The Sapna story: Village girl to first Himachal woman Commanding Officer in Army : The Tribune India

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The Sapna story: Village girl to first Himachal woman Commanding Officer in Army

The 41-year-old officer is currently commanding an Army Service Corps battalion in Northeast

The Sapna story: Village girl to first Himachal woman Commanding Officer in Army

Col Sapna Rana commands an ASC battalion in the Northeast.



Shamsher Chandel

For a girl living in the backwaters of Himachal Pradesh, to get a mere government job without sifarish is quite an accomplishment. Growing up in the 1980s, little Sapna Rana didn’t have recourse to sifarish — but her appetite to make it big was immense. True to her name, Sapna Rana started dreaming young.

While studying at a government school in Badhlag near her village Bhawanipur in Solan district, she quietly started charting the course of her career her mind, even as children her age were happy just playing. From there to becoming the first woman from Himachal Pradesh to command a battalion in the Indian Army, Col Sapna Rana has come a long way.

Sapna’s mother Krishna Thakur, a homemaker, says with pride: “Of my three children, two sons and a daughter, she was the most driven — good at studies, and unrelenting.” “We’re from a small village, and never even imagined that our daughter could settle down beyond our village or the panchayat at most,” she adds. “But after Sapna did her 10th, she insisted that she would go to Solan for higher studies with her brothers.”

Luckily for Sapna, her father — a schoolteacher — and mother granted her wish, and she moved to Solan, living in a suburb, Saprun. “There she used to cook food and walk back part of the way from college to save money,” says Krishna. “When at the village, she would do all the chores women used to do back then — chop cattle-feed, milk the buffalo, stack a pile of chapatis, and much more. From there to becoming a Commanding Officer (CO) in the Army — we couldn’t have asked for more!” Col Sapna relives the days her dreams got wings. “After graduating from Government College in Solan, I got admission at the Himachal Pradesh University for an MBA degree in Shimla. I started preparing for the Civil Services but midway, I appeared for the Combined Defence Services exam and was selected for training at the Officers’ Training Academy in Chennai.”

After clearing the Service Selection Board (SSB) hurdle, she joined the Officers Training Academy in Chennai in 2003 and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Indian Army in 2004.

Krishna adds, “Before she wrote the exam, she went for a seven-day coaching class to Chandigarh. She appeared for the exam and made it.”

The 41-year-old officer, currently commanding an Army Service Corps (ASC) battalion in the Northeast, is married to an Army officer and the couple have a daughter.

Col Sapna has excelled in sports, winning gold medals during training in cross-country events, obstacle events, and academy endurance training; she’s been part of the Army shooting team, and is a microlight pilot and a marathon runner. She finds time to do more, though — “My other two passions are reading and gardening,” Col Sapna says. She has been awarded the COAS & General Officer commanding commendation cards on three occasions. “She is an inspiration for girls from rural backgrounds, for she’s the right mix of the traditional and modern, who can make a pile of chapatis on a chullah in no time, and also win medals at the national shooting contests,” says Krishna.


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