Day 4 of Aero India (Saturday, February 23) will be observed as Women’s Day to celebrate all the women who have made it to the skies, literally.
It is a fitting commemoration. Metrolife observed an increased presence of women across teams and hierarchies at the Yelahanka venue of the once-in-two-years air show.
The women in uniform turn heads and evoke awe but they wear their laurels lightly.
“I got into the Air Force because of my mother, who always wanted me to join the forces,” says Squadron leader Amit Chauhan, who Metrolife had to chase as she bustled about getting a million things done.
“I applied for the Army and the Air Force, got selected in both, and finally selected the latter. I was inspired by my maternal grandfather and my uncle, who were in the army,” she told Metrolife.
It was an overwhelmingly male-dominated field earlier but female representation in the forces is growing. “We are more accepted now and I feel equal now,” she says.
Her work is by no means easy---she works fixed hours but must be available whenever needed. “It is like we are on duty even when we are resting,” she says.
“The more women there are, the more we have of girl power,” smiles Amit, now posted at the training command in Bengaluru. She spends her free time swimming and gymming.
Another lady officer at the show is a lawyer in the army—a job opportunity not many have heard of. However, she laughingly admits she didn’t want to be in the army at all.
“I decided to join it just because I cleared the exam. No one from my family is in the forces but they were happy to let me join,” she says.
Work relates to court martials and other aspects of The Army Act, which governs all activities of the Indian Army. Postings are similar to those of army officers (transfers every two years and mandatory outside postings).
Komal Mehta, flight maintenance officer of an AN-32 aircraft, says the timings are a challenge.
“The machine can come in for repair anytime, and can go down any time. So you have to be available at odd hours, though there are shifts,” she says.
Komal was inspired by her father, who is also part of the Indian Air Force. She is married and her family understands the pressures of her job.
“Every job has its own challenges. I hear even with a 9-to-5 job people don’t have the time to go to the gym so they gain weight, have BP and so on. Here we are fit, work in a great environment surrounded by aircraft, and with teammates who support us,” she says, adding that she relieves her stress by running and playing badminton.
The Air Force takes in people from different branches of engineering---mechanical, electrical, civil and so on, and gives them a year’s training in aeronautical engineering, she explains.
A senior officer with the Indian Army says the presence of women in the armed forces has inspired young girls to think of making a career there. She has been in the army for 25 years.
The US has brought in the F-16 Fighting Falcon to Aero India this year.
Metrolife interacted with SSgt Emily Wall, Calhan, CO, dedicated crew chief for the F-16.
“In a sense, we inspire those who come to the aero shows, represent the Air Force in the rawest form, and show our dedication to make a mission happen,” she explains.
She says that she and her team are in Bengaluru to display the manoeuvres and capabilities of the F-16.
Emily completed her technical training at Sheppard Air Force Base and Luke Air Base in the United States. “I joined The Air Force to better myself. I wanted more out of life and I knew the Air Force could give that to me.”