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In a first, woman officer gets operationally deployed at the forbidding Siachen Glacier | India News

NEW DELHI: After becoming fighter pilots and serving on frontline warships, women officers continue to shatter even more glass ceilings in the armed forces. Captain Shiva Chauhan has become the first-ever woman to be operationally deployed in the world’s highest and coldest battlefield, the Siachen Glacier.
In another major development, 244 women officers from “combat support arms” in the Army will be considered for the rank of Colonel (selection grade) for the first time in a special promotion board to be held next week.
“Of them, 108 should make it to the Colonel (selection grade) rank. Earlier, after permanent commission was finally granted to women in 2020-2021, just a few women became Colonels (time-scale) after completing 26 years of service,” an officer said.
But all eyes on Tuesday were on Capt Chauhan, who was deployed at the forbidding Kumar Post located at an altitude of 15,632-feet after a month of gruelling training at the Siachen Battle School. It included endurance training, ice-wall climbing, avalanche and crevasse rescue and survival drills.
“Commissioned into the Corps of Engineers in May 2021, she will be leading a team of sappers for various combat engineering tasks at the post for three months,” a senior officer said.
Captain Chauhan, who hails from Rajasthan and completed a B.Tech in civil engineering from Jaipur before joining the Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) at Chennai, had displayed her grit and determination even earlier. She, for instance, led an arduous 508-km long `Sura Soi’ Siachen Sappers cycling expedition from the Siachen War Memorial to Kargil War Memorial in July 2022.
“Capt Chauhan lost her father at a young age of 11 years and her mother, who is a home-maker, took care of her studies. Since her childhood, she was keen on joining the armed forces and showed tremendous zeal during her training at the OTA,” the officer added.
The Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Over 1,000 Indian soldiers, including over 35 officers, have lost their lives in the glacial heights there since April 1984, when India’s `Operation Meghdhoot’ pre-empted Pakistan’s `Operation Ababeel’ to occupy almost all the dominating heights from 15,000 to 22,000-feet by a whisker.
Three-fourths of these casualties have been caused by the severe terrain and climatic conditions there, with temperatures even dipping to minus 50 degree Celsius, rather than enemy fire. With better logistics and infrastructure in place, along with the long-standing ceasefire, the number of casualties has drastically reduced in recent years.
While women officers have made major strides, they are still not allowed to serve in the Army’s main combat arms like the infantry, armoured corps, mechanized infantry and artillery or on-board submarines in the Navy.
But there are now 17 women IAF fighter pilots as well as 145 women helicopter and transport aircraft pilots in the three Services. Almost 30 of them have also been deployed on frontline warships and 100 have become trained military policewomen.



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