HYDERABAD: The 204th batch of Flying Cadets graduated from the Air Force Academy, Dundigal on Saturday. The 127 graduating cadets to the flying and ground duty branches of the Indian Air Force (IAF) included 21 women officers. This year, however, only one woman fighter pilot, Arti Tomar, graduated from AFA. Tomar, an electronics and communication engineer from Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, is the ninth women fighter pilot to graduate from the academy.
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, was the reviewing officer of the Combined Graduation Parade. Speaking at the event, Bhadauria said, “The next decade is likely to witness a change in warfare tactics, for which our young officers have been adequately trained.” hadauria inducted the graduating flight cadets with the ‘Wings and Brevets’ and also conferred the President’s Commission on them.
The graduation parade saw a spectacular performance by the air warrior drill team along with an aerobatic display by ‘Sarang’, the helicopter display team of the IAF. IAF’s skydiving team ‘Akash Ganga’ painted a tricolour and in front of the audience. Combat training at AFA is gender neutral. Both men and women need to be trained equally, said an IAF official from the academy. “By adding a gender-specific course we would be only discriminating our women cadets,” said the official.Tomar said, “We are not given any gender-specific training as we are as equal to our male counterparts.” S Choudhary, , who completed her training as a Transporter Flying officer, said, “Our commanding officers ensured we are not treated any different from men.”
Age-old joy of letter-writing continues at academy
As the cadets at AFA are not allowed use of phones during their course, letters were the only mode of communication between them and their families. In the age of digital communication, both families and the cadets recall how receiving a letter was an emotional experience for them.
“We get to make a call to our family and friends once a week and that too for a limited time. Hence, most of us relied on the time-tested method of writing letters to communicate with our family. It was a bitter-sweet experience to write letters and then eagerly wait for a response,” said Flight Officer Har Raj Bopari from Pune, Maharashtra.
The newly commissioned officers say that the tradition of writing letters will continue in the academy. “It was more than a week and we had not spoken to her, but my joy knew no bounds when I received a three-page letter from my daughter, said father of a flight officer, Shweta Choudhary.