A rare occurrence in the military world, a husband-wife duo has both reached the rank of Air Marshal, with Air Marshal Sadhna Nair achieving this distinction as she was promoted to the rank of Air Marshal in the Indian Air Force (IAF) on Monday (23 October), reported Times of India.
Her husband, Air Marshal K P Nair, a retired fighter pilot, had previously served as the IAF director-general of inspection and flight safety in 2015.
This unique achievement marks them as the first and only Air Marshal couple in the IAF, an exceptional milestone.
The Nairs now join the ranks of the Kanitkars, who in 2020 became the first couple to attain the rank of three-star officers in the Indian armed forces.
In the Indian Army, Lt-Gen Madhuri Kanitkar, also a doctor, served alongside her husband Lt-Gen Rajeev Kanitkar, an armoured corps officer who retired as quartermaster general in 2017.
According to the TOI report, this historic promotion underlines the evolving landscape of the Indian military, where such prestigious achievements are now becoming more attainable.
Air Marshal Sadhna Nair's career is marked by three generations of her family serving in the IAF over the last seven decades. Both her father and brother were doctors in the IAF, while her son serves as a fighter pilot (Flight Lieutenant).
Her appointment as the principal medical officer at the IAF Training Command in Bengaluru highlights her exemplary journey. Notably, she is the second woman officer who has consistently served in the IAF throughout her career (military doctors can be posted to another service) and has now been promoted to the rank of Air Marshal.
The first woman to achieve this milestone was Air Marshal Padma Bandopadhyay (retd). Another woman doctor who reached the three-star rank was Surgeon Vice Admiral Punita Arora (retd) in the Indian Navy.
After her graduation from the Armed Forces Medical College in Pune, Air Marshal Sadhna Nair was commissioned into the IAF in December 1985.
Her credentials include a postgraduate degree in family medicine, and she has undertaken specialised courses in medical informatics at AIIMS in New Delhi, as well as training in CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) warfare and military medical ethics in Switzerland.
The armed forces in India have been progressively opening doors to women officers, enabling them to serve in various roles, including those once considered exclusive to men. Women can now be found flying supersonic jets like MiG-21s, Sukhoi-30MKIs, and Rafales.
Over 145 women pilots are serving as helicopter and transport aircraft pilots in the IAF, army, and navy, further diversifying the roles of women in the armed forces.
In addition, around 30 woman officers have been deployed on frontline warships.
However, there has been no move to induct woman officers into the army's primary 'combat arms' of infantry, armoured corps (tanks), and mechanised infantry (infantry combat vehicles). Similarly, women remain excluded from serving on submarines in the navy as of now.
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