Nazia Nadaf's journey through the skies has been nothing short of remarkable, filled with challenges, fulfilling experiences, and unwavering dedication to serving the nation. In this empowering and exclusive conversation, we delve into her inspiring story, her invaluable insights, and her commitment to both her personal and professional life.
On this Air Force Day, SheThePeople sat down with Squadron Leader Nazia Nadaf for an exclusive interview, providing insights into her incredible journey, challenges, aspirations, and the satisfaction she derives from her role.
A Childhood Dream Takes Flight
From a tender age, Nadaf's heart soared with dreams of becoming a pilot. Growing up in a household with a father who served in the military, the love for her country and the passion to serve in a defence force ran deep in her veins. She visualized herself as a pilot while still in school and dedicated herself to achieving this lofty goal. Armed with a degree in Computer Engineering, Nadaf was presented with lucrative job offers from tech giants like Microsoft and TCS. However, her heart belonged to the skies.
In 2010, Nadaf's dream took flight when she received her commission into the IAF as a transport pilot. She boldly chose a path less travelled, turning down lucrative career options to follow her passion for aviation and service to the nation.
Journey to the Skies
When asked about her journey in the IAF, Nadaf's eyes lit up with a sense of pride and accomplishment. "I always dreamed of becoming a pilot since I was in class IV," she says.
Her dream became a reality when she joined the IAF in July 2010, after completing her graduation in BE (Computers). But the journey wasn't easy. It involved rigorous training for 1.5 years before being commissioned in the flying branch. She then honed her skills on an An-32 aircraft for six months before being posted to one of the premier transport bases in the north.
During her two tenures, Nadaf actively participated in Air Maintenance sorties, providing crucial support to troops based in remote locations near the border. Her roles included paradropping, formation flying, low-level navigation, assault landings, tactical approaches, and Parallel Taxi Track landings, among others. With an impressive 3000 flying hours under her belt, she achieved the highest category of AMG (Aircrew Medical Group) in flying proficiency. Nadaf currently serves at the Fixed Wing Training Faculty in Bangalore, where she plays a pivotal role in training all transport pilots of the IAF.
Overcoming Challenges with Courage
Life in the IAF, as Nadaf aptly puts it, is filled with challenges that demand one's best mentally and physically. "One has to meet them head-on," she emphasises.
The military flying activity pushes individuals to their limits, requiring unwavering belief in oneself and one's abilities. Nadaf candidly admits that adjusting to the military regimen was initially challenging but became second nature over time.
The Joy of Service
When asked about the most fulfilling aspect of her role in the IAF, Nazia's face lights up with a radiant smile. "The job satisfaction is amazing," she enthuses.
Completing tasks to the best of her ability brings immense fulfilment. Whether it's executing a tactical sortie, conducting a casualty evacuation, or engaging in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) missions, the sense of pride is palpable.
But it's when she's up in the air, flying hands-on and feeling one with the aircraft, that Nadaf experiences unparalleled joy. The versatility and capability of the platform she operates are a source of endless fascination. Every day brings opportunities to practice contingencies and missions, alongside her fellow aviators.
Balancing the Skies and Home
Balancing personal and professional life is no small feat, especially in the demanding world of military service. Nadaf acknowledges the tremendous support she's received from her family, both parents and her husband. She strives to give her best to both her loved ones and her service, even when faced with difficult times. Nadaf's squadron has become her second family, offering support and camaraderie.
Inspiring the Next Generation
To young women aspiring to join the IAF, Nazia offers sage advice: "Joining the IAF is not a career choice; it is a life choice."
She emphasises the need for unwavering dedication and readiness to embrace any task at all times. Nadaf highlights the absence of dull moments and the abundance of experiences that stay with you for a lifetime. Motivation, she says, is a continuous process, and one must inspire not only oneself but also others around.
Memorable Missions and Experiences
Nadaf's service has been marked by a multitude of experiences that few can rival. She has taken part in Air Maintenance missions in the unforgiving terrains near the Siachen Glacier and close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Her duties also led her to land at Advanced Landing Grounds in the remote northeast, where precision is paramount.
One of her most memorable experiences was during Op MeghRahat in 2015 when she and her team conducted round-the-clock airlifts of civilians and families during the Srinagar floods. Recalling the enormity of the operation, she reminisces, "We were flying round the clock airlifting civilians and families from Srinagar to various places. It was a time-bound task and the air effort involved was humungous." Her crew worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of passengers and cargo in this bustling aerial environment.
Nadaf has also been part of casualty evacuation sorties, flying through the night to ensure the timely transportation of mortal remains of fallen heroes to their hometowns. These missions, she admits, come with the awareness of high stakes and a dedication to the cause.
Gender Equality in the IAF
When questioned about the IAF's commitment to gender equality and diversity, Nadaf applauds the organization's progressive stance. The IAF has been at the forefront of inclusivity, opening all branches to women and recently even offering a Permanent Commission. Shortly, women will serve as Agniveer Vayu as well. Nadaf underscores the organization's objective selection and promotion criteria, which support deserving individuals regardless of gender.
She becomes the embodiment of gender equality, harking back to her initial days of challenges. She elucidates, "The challenges I faced were not exclusive to me but resonated with my male counterparts, unveiling the shared highs of the sky and lows of the rocky terrains that all in the Indian Air Force encounter."
Essential Skills for a Military Career
In the present scenario, Nadaf believes the Armed Forces need the best individuals who are quick learners and sharp. However, she places greater emphasis on qualities such as perseverance, dedication, and diligence. Being attuned to the organization's requirements and a willingness to work tirelessly are essential for professional excellence. Nadaf underscores the need for professional soundness and the ability to face and overcome unprecedented challenges, underpinned by confidence in one's abilities and belief in the system.
Navigating High-Pressure Skies
Motivation, for Nadaf, comes from the thrill of achievement after completing a flawless mission. Her seniors have consistently pushed her to excel professionally, providing the exposure and environment needed for growth. Nadaf. For her, "The driving force is the feeling of serving the nation and the realisation that the entrusted job is far from ordinary."
For Nadaf, being in the cockpit brings a profound sense of peace. The breathtaking vistas, the awe-inspiring sunsets, and moonrises seen from high in the air offer a unique perspective and remind her of the privilege and responsibility that come with the job.
Squadron Leader Nazia Nadaf's journey is one of courage, commitment, and unwavering patriotism. Her story inspires us to reach for the stars, to chase our dreams relentlessly, and to serve our nation with the utmost dedication. In her, we find a true patriot of the skies, a pioneer who empowers us all to soar to new heights.
On this Air Force Day, we salute her and all the brave women and men of the IAF for their tireless dedication to our nation's safety and security.
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