Sri Lanka's first female paratrooper takes wings

13:54, December 17, 2009      

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By Niyata Kulatunga

Samangi Widanage, 31, has been waiting for years before becoming Sri Lanka's first female paratrooper.

Samangi in her 12-year service in the Army served mostly in the north, the place of a bloody civil war between the government troops and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which was defeated in May.

Samangi started the one-month training, combined with tough commando training on Nov. 2 at the Uhana Air Force Base in the east.

"It was really hard. We followed two weeks ground training including lots of physical training. The confidence building training was the most important as we had to have our jumps," she recalled.

Recalling the first day that she was to jump from the helicopter, she said she forgot the whole world and was amazed to see what would happen. The parachute, which automatically released after 60 meters, brought her safely down encouraging her to continue her training.

But she was a little bit scared as one of her male colleagues had broken his knee in landing.

Samangi completed five jumps including a night jump during her training.

"It was 10 o'clock in the night and the entire area was in dark. The only demarcation for landing was some lamps lit around the dropping zone. But I did it," she said.

Her next target is to get trained in free fall which she has to jump over 3,000 feet (about 900 meters). She has to complete 35 jumps including three night jumps to realize her free fall dream.

Samangi thanked the Commandant of the Commando Training School Jayantha Balasuriya, her instructors and the riggers who wrapped the parachute correctly.

Being the only girl in her family, Samangi has four brothers and all of them opposed her wish at the beginning.

Among Samangi's future plans, getting married to her fiance -- an Army officer -- next year is her top priority. Soon she will join the experienced paratroopers of the Army to decorate the skies of Sri Lanka in special ceremonies.

Source: Xinhua
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