Women in the army are leaping their way into an exclusive male domain — the elite brotherhood of paratroopers.
If the military’s combat exclusion policy wasn’t a hurdle, a few lady officers could have actually been assigned to airborne formations.
Hitting a new milestone in uniformed service, 10 women officers have trained to parachute into the enemy’s backyard. More volunteers are in queue.
“It’s honour enough for any soldier to don the maroon beret and airborne wings. I feel accomplished,” said a lady officer who recently trained at the Para Training School (PTS) in Agra.
Becoming an operational paratrooper requires surviving a tough probation which pushes women to the limits of endurance. Not all make it to the PTS to complete five mandatory jumps (including a night jump).
Captain Ruchi Sharma, who quit in 2003, leapt off an aircraft some 10 years ago to become the first operational woman paratrooper. “Paratroopers have an aura of their own. I always dreamed of breaking into this league of extraordinary gentlemen,” she said.
Major Shraddha Mishra is among the first women paratroopers in the country. No longer in the army, she will always take pride in being part of an airborne formation during Operation Parakram, the army’s largest mobilisation after the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
Women have a long way to go before they emulate Pearl Cornioley, the legendary British special operations executive who parachuted into France and commanded troops who killed 1,000 German soldiers in the Second War. “But a beginning has to be made,” said a lady captain who aspires to join this select band.