Sri Lanka Navy’s history-making women paratroopers | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka Navy’s history-making women paratroopers

9 July, 2023

Battling the scorching sun with an occasional mild drizzle, adjoining the Indian ocean at the Light House Galley, I had an audience with a bunch of daring young ladies; wind resistant and of storm-bracing calibre.

Albeit their destiny is set across the blue sea waters, their unassuming valour and prowess made them the trailblazers in their selected field of work. These sui generis damsels, consisting of two lady officers and three female sailors in their prime, make the first batch of women paratroopers in the history of Sri Lanka Navy. Facilitating and encouraging the female sailors endeavour of becoming qualified paratroopers in the Sri Lanka Navy is a pioneering innovative concept of its commander Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera.

Poised and assertive Lt. Iresha Madushani is a synonym of self-trust and the same is the essence of her heroism. Hailing from Kirillawala, Iresha had her primary education at Kirillawala Central College and her secondary education at Holy Cross College, Gampaha.

Armed with strong academic credentials, Iresha’s choice of her professional destination is at Sri Lanka Navy which reported a remarkable breakthrough in her selected field of work, when she was selected as one of the members of Sri Lanka Navy’s first batch of qualified women paratroopers. Iresha has her Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management from the University of Colombo, while her bachelor’s degree was obtained from the university of Kelaniya. Iresha draws her inspiration in becoming a paratrooper from her kith and kin: she remarked “despite the risk, my parents and siblings often encouraged in my lust of being adventurous”.

In retrospect, Iresha indulged herself in school days athletic nostalgia. “Apart from being studious and bookish, I had a strong passion for athletics. While schooling, I competed at inter-school, Western Province, and All=Island school athletic meets. 100m, 200m, long jump and high jump were my favourite events,” Iresha remarked.

She firmly notes that someone’s valour and bravery predominantly result as a form of response to extreme events. She also notes that her mettle and dauntlessness paved the way for her to be an exception while being a paratrooper in the Sri Lanka Navy. Iresha so far had a startling and astounding journey that tested her nerves to its fullest.

Dauntless and doughty Lt. Prasadhi Nadeeshani’s alma mater is Kolonnawa Balika Vidyalaya, Colombo. Prasadhi had her tertiary education at the Kotelawala Defence University from where she obtained her Degree in Social Sciences.

Joining the Sri Lanka Navy was a milestone and a positive change in her life. She joined with her colleague Lt. Iresha, the other lady officer paratrooper who became a history-maker in the Sri Lanka Navy. Lt. Prasadhi is remarkably gallant in her words and actions. Her way of speaking makes her a tenacious and incredibly insightful paratrooper.

Despite being slightly troubled by a minor injury that she sustained during a jump, she looks and sounds undoubtedly chirpy and chipper; managing the pain of her wound, she enjoyed sharing her intrepid and gutsy encounters with me.

Leroy Chiao, a retired NASA astronaut and a motivational speaker said “Coming down under a parachute is quite different as well. You hit the ground pretty hard, but all the systems work very well to keep it from hurting, so it doesn’t even hurt when you hit. It was a great experience to be able to do both”.

“I love parachuting as a beautiful flower or a tiny little tuft of grass grows right across a crack in the concrete, it is unambiguously impavid. Similarly, I would take a minor injury as a blessing in disguise,” she said.

Lt. Prasadhi’s twin Prabavi, her older brother Yashod along with her parents keep a low profile with her adventures in parachuting.

Ayesha Chathurangi Wijerathna, having been recruited as a physical training instructor in 2013, comes into the limelight as one of Sri Lanka Navy’s iconic recruitees.

Born and raised in Anuradhapura, Ayesha studied at Swarnapali Balika Vidyalaya, Anuradhapura. Hailing from a family where the military is a favourite choice of career, ever since she was young, she was a close observant with a vigilant eye on the paratroopers who descend from sky in a parachute that lands on the ground majestically on the Independence Day celebrations; such prodigious parachute jumps did not let her passion for parachuting relax at bay.

Ayesha says, “I have often been an ardent fan of those paratroopers who make the gallant jumps on February 4. I am hugely moved by them, and they almost became my inspiration for my just started journey in parachuting”. Her parents and siblings stand by her passion.

Giving life to her childhood passion, Maheesha Maduwanthi Ranasinghe also marks her position in Sri Lanka Navy’s first batch of women paratroopers.

Maheesha, an old girl of Bomiriya Central college, Kaduwela, feels she is privileged for being one of the members of the history-making women paratroopers of the Sri Lanka Navy.

She says, “I am bound by my passion, and I thrived on it following my selection as a woman paratrooper in the Navy for the first time in its history”. Maheesha’s mother and her older sister have been her tower of strength. Letting her father’s dream of seeing her recording a brilliant and brave jump in a parachute, blossoming in her youth.

Kawshi Divyanjali Thissera is now on the spotlight being a paratrooper in the Navy. Kawshi is a product of Yashodara Vidyalaya, Colombo 8. She said, “When you are about to jump, your deliberate need of having a classy jump automatically shuns the mere sense of fear and fright; you can always jump so dashingly and effortlessly”. The women paratroopers trainrf at the Sri Lanka Air Force Parachute Training School in Ampara under the guidance of its Commanding Officer Wing Commander Vijitha Gomes.

They followed the basic airborne course that spanned almost two months during which they were both theoretically and practically trained in three stages: ground training, tower training and live jump training.

All the five women paratroopers have completed the required number of jumps, assigned for the basic airborne course that consist of five jumps including the equipment jump. They all said that they are beyond grateful to Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera, Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy under whose able guidance, their long awaited endeavours are accomplished: Vice Admiral Perera is a promoter of gender equality in his esteemed organisation.

They applaud Wing Commander Vijitha Gomes and his staff while standing in recognition for the out and out thorough training and guidance, given to them right throughout their training sessions.

They are evolving by leaps and bounds and also determined to further their training into the next stage where they are assigned to follow the course on skydiving free fall at Sri Lanka Air force’s parachute training school in Ampara following which their concern will be on participating in the defence services competition, scheduled for September.

The daringness and guts that the navy women paratroopers demonstrate are exhilarating and elated. They resist doubt. Their legacy is the memory of their names; they have an inheritance of a great paradigm.