Tuesday, July 03, 2007

'An army marches on its stomach’

When the famed warrior Napoleon Bonaparte uttered the above words he was only drawing our attention to the reality that soldiers, like all of us, have to eat to live. By readily answering the nation’s call a fighting man may earn a badge for his bravery and sacrifice. But when the days’ hard fighting is done, the thoughts of young men, as Bonaparte observed, naturally turn to a good meal. In this picture we see some of our brave heroes preparing a quick meal in a makeshift camp in the thick jungles of Thoppigala. While a hot meal is keenly anticipated, they cannot afford to lay down their rifles for danger is ever present.
Pic by - Rukmal Gamage

STF : Pet daughters are brave women

The first batch of the Special Task Force set up in 1983, was stationed in Jaffna. With the increase in terrorist activities, the security of Ampara and Batticaloa areas were handed over to the STF, to begin operations with two bases, at Kalladi and Kalawanchikudi. Then, with the recruitment of more personnel and the establishment of more bases and camps, the security situation in the area was brought under control by the STF.

Meanwhile, terrorist activities increased day by day and information was received that the LTTE maintained a Womens Corps. Up to this point, the STF which did not have a women's wing, carried out their duties in the North and the East, obtaining the assistance of women officers of the police in carrying out search and other operations. Most of the women police officers attached to police stations in the North and the East were Tamil nationals. In this scenario, the STF high command became aware of the danger to the safety of the STF and the risk of sensitive information leaking to terrorists. The necessity of woman officers to the STF arose at this point .

The training these women receive does not differ in any way from the training given to their male counterparts, as their duties do not differ from the duties of their male colleagues. No gender bias exists under wartime conditions. The discipline-based training they receive helps them to be methodical, disciplined and courageous throughout their lives. They receive training with modern weapons like the M-16, T-56, pistols, MP 5 and T 81 mortars and hand grenades. These women obey commands instantly and carrying out any task methodically and swiftly. They can carry out their duties on a par with men.

For example, there are women STF officers on active duty in operation areas of the Batticaloa District at this moment of writing. They are carrying out the duties entrusted to them risking their lives. A STF woman leaving the camp or base for active duty amidst threats to life and limb carries a T-56 weapon, and wears a protective helmet and a chest protector. The chest protector alone weighs about 2 1/2 Kilogrammes. Their protective body armour weighs 8 - 10 Kilogrammes. Traversing the jungle terrain with their whole attention focused on the surroundings and sneak attacks by terrorists is no easy task. But, with the training they have received, these heroic women carry out their smiles as duties with smiles their faces and cheerful demeanour.

Another important task entrusted to these women is the searching civilians coming to Government-controlled areas from unliberated areas still under the LTTE. The lives of STF women are in peril during these searches. There exists a strong possibility of women terrorists being among the civilians crossing over from unliberated areas to areas under Government control. The terrorists disguised as civilians may be carrying explosive devices on their bodies, with the intention of attacking our security forces. They are capable of setting off such devices while being searched.

Among the other duties entrusted to women officers of the STF in non-operational areas are handling communications and working in the computer section. Their contributions to intelligence operations are invaluable.

Even though they carry out their duties bearing weapons like men, they are, still, small daughters who were the pets of their parents. Their hearts are still tender. Their soft hands haven't been roughened by the guns they handle,

This is one example of women's versatility: a tough minded soldier on the job, they turn into loving wives and tender, caring mothers when they are out of uniform.