Army women officers likely to get another extension

CHENNAI Sept. 6. The Adjutant-General, A. Natarajan, today said the Army was considering granting its women officers another four-year service extension and lowering their age of entry into the service.

Now, the women who are commissioned into the Army as officers after a 24-week course at the Officers Training Academy here, serve for five years. A five-year extension is granted depending upon the officer's performance. The Army began commissioning women as short service officers in 1992. A final decision on lowering the age of entry was yet to be taken, but this was under active consideration, he said.

The Army also planned to introduce information technology as a subject for recruitment of women officers. From next year, psychology also will be a subject for entry into the lady officer cadre. "We are trying to make it as attractive and broadbased as possible (with the introduction of new subjects)."

Lt. Gen. Natarajan said the Army found "enough material" for recruitment of jawans. But the officer cadre shortage still hovered at 12,000. The Army was on the right track and its strategies were paying off in attracting the right material. "The great achievement was that after two media campaigns last year, all courses are nearly fully subscribed.'' "There are lots of proposals with the Government to make the short service commission more attractive to youth." The areas of focus included provisions for a second career opportunity, better exit package, opportunity for studies while in service and training for a second career while in service.

On the recommendations of the internal committee, headed by the then Defence Special Secretary, A.V. Singh, to make the service more attractive to both potential and serving officers, Gen. Natarajan said this would be approved in stages. The part which spoke about the short service commission was likely to be considered first.

Lowering the age of promotion to the ranks of Captain, Major, and Lieutenant Colonel was also being considered. "Our basic problem in the Army today is the (shortage of numbers in the rank of) Colonel. We are woefully short of Colonels. People have been commanding in CI (counter-insurgency) areas for three-and-a half to four years and given second command in the mountains. This is not very good. The Government is seized of it. Hopefully, very soon, they will announce the acceptance of the report."

Earlier addressing the cadets passing out, he said "Our soldiers' vast experience in operating in varying terrain and extreme climatic conditions and varying type of operations gives them unmatched adaptability." He presented the awards for the outstanding achievers of this course. The parade commander, Academy Under officer, S.B. Sonawane, had the rare honour of bagging both the Sword and Honour for the best all-round gentleman cadet and the Gold Medal for the best candidate standing first in overall performance.

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