Wing Commander Deepika Misra on Thursday became the first woman officer in the Indian Air Force to be presented a gallantry award.
According to an IAF spokesperson, Misra, a helicopter pilot hailing from Rajasthan, was conferred a Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) for an act of "exceptional courage" displayed during a flood relief operation in Madhya Pradesh.
IAF chief Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari presented the Yudh Seva Medal and other awards to several officers and air warriors at an Investiture Ceremony held at the Air Force Auditorium in Subroto Park here.
While two IAF officers were awarded Yudh Seva Medal, 13 officers and air warriors received Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry), 13 officers Vayu Sena Medal and 30 got Vishisht Seva Medal, the spokesperson said.
A total of 58 people -- 57 from the IAF and one from the Army -- received the awards, he said.
Talking about Wing Commander Misra, he said she is the first woman officer of the Indian Air Force to get a gallantry award in the history of the IAF.
For devotion to service, women from the IAF have received awards in the past, but this is the first time that a gallantry award has been conferred on a woman officer of the IAF, he added.
According to information shared by the IAF, Misra was "detailed to undertake humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in response to flash floods" in northern Madhya Pradesh in August 2021.
The rescue operation that included low hover pick-ups and winching lasted for an exhaustive eight days and she saved lives of 47 people, including women and children.
Her efforts of bravery and courage not only saved precious lives in a natural calamity but also instilled a sense of safety amongst the common populace in the flood-affected area, officials added.
Personnel from IAF's Garud unit, who had taken part in a rescue operation after the at Trikut Hills ropeway accident in Jharkhand's Deoghar, considered one of the toughest rescue operations, were also among the awardees, as also those personnel who had taken part in anti-insurgency operations in Kashmir valley.
Among the 30 who got Vishisht Seva Medal, 29 are from the IAF and one from the Army, officials said.
Brig G Muthukumar from the Corps of Engineers received a Vishisht Seva Medal for his services for the IAF.
"I was earlier working the chief engineer for a couple of years, with the IAF at its South Western Air Command. I am glad the Army gave me opportunity to work with the Air Force, and IAF recognised my services. I feel very proud," he told PTI.
Warrant Officer Ashok Kumar was also presented with a Vishisht Seva Medal for his services to the force.
The IAF officer has led the contingent for more than 15 years and has participated in Republic Day celebrations on Rajpath (now Kartavya Path) for the past 27 years.
This year the IAF band contingent was also led by Warrant Officer Kumar.
"I am feeling humbled and proud to receive this award. I must thank my family, especially my wife for supporting my journey with the IAF," the officer told PTI.
Family member and spouses of various awardees were also present on the occasion.