It takes a great deal of awareness, will and compassion for a woman to become an army officer. Most girls never aspire to join the army because we aren’t brought up to think that we can and that it needs intellect more than muscle power to join the forces. But when a woman does realize that she can in fact become an army officer, we get officers like Lieutenant Bhavana Kasturi.

Hyderabad-born Kasturi had never even imagined that one day she would join the force. Not just that, on January 26, she became the first woman Contingent Commander ever of the Indian Army Service Corps to lead an all-men contingent at the Republic Day Parade.

“Growing up, I never knew anything about the Army. I only had an exposure to the army when I joined the NCC and became a cadet during my graduation. It was there that I got to know that there is a career in the armed forces which a girl can also pursue,” Lieutenant Kasturi told SheThePeople.TV. She has done Masters in Microbiology from Hyderabad.

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The public rarely ever gets a peek into the lives of army officers, much less the lives of women in uniform. Talking about how a woman army officer’s life is different from that of an ordinary woman, Kasturi said, “Life of an officer in the Indian Army is the most challenging and adventurous and there is also a lot of responsibility. I joined the forces because I was carried away by the charm of the organization and the uniform.”

On becoming the first woman to lead a contingent on Republic Day and how she was selected for it, she said, “Army Service Corps have given a great opportunity to me to lead the contingent. And more than anything, it is a responsibility on me because I am representing my regiment on Rajpath. The entire world is going to watch me and my 144 jawans. So it is a matter of pride and honour for me and glory for the regiment which will remain in history.”

She added that the selection process started in the Army Service Corps Centre in Bangalore. “We have been practising there for the past six months. I went through a lot of selection procedures, reviews and several officers came to see the drill and the performance. Finally, they selected me and bestowed a huge responsibility on my shoulders.”

“We (lady cadets) never give up. We have so much potential in ourselves and we never realize that.”

Asked how her parents reacted to the news, she said: “They are very proud of me and supported me a lot while I took the decision of joining the forces. Even in days when I felt down, they always motivated me and said ‘This too shall pass’.”

Kasturi believes that there is a lot of misconception about the army in terms of gender bias. “For the army, a cadet is a cadet and an officer is an officer. The training standards for men and women are the same. We don’t have barriers — if men are running, even we have to run. If they are climbing ropes, we climb ropes. If they have to do push-ups, even we have to do push-ups. And I think after joining the army, the amount of respect an officer gets is all same.”

However, she did say that Lady Cadets (LCs) are the strongest among all. “We never give up. We have so much potential in ourselves and we never realize that. After passing out of the academy and getting commissioned, we realize that if we can do the toughest training, it means we can do anything.”

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