Journey from a Lady Cadet to a Lady Officer

Pakistan Armed Forces have for long been thought to be a field dominated by men because of the demanding nature of the work. Regardless of this cliché thinking, Pakistani women have been successful in proving themselves as a significant part of Pakistan Armed Forces. If we talk about Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), honestly, it is not an easy place for any cadet, whether man or woman. I vividly remember the day I received my joining letter, I was overwhelmed and overjoyed — a joy so rare that it can only be felt once or twice in your life. Reading the clauses of the joining letter, I came across a line: “Do not overestimate yourself physically, as you will be in surprise when you will be tested in PMA.” I thought it couldn’t be that difficult. Little did I know that a new phase of my life was waiting for me that would challenge me mentally and physically. There is no doubt that PMA has pushed me to grow tremendously in a short period of time. The quote of John Assaraf: “Comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there,” never made so much sense before. This is exactly what this article is about, my journey from being a young Pakistani woman to becoming a Lady Officer (LO) of Pakistan Army.

I was always a bright student. I was mentally agile but I was not into physical activities before joining PMA, so my journey was not an easy one. I had to learn everything from scratch. In PMA a Lady Cadet (LC) is trained and made tough as per the same standards as a Gentleman Cadet (GC). The training tenure is six months and we go through all the physical and mental grinds that GCs do (keeping in mind some of the physical limitations of women). I experienced many strenuous and gut wrenching fitness tests at PMA including the “The Mighty Mile”. It was extremely important to pass the mile and the pressure one experience while standing at the starting point is indescribable. If you do not have strong legs, you are likely to suffer a lot, as you have to run all the time at PMA. Many of my platoonmates suffered certain injuries during training but we all learned and grew to be stronger and more physically fit. 
There were seventeen of us who, by the end of our training, were more like sisters as we went through those difficult yet amazing times together. The first term was extremely difficult for me as everything felt new and I had a ton of things to learn from grooming my personality to learning how to behave like an LC. I worked on myself in every way that I could. Being the first senior LC of my platoon, I had to take the responsibility of my platoon to save them from punishments. Learning drill and passing the saluting test was important for all of us as it was a deciding factor in whether we would be allowed to go home on leave or not. Getting bruised and having joint or muscle pain is common and every person you meet will have experienced some sort of pain.
I believe that the experiences in PMA are unlike any other and if we had not been chosen to be a part of this prestigious institute then we would have never been able to experience these. I also believe that all exercises at PMA taught us something; e.g., during firing practice I learned how to operate certain weapons including G3, MP5, LMG and SMG, etc., and was able to improve my firing skills as time passed by. Some of my most memorable experiences at PMA were wall repelling, going through the dark and dirty trenches, crossing dangerous paths with the help of ropes, working nonstop even when it was raining, hailsing or snowing. We were always on the move even in the scorching heat. These experiences helped me in discovering my hidden abilities. I grew a lot stronger, braver and became a far more disciplined person than I was before I joined PMA. I still remember standing near a graveyard at night along with my platoonmates digging trenches while it rained constantly. All we had were torches and we were asked to finish digging the trenches before dawn. 
Apart from physical training, PMA ensures to improve personal, communication and leadership skills by making all cadets speak in public. This trained us to manage ourselves in public, and to carry ourselves in a better way. It also taught us how to behave in a proper way. I got a chance to speak in front of a huge audience, attend various seminars and had the privilege of meeting certain people who inspired me to become a better version of myself. This helped me in securing my appointment of platoon sergeant, whose main responsibility is to maintain the platoon’s discipline. 
Studies are also a vital part of the training. We learned about battle tactics, map reading, Army as an organization, signal equipment, field equipment, military law along with other subjects like Geography, English, Islamic Studies, Business Studies and History.
Now that my training has ended and I am posted to my unit, I recollect all the amazing moments of training at PMA. It was a wonderful and life changing experience not just for me but for each and every one of us. I thank Pakistan Army for giving me a chance to serve my country and I motivate young girls to join Pakistan Armed Forces. HH


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