Major Prajakta Desai, the first female officer in the Indian Army to become an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle observer pilot spoke to SheThePeople and shared her journey. Here’s her story:
“I was a crazy kid growing up. My dream was to become Miss World as soon as I turned 18. Over the years, I somehow lost interest in the world of glamour. But I knew I’d to make a name for myself. I was 8 when I watched Border and the war scene left me inspired; I thought to myself, ‘I am going to join the army and make my country proud one day’.
My relatives disregarded my passion for a kid’s ramble. they’d often say, ‘girls shouldn’t dream big’ but my parents motivated me to aim for the sky; and I did. In my final year at college, I started preparing for the Combined Defence Services exam. I ranked 21st on the merit list for the Officer’s Training Academy in Chennai which had only 10 seats. I was sad, but I didn’t give up. Despite not being shortlisted, I kept calling the academy to know if they had any plans of increasing the no. of seats. Luckily they did and in 2010 I joined the academy.
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It was a year-long training. I kept least contact with family, just to stay focused on my goal. I remember calling my father on the first day at the academy and saying, ‘don’t call me unless someone dies.’ The training was rigorous but I knew I couldn’t give up. I’d tell myself, ‘15 seconds of fear or 15 years of life’ and that kept me going. In 2011, I passed out as Army Air Defence Lieutenant and Army became my way of life.
In 2011, I was posted in Jodhpur and no two days have been the same since then. From Chennai to Srinagar; I have served in every corner of the country. I am a trained mountaineer, skydiver and hot air balloon pilot. I also have experience in flying microlight and sail planes. In 2014, I married my long time sweetheart who is also an Army Officer. We only met thrice a year due to the exigencies of our service; but we faujis know how to live a lifetime with each minute. In 2019, I became the First female officer of the Indian Army to be a Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Observer Pilot.
In 2021, I withdrew from the Indian Army, but my husband is still serving. Serving the armed forces was a thrill. Very often I hear parents say Defence isn’t a place for girls. I’d say stop putting a full stop to their dreams; let them decide and I am sure they’ll only make you proud.”
Watch the video here.