INDIA. Mumbai. In yet another first in the history of Indian Naval Aviation, two female officers have been selected to join as observers in the helicopter sector. They will become the first airborne combatants to operate from warships. Up to this point, the entry of women was restricted to fixed-wing aircraft that took off and landed onshore.
Honoring the best and brightest
Sub Lieutenant (SLt) Kumudini Tyagi and SLt Riti Singh were a part of a group of 17 officers of the Indian Navy, including four women officers and three officers of the Indian Coast Guard. They were awarded wings at a ceremony held at INS Garuda, Kochi, Kerala on Monday. The successful team comprises 13 officers of regular batch and four female officers of short service commission batch.
The ceremony was presided over by Rear Admiral Antony George NM, VSM, Chief Staff Officer (training) who presented both the awards and coveted wings to the graduating officers. Also, he awarded the Instructor Badge to six other officers who had successfully graduated as Qualified Navigation Instructors (QNI).
Speaking on the occasion, Rear Admiral Antony George highlighted the fact that it is a landmark occasion. For the first time, women are going to be trained in helicopter operations that will pave way for the deployment of women on frontline naval warships.
Officers of the 91st regular course and 22nd SSC observer course were trained in air navigation, flying procedures, tactics employed in air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and exploitation of airborne avionic systems.
Lieutenant (Lt.) Hitesh Singh was awarded the Uttar Pradesh Trophy for being first in overall order of merit, while Lt. Anuj Kumar was awarded the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command Trophy for the best in flying. Lt. Hitesh Singh was also awarded Sub Lt. RV Kunte Memorial Book Prize for being best in ground subjects. SLt. Kreeshma R was awarded the Book Prize for best in overall order of merit.
Moving toward equality through numbers
In February 2019, the Government of India had announced their intentions to recruit 20% of women into the military police as a step toward women empowerment.
Also in March this year, the Supreme Court directed the government to ensure that women officers are given a permanent commission in the Indian Army on a par with male officers, including command posting. A permanent commission entitles an officer to serve in the Navy until they retire, unlike short service commission, which is for 10 years and can be extended for four more years.
As of now, the Indian Army has 3.80 % of its workforce as women. The Air Force has 13.09 %, while women comprise 6% of the Navy. Women are recruited only at an officer’s rank. They are not allowed as combatants in the special forces such as Ghatak, Garud, MARCOS, para-commandos, or others.
A standing tradition of women in the armed forces
The role of women in the Indian Army can be traced back to 1888 when the Indian Military Nursing Service was formed during the British regime. The Indian Army Nurses served in the first and second world wars from 1914 to 1945. According to records, 350 nurses died, were taken prisoner, or declared missing in action. In 1992 the Indian Army decided to induct women to serve in the Infantry, the Armoured Corps, and Mechanised Infantry.