She is one among men in uniform

Lt Gen RS Sujlana (retd)

A case of misdemeanour by a Major-General with a woman officer has received much media glare. Such an occurrence is an aberration. Women officers receive more than their due respect, they serve conscientiously with honour in a very conducive atmosphere. Having had three tenures at the IMA, including as the Commandant, where instructional assignments are handled by many women officers, I can say this with conviction. However, should an aberration occur, and guilt proven, prompt action is ensured, like in the current case; or, a decade back when I presided over a Court Martial in a similar case, the officer was dismissed. There are no qualms if a lone woman officer is posted at a headquarters (HQ) or establishment; it is routine. We experienced such a situation with the arrival of a young Lieutenant (dentist) amid us, in the field, in Doda. Ours was a HQ under raising, thus everyone from the General to the soldier was housed in tents; so was the woman officer.

I briefed her about the challenges. She listened with studied confidence. The dental clinic was buzzing with patients, as prior to her arrival, patients had to travel to Nagrota, which took the entire day. I advised her to visit forward deployments to treat patients upfront, rather than them travelling long hours rearwards. ‘Sir, I wanted to suggest the same, besides, any additional duty is welcome. I want to be an active member of the team!’ Once she wished to experience a helicopter flight. I requested the General to take her as a staff-cum-liaison officer. She did a commendable job and was an asset in medical camps.

Six-a-side hockey was a popular evening workout for officers. She wanted to join in, but did not know how to handle a stick. Oblivious to the nuances of the game, she was soon in action, swinging the hockey stick wildly she charged at an incoming ball, only to be stopped in her tracks. We could do without broken bones and teeth! Gradually, the swing became reasonable, but a special relief — no foul if the ball touched her feet — turned out to be a nemesis for the opposite team, as she deftly used that to the benefit of her side! On her promotion as Captain, she was in my office. ‘Sir, I want to throw cocktails.’ I told her that was not necessary, but she insisted, ‘That is the norm, so why not me?’ No reasoning helped, she enjoyed being the host.

On one occasion, an odd situation did arise: an MI 7 helicopter flew low over the officers’ tents, the down draft threw open the tent flaps, garments flew out. Two critical undergarments flew into another tent. An embarrassed senior officer had frozen feet, but the situation was overcome with the use of a barge pole and safe delivery to source. During her tenure, never was there any apprehension, rather she was at absolute ease among a sea of men. If she reads this, she will vouch for every word.

There will be many such actual experiences by women officers. Most will confirm that it is mostly green and rarely red!

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