In 1994, twenty-year-old Gunjan Saxena boards a train to Mysore to appear for the selection process of the fourth Short Service Commission (for women) pilot course. Seventy-four weeks of back-breaking training later, she passes out of the Air Force Academy in Dundigal as Pilot Officer Gunjan Saxena.
On 3 May 1999, local shepherds report a Pakistani intrusion in Kargil. By mid-May, thousands of Indian troops are engaged in fierce mountain warfare with the aim to flush out the intruders. The Indian Air Force launches Operation Safed Sagar, with all its pilots at its disposal. While female pilots are yet to be employed in a war zone, they are called in for medical evacuation, dropping of supplies and reconnaissance.
This is the time for Saxena to prove her mettle. From airdropping vital supplies to Indian troops in the Dras and Batalik regions and casualty evacuation from the midst of the ongoing battle, to meticulously informing her seniors of enemy positions and even narrowly escaping a Pakistani rocket missile during one of her sorties, Saxena fearlessly discharges her duties, earning herself the moniker ‘The Kargil Girl’.
This is her inspiring story, in her words.