G.I. Victoria: Trained female sniper pursues military career in elite army forces

G.I. Victoria: Trained female sniper pursues military career in elite army forces

Photolure

The Blue Berets that Victoria Gevorgyan wants to become part of demonstrated some of their combat and endurance skills at a show in Yerevan last November marking the 20th anniversary of the establishment of Reconnaissance Troops in Armenia.

Victoria’s strict military uniform only emphasizes her charm as she smiles broadly, moving around her unit with soft but steady steps. The 26-year-old servicewoman speaks calmly, yet confidently, trying to stay focused, her well-groomed hands and painted nails, hairdo and delicate makeup contrasting with a sniper’s duty and the brutal boot camp routines she has to do to get into the elite force group.

“We, too, live like all other women, but if we sport long hair, we have to make it into a ponytail not to fail at a shooting practice. And long nails aren’t good when you often have to clean your weapon,” says Victoria Gevorgyan, a sniper serving under a contract in the Armenian armed forces.

“We ourselves come to the understanding what is best for a servicewoman. Often we remember our gender only when we change our clothes, but that’s life in the army,” she adds, speaking on behalf of other women like her pursuing military careers. Victoria says, however, there aren’t as many women in the military as she would like to see.

The almond-shaped black eyes and concentrated look of the woman complete her image of a sniper trained to shoot to kill. She says she can still remember the first shot she made years ago when she still attended the military department at the Pedagogical University.

“We used Kalashnikovs. I hit my first target with just a single bullet. Then I needed just one more bullet to hit another one. The head of our department looked at me and said that I would make a perfect sniper,” says Victoria. “I wasn’t afraid of the weapon from the very beginning, I took the kickback, the loud noise, which frightens and confuses many people.”

The woman admits that her parents were against her choice of occupation at first, but then gradually they started to put up with it.

Victoria has been selected to serve in elite special forces, which, like the rest of the army, are considered a man’s world. She says keeping up can sometimes be tough for a woman, but willpower offsets physical strength and helps in endurance tasks.

“You have to run and do the pull-ups like the rest of the men do and you have to keep up with them… At first you fear you won’t prove any worth, but I have always thought that girls who are focused on a goal will do everything to achieve it,” explains Victoria.

The woman thinks that strong will is a major component in what she does and that weak-willed people have no place in special forces.

“Of course, women do have weaknesses. I’m trying not to show my weaknesses. I keep them to myself. I am embarrassed to look weak, there are many things that take me really, really great effort to overcome, even these long marches,” says Victoria of her army routine.

She tells of a 15-day march that they once took from Yerevan to Karabakh, with a 20-kiligram backpack, covering a distance of 30-40 kilometers a day. “Most of the guys did not make it,” says Victoria, who passed that endurance test for the rookies.

The woman says that being prepared emotionally is just as crucial for a sniper as being in good physical shape. A sniper, she says, should be focused on the target and fear is a bad companion in doing so – that’s why they also learn to check emotions.

“The purpose is one – to hit the target. At that moment you don’t think that your target is a human being. A sniper’s duty requires a lot of composure,” she says.

Victoria says that her military specialization also helps her in everyday life as she can fight down unnecessary emotions and feelings that she says often lead to a wrong direction.

Victoria encourages women to join the army. She welcomes Israel’s example and says she would want military service to become compulsory for women in Armenia as well. In this regard, she says that the presence of women in special forces breaks the stereotype that a woman is not army material.

“If an Armenian woman is able to take care of all the family cares, she will surely survive in the army as well,” says Victoria.

She has great respect for the Blue Berets, the elite of the elite forces. She hopes to become the first woman in Armenia to pass the test to join them. The test includes a 10-kilometer cross-country with a 20-kilogram backpack, pull-ups, an obstacle course exercise, swimming, etc.

The Armenian G.I. Jane says she feels comfortable in military boots, but does not mind wearing high heels outside service hours as well.

“I love my military career. I often put it before my personal life, but I have no regrets, as I know I’m doing it for my country,” says Victoria. “My future husband should respect and accept my decisions if he loves me,” she concludes.