Defence

The Inspirational Story Of The First Woman Air Marshal Of The IAF

She has a bevy of achievements under her belt. To begin with, she is the first woman Air Marshal in the Indian Air Force, taking over as Director General Medical Services (Air) at the Air Headquarters in New Delhi in 2004.

Before she bagged this title, she was the first woman Air Vice-Marshal (2002) and the first woman Air Commodore (2000) in the IAF. That’s not all, Bandopadhyay is the first woman fellow of the Aerospace Medical Society of India and the first Indian woman to have conducted scientific research in the Arctic. She is also the first woman officer to have become an aviation medicine specialist.

Talking about her upbringing, she had told a portal, “I was the second child of a religious orthodox Brahmin family in Tirupati. Men in my family were far more educated than women. One can only imagine how difficult studying medicine would have been for me, but my father backed me at every step. I mean, I was always fascinated by dogfights and other military air manoeuvres.”

She confesses that seeing her mother bed-ridden while growing up was the reason she was determined to become a doctor. She met her husband, Flight Lieutenant Satinath Bandopadhyay, during her internship at the Air Force Hospital, Bangalore. Soon, they fell in love and got married.

“During the 1971 war with Pak, we were both posted at the Halwara airbase in Punjab. I was fresh out of the IAF Command Hospital, and he (her husband) was an administrative officer. It was a challenging time, but we did well. We were the first couple to receive the Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM), an award for exemplary devotion to duty, at the same defence ceremony,” she further said.

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