New Delhi: When Captain Tania Sher Gill led all-men contingents during the majestic Army Day parade on Wednesday, the woman officer knew she was blazing a new trail in the armed forces.
Twenty-six-year-old Gill of the Corps of Signals, the fourth generation to serve the Army, became the first woman Parade Adjutant in the history of the Army Day function.
Wearing a khaki uniform and holding a ceremonial sword, when she marched down in front of an august audience at the Cariappa Parade Ground in Delhi Cantonment, she literally stood tall.
"It was a feeling of great pride, a sense of accomplishment and worthiness, and pure blessing," an ecstatic Gill told PTI after the grand event.
A graduate of the Officers Training Academy (OTA), Chennai, she comes from a family where "Army tales and anecdotes" were part of dinner table talks and morning walks and joining the armed forces came "very naturally" to her.
"I had applied while I was in the final year of my engineering course and later got selected. After my training at OTA, I got commissioned into the Corps of Signals in 2017. When the selection was on for the Parade Adjutant, I knew that if I would get selected, I would be the first woman to do that job in the parade's history," she said.
Hoshiarpur-born Gill, who holds a B.Tech. in electronics and telecommunications from Nagpur University, said her great-grandfather had taken part in World War I.
"He (great-grandfather) was part of the Sikh Regiment. My maternal grandfather also belonged to the same regiment, while my paternal grandfather belonged to the 14th Armoured Regiment (Scinde Horse) and my father served in the artillery regiment. Army life runs in the family," a proud Gill said.
The Punjab-born did her schooling in multiple cities and counts photography, travelling and music among her hobbies.
The Army showcased its military might and some of its state-of-the-art assets during the majestic parade, with artillery gun systems Dhanush and K9-Vajra taking part in it for the first time, officials said.
The Army Day is celebrated on January 15 every year to mark Lt Gen K M Cariappa taking over as commander-in-chief of the Indian Army in 1949 from General Francis Butcher, the last British commander-in-chief of India.
Capt Gill led all-men contingents during the parade, drawing praise from senior officers and loud cheers from the audience, which included members of the diplomatic corps.
Battle scenes, from aerial manoeuvres to infantry attacks were simulated during the function with the three services chiefs and the Chief of the Defence Staff in attendance.
"These 'battle inoculations', as we call it, fill us with a great sense of thrill and pumps up energy," she said.
Last year, woman officer Bhavana Kasturi, then a lieutenant, had for the first time led an all-male Army Service Corps (ASC) contingent during the Republic Day parade.
Asked what message she had to give to young women who are chasing their dreams, Gill said, "When we don the uniform, we are just officers, gender is immaterial, all that matters is merit."
"And girls and women chasing their dreams should just believe in themselves. It doesn't matter if some people think they are any less than boys and men. I would tell them just focus on your goals and pursue the goals with passion," she said.