Women in Command Roles

Women in Command Roles

News: As many as 108 women officers in the Army are set to be cleared for the rank of Colonel (selection grade) by a special selection board, which will make them eligible to command units and troops in their respective arms and services for the first time.  

Why is this significant?
• Most importantly, it grants women officers parity with their male counterparts. 
• It is not that women officers did not reach the rank of Colonel or beyond in the past, but they were only in two branches — the Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch and the Army Education Corps — where they were granted permanent commission in 2008. However, these were merely administrative in nature and not purely command appointments in which an officer commands troops on ground. 
• The Supreme Court’s order to grant permanent commission to women Army officers in February 2020 opened the doors for promotion to women officers across all streams of the Army, except pure combat arms. 

Why did their Colonel promotions come so late?
• An officer in the Army is promoted to the rank of Colonel only after serving between 16 and 18 years, based on certain criteria such as annual confidential reports and various courses.
• Women officers who were inducted into the Army were inducted as SSC officers in 1992 and in the years after did not have the choice to opt for permanent commission.
• JAG and Army Education Corps were exceptions, where a permanent commission was opened for them in 2008.
• For other arms and services, women could not become permanent cadres, and had to retire much before they completed the service period that is mandatory to become a Colonel.

What exactly does commanding a unit of the army mean?
• The position of Colonel is considered a coveted appointment because it is a high-ranking position within the military, but it also allows the officer to interact directly with troops on the ground.
• This interaction allows the Colonel to have a more hands-on approach to leadership and decision making, which is a unique opportunity not found in higher-ranking positions like Brigadier or Major General.

In which arms and services will women officers command units?
• Women officers in many streams of the Army, including the Army Air Defence, Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps, and Intelligence Corps will be commanding units.
• They are still not eligible in core combat arms such as Infantry, Mechanised Infantry and Armoured Corps, as the Army is not open to women fighting wars at the borders as foot soldiers. Much of this resistance stems from past instances of male soldiers being taken as prisoners of war and tortured by the enemy. 

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