women in the Indian Army. And the most pleasant surprise knocked her door when she received a signed letter from the General back, saying the Indian Army would soon plan to induct women. That letter remains one of her most cherished possessions. She was released from the service in 2003 after 10 meritorious years of her career.
2- Lt. General Punita Arora is the first woman to don the second highest rank, Lieutenant General of the Indian Army and also the first female to be the Vice Admiral of the Indian Navy. She graduated from Armed Forces Medical College and later on, took the charge of the commandant of AFMC in 2004, subsequently becoming the first woman officer to command the medical college. She has been awarded 15 medals in her 36 years of career in the forces. She is affectionately called as the ‘General in Sari’.
3- Padmavathy Bandopadhyay is the first lady officer Air Marshal of the Indian Air Force. She joined the IAF in 1968. She was awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal for her service during the Indo- Pak war in 1971. She is the first woman to become a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Society of India (studied the physiology of extreme cold acclimatisation) and also the first Indian woman to have conducted scientific research at the North Pole. She is the first lady officer to have completed the Defence Service Staff College course in 1978. In 2002, she became the first woman officer to be promoted to the rank of Air Vice Marshal of the IAF.
4- Flight Lt. Harita Kaur Deol was the first woman pilot to fly solo in the Indian Air Force. In 1993, she became one of the first seven women cadets inducted in the IAF. She received her training at the Air Force Academy, Dundigul and Air Lift Forces Training Establishment at Yelahanka Air Force station. She died shortly after her induction in 1996 in an air crash.
5- Anjana Bhaduria is the first woman to win a gold medal in the Indian Army. She was accepted in the first ever batch of women cadets in the Indian Army in 1992. She was chosen as the recipient of the gold medal from a batch that consisted both gentleman and lady cadets. She served the forces for 10 years.
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6- Gunjan Saxena & Srividya Rajan are the first Indian Air Force officers to fly in a combat zone during the Kargil war. They belonged to the first batch of women IAF trainee officers (1994). Gunjan carried a fully loaded INSAS assault rifle and a revolver, in case they crashed in enemy zone. For her outstanding show of courage in the Kargil war, Gunjan was awarded the Shaurya Veer Award, a gallantry award for valour, courageous action while not being directly engaged in enemy combat.
7- Lt. Colonel Sophia Qureshi from the Corps of Signals in Indian Army, created a landmark in the history when she became the first woman officer to lead India in a multi-national military exercise. She achieved this rare distinction of leading a training contingent of the Indian Army at Force 18, the ASEAN Plus multinational training exercise in 2016 and was the only woman officer Contingent Commander among all other contingents present there.
8- Flight Lieutenant Nivedita Chaudhary, is the first woman officer from the IAF to summit the Mt. Everest and also the first woman from Rajasthan who has achieved this feat.
9- Major Mitali Madhumita, is the first woman officer to receive the Seva Medal, a gallantry award given for extraordinary courage and bravery. She saved at least 19 lives during the 2010 terrorist attacks in Afghanistan while she was posted in the Indian Embassy, Kabul to lead the Army’s English Language Training Team.
10- Captain Divya Ajith Kumar, is a name remembered for loads of achievement. She is the first woman to be selected for the coveted Sword of Honour, which is the highest award given to a cadet in Officers Training Academy. She is also the first lady officer to lead an all woman contingent in the Republic Day parade of 2015. She was also named as the Best NCC Cadet in the Republic day of 2008.
11- Lieutenant Priya Semwal, recorded history when she became the first martyred Army Jawan’s wife to join as an officer in the Indian Army. She was inducted into the Corps of the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (EME) of the Army in 2014.
12- Sapper Shanti Tigga, an extraordinary woman who was the first female jawan in the Indian Army. She was awarded the title of the best trainee and joined the the 969 Railway Engineer Regiment of Territorial Army in 2011.
13- Lieutenant Ganeve Lalji created history when she became the first woman officer to be appointed as an aide-de-camp to an Army Commander. Commissioned in the Corps of Military Intelligence in 2011, she recorded several achievements during her training course in Pune.
14- Wing Commander Puja Thakur received public recognition when she became the first woman to lead the Guard of Honour for the former US President Barack Obama. She was also offered the choice of permanent commission in the IAF.
15- Squadron Leader Dipika Misra is the first IAF woman pilot to train for the helicopter aerobatic team, Sarang. She was the first woman to be inducted into the indigenous Advanced Light Helicopter Squad when the IAF sought woman pilots to volunteer for the Sarang team.
16- Captain Ruchi Sharma is the first operational woman Paratrooper. She is the first lady officer to don the maroon beret and was trained at the Para Training School (PTS), Agra.
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