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"Life is an opportunity, benefit from it" - Mother Teresa
Cover Theme
- Fighting For Their Country
- An Indian Martyr In the US Army
- Un-Conventional Choice
- Gates of Freedom Require Vigilance and Sacrifice
- Saving the Whole World
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Special Report
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Books
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Saturday June 24, 2017
Cover Theme: South Asians In the U.S. Military
Un-Conventional Choice:
Swapping Books For M-16
Vol: 1 Num: 2    Spring 2006
Many South Asian women like Mauli Patel and Ranbir Kaur are opting for un-conventional career in the United States military.

There are more than 200,000 women on active duty in the U.S. military. Very few of them are of South Asian origin. If the military is an un-conventional choice as a career for South Asian American men then for women it is more so.

However, despite instinctive opposition from traditional professional and business class parents, some South Asian women are trading in their college days and civilian life for the rigors of military.

Mauli Patel and Ranbir Kaur are two such South Asian women who are bucking the trend by joining the Army. Born and raised in India, both came to the United States at a young age. Patel was in the USA for only five years when she decided to join the Army at age 17 in 1997. Kaur, also 17, was in the USA for nine years when she joined California National Guard in 2002.

Patel joined the Army because she wanted to pay for her own education and didnít want to work through the college like her sister. She found the military to be a better way to earn tuition money. Kaur, daughter of a grape grower who used to work in the computer industry, thought that service in National Guard will lead to more opportunities in life as she told Sacramento Bee.

Since both girls were minors they had to take the permissions of their parents, which wasnít easy. Patel recalled, "My mother wasnít the happiest person in the world, I can tell you that." An uncle, her motherís brother, urged her mother to let her go ahead with her life and get the experience on her own. Even the Army recruiter, who came to meet her family, had to endure a drilling by her elder sister, who wanted to know all about what Patel would be doing in the Army.

The life in the military proved to be a great experience for Patel, who a year after joining in 1998, was shipped out for a two-and-half year stint to Germany with the 59th Chemical Company. She had an impressive title of Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Decontamination Specialist, which is a fancy way to say that she was responsible for the cleaning up of chemical and bio hazards and contamination on person and equipment.

By 2000, Patel had become a Sergeant and was posted at Fort Drum, New York. From then on she and her company went on for a roller coaster ride. In the fall of 2001, they were being trained at Fort Polk, Louisiana to go to Macedonia when their mission was suddenly changed to go to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

After Hurricane Katrina, the Guru Granth Sahib in a New Orleans Gurdwara could not be removed before mandatory evacuation. When the appeals to authorities and a letter to President Bush did not produce any result then Kaur was able to help by arranging a rescue operation. Now she is going to Afghanistan after a two week training at the Yakima Training Center in Washington.

"The soldier doesnít have time to think that Ďoh man if I shoot this man or woman itís going to be someoneís wife, husband, son or daughter. The soldier sees a threat and itís eliminated." Patel once wrote. Now she wants to eliminate pains and miseries too by becoming a nurse. Out of active duty, she is pursuing her BS degree and plans to join a nursing program. She wants to get back on the active duty in 2008 as an officer in the Army Nurse Corps.

The experience of Army is such that people frequently have a change of heart as Patel says, "The initial reason was education and now I want to go back because I like the military I like the structure."

---
is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Mood Indico magazine, a niche publication for the affluent South Asians living in the north America

 

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