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Hilal Her

Beyond Boundaries Maj Arooj Arif, the first Lady Officer of Pakistan Army to graduate from Command and Staff College, Quetta, recounts her experience

August 2023

As I look back on my time at The Command’s Quetta Staff College, a surge of emotions washes over me. It was more than just an institution; it was a crucible of growth, a sanctuary of knowledge, and a forge that molded me into the leader that I am today. One fine winter’s afternoon, while sitting in my cozy office in Supply & Transport Directorate, I was informed about my selection to the most prestigious institution of Pakistan Army, (Staff College, Quetta). Being selected for (Staff College Quetta) is a significant achievement and a milestone in any military officer’s career. On one side, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment for being selected among a pool of competent officers, but at the same time there was a sense of anticipation as well as nervousness about the challenges and expectations that the future held for me.
With little knowledge about Staff College and experiencing anxiety, I joined the Staff Course 2022-23. Nestled amidst the rugged mountains, the Staff College stood tall with an imposing ambience, its history etched into every brick and corridor. Stepping into its hallowed halls, I could envision the countless officers who had walked these paths before me.
The Staff College is a copious institution full of ideas and knowledge for the student officers, and my time here helped me to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills over the course of a  year. One of the notions that I found remarkable was the vast outbreath of knowledge and highest-level of dedication by the faculty, especially the Directing Staff. They enabled me not only to learn the practical aspects of warfare but also gave in-depth insight to all the arms expertise. The College’s faculty, embroiled with the wealth of practical knowledge and leadership experience, provided me guidance and mentorship that contributed significantly to the development of various skills such as organizational management and leadership.
For me, the most favorite part of the staff course was undoubtedly the guest speakers’ lectures at the Ashfaq Pervez Kayani Auditorium. The Staff College paid core emphasis on guest speakers from all walks of life, discussing topics ranging from hardcore military subjects to national and international issues to personal growth. These guest speaker lectures left an indelible mark on my journey at the Staff College. The impact of guest speaker’s lectures reverberated in our informal interactions, syndicate discussions and overall approach to Army Service. Their insights became a compass that will guide us all through the myriad challenges that lie ahead in our careers.
As I now step into the next chapter of my professional life, I carry the invaluable lessons learned from those guest speaker lectures close to my heart. It has reinforced my commitment to leading with empathy, authenticity, and strategic vision, ever mindful of the profound impact that leaders can have on those they serve.
The Staff College followed a rigorous and demanding training curriculum that includes lectures, seminars, exercises, syndicate discussion and war games. These activities not only enhanced my understanding of military strategy, tactics, operational art and joint warfare but also contributed a lot to my personal growth. Ample emphasis laid upon on communication skills by the faculty led me to improve my public speaking, effective writing and active listening processes.
The College environment encouraged peer learning, where student officers interacted with fellow officers from different arms and officers from friendly countries; learning from each other’s experiences. Mentorship from seasoned military officers and the exchange of ideas with diverse peers broadened my perspectives and enriched my understanding of military leadership in a complex world.
As the course unfolded, I encountered a myriad of challenges that pushed me beyond my comfort zone. Embracing each obstacle with determination and resilience, I learned valuable lessons that transformed me into a more adept and confident officer. Like any intensive educational program, Staff Course was immensely time-consuming and challenging. In addition to curriculum, there was a pressure to break stereotypes and prove myself capable, which created additional stress and expectations.
The Staff Course demanded an exceptional level of time management and organizational skills. Balancing syndicate assignments, extracurricular activities and personal commitments was no easy feat. To overcome this challenge, I adopted a systematic approach, prioritizing tasks based on deadlines and importance. 
At the onset of the Staff Course, I established clear and achievable goals for both my academic and personal life. Understanding the importance of work-life balance, I ensured that my objectives were not solely focused on academic excellence but also on maintaining a healthy personal life. To maintain a healthy work-life balance, I recognized the importance of disconnecting from course work occasionally. During scheduled breaks, I made a conscious effort to step away from academic commitments and focused on spending quality time with my loved ones, engaging in activities that brought joy and relaxation. Achieving work-life balance during the staff course was undoubtedly a test of my organizational skills, determination, and ability to prioritize effectively. As I carry the lessons learned during the Staff Course into my future endeavors, I remain committed to nurturing this delicate balance, recognizing that it is the key to not only personal wellbeing but also enhances leadership effectiveness in every facet of life.
As my husband was also doing his the Staff Course with me, his unwavering support and encouragement during and before the staff course was instrumental in my success and overall wellbeing. His role as a constant source of emotional strength, shared responsibilities, and understanding made the challenging journey not only manageable but also enriching. When the workload seemed overwhelming, I didn’t hesitate to seek support and guidance from my husband. His insight and encouragement served as a source of inspiration, helping me to stay motivated and focused.
The Staff Course experience reinforced the importance of a strong support system, and I am forever grateful for my family’s unwavering dedication. Together, we navigated the trials and triumphs of the Staff Course, and their absolute belief in my abilities propelled me to achieve personal and professional growth beyond what I had ever imagined. 
The Staff Course journey was a transformative experience that presented me with a tapestry of challenges, each bearing the potential to redefine my approach to life in general, and service in particular. The course tested not only my skills but also my character, reinforcing the belief that true leadership emerges in the face of adversity. 
To the Staff College and its esteemed faculty, I extend my deepest gratitude. Your commitment to excellence, unwavering support, and dedication to molding us into exceptional leaders have left an indelible mark on our lives. Your enduring impact will resonate in every decision I make, every challenge I face, and every success I achieve. The privilege of learning from the best has instilled in me an unyielding desire to lead with integrity, compassion, and a profound understanding of the responsibilities in life. Thank you, dear Staff College and esteemed faculty, for being the guiding light on this transformative journey. Your contributions will forever be cherished, as I strive to be a leader worthy of the knowledge and values you have bestowed upon me. HH

Major Arooj Arif is the first lady officer to graduate from Command and Staff College, Quetta and is now currently serving in MO Dte.