Bangladesh’s women, even if their identities become a barrier sometimes, are fully capable of braving all the challenges and upheld the country’s reputation in the global arena, and all they need for that are courage and devotion, say Flight Lieutenants Nayma Haque and Tamanna-E-Lutfi of Bangladesh Air Force (BAF).
Chosen by BAF as members of a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nayma and Tamanna are confident that they will perform their operational duties in mission area successfully.
After making history by becoming the country’s first two female combat helicopter pilots in December 2014, the two are now set to become the first Bangladeshi female pilots to join a UN mission.
An Inter Services Public Relation Directorate (ISPR) press release on Monday said their team would leave for Congo on Thursday for the one-year-long peacekeeping mission.
The duo is members of a contingent of 358-strong BAF team who will replace the current members of the mission in Congo. The 115-member first team left Dhaka on November 29 and the remaining members were being deployed in phases, ISPR said earlier.
Speaking with journalists at the BAF Base Bashar in Dhaka on Monday, Flt Lt Nayma said that BAF had been working on the Congo mission for the past 14 years and its female members have worked there in the last seven.
“But for the first time, Tamanna and I are going as female combat pilots in the UN peacekeeping mission from our country. We will have to work in a remote and different environment, and we have been trained for that by BAF.”
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She added: “We have received military training. We have training on how to work in a hostile environment. We have already trained in the hilly areas of Bangladesh for carrying out the duties in the similar areas in Congo.”
Asked about their families’ thoughts about their mission, Nayma said: “Families will always be worried in such situation. But they are proud of us and encourage us always.”
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Flight Lieutenant Nayma Haque and Flight Lieutenant Tamanna-E-Lutfi take off on their helicopter at the Bangladesh Air Force Base Bashar in Dhaka on December 4, 2017 ISPR
Responding to another query, Flt Lt Tamanna said that there was no alternative to hard work. “BAF is a dynamic and operational force. There are many opportunities in the air force for women. They will receive all kinds of cooperation here if they join.”
“Joining the air force and defending the country, this is a matter of glory and great respect,” she added.
Both of them also said at the press conference that any meritorious and efficient women could choose a challenging profession like the armed forces and utilise the available, but adequate opportunity.
BAF’s Group Captain Mohd Miraj Patwary said that the two female officers had the skill, intelligence and mental strength necessary to become full-fledged combat pilots.
“They are the pride of our country. We hope they will brighten the country's image in peacekeeping missions.”
According to the ISPR press release, BAF was the pioneer in induction of female officers in the armed forces in 2000.
Considering professional risks and challenges for being a combat pilot, after necessary selection process, BAF had chosen Nayma and Tamanna for basic helicopter conversion flying training in Bell-206 helicopter in 18 Squadron of BAF Base Bir Sreshto Matiur Rahman in Jessore, said ISPR.
On December 17, 2014, both female pilots successfully completed the initial phase of primary helicopter flying training.
After completing 65 hours of Basic Helicopter Conversion training, they had also performed duties in different operational squadrons of BAF. The duo later also completed training course on MI-17, MI-171 and MI-171 SH helicopters.
Nayma and Tamanna also performed as operational pilots in Operation Uttaron in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, said ISPR.