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President awards 'Standards' to two Indian Air Force units

President Pratibha Patil presents Presidents standards to 44 Squadron during a ceremony at Bagdogra Air Force station near siliguri on Wednesday. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik is also seen. Photo: PTI.

BAGDOGRA (PTI): President Pratibha Patil Wednesday awarded prestigious 'Standards' to 44 Squadron and 110 Helicopter Unit of the Indian Air Force here in recognition of their sustained hard work and "operational excellence" during the times of war and peace.

"It gives me immense pleasure to be at Air Force Station Bagdogra, and to award Standards to 44 Squadron and 110 Helicopter Unit, popularly known as the 'Mighty Jets' and 'Vanguards' respectively," Patil said after awarding the honour to the two Air Force units.

The 44 squadron (Mighty Jets) was formed at Chandigarh on 06 Apr 1961, with the AN-12.

"The unit also operates Russian made IL-76, which has been named as Gajraj. It can carry tanks and can also accommodate around 350 personnel. It is capable of carrying a load of 44 tonnes," an Air Force officer told PTI.

During the India-Pakistan conflict of 1965, the 44 Squadron had carried out extensive airlift operations in support of the Army, while during the 1971 war, it carried out extensive bombing missions with the AN-12 aircraft, which had been suitably modified for the bombing role.

For its valorous efforts, 44 Squadron was awarded 'Battle Honours', which is a rare honour for a transport squadron.

"Both these flying units have a rich tradition of valour and courage, and have rendered distinguished service to the nation since their inception," Patil said.

Their personnel, both past and present, have put in untiring efforts in pursuit of excellence and have set an example for others to emulate and for their selfless devotion, professionalism and courage in the face of adversity, the Nation honours them today with a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation, she added.

"The award of 'Standard' is in recognition of sustained hard work and operational excellence displayed by these units during war, natural calamities and peace time operations," an official statement said.

West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan and Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik were also present on the occasion.

"A strong defence and an effective deterrence are essential to preserve peace. No nation can prosper without its borders being secure. Though as a nation we are firmly committed to peace. We will not hesitate to use all our might to safeguard the sovereignty of our nation. Our Armed Forces, exemplified by the men and women who stand before us, reflect our determination to protect our interests.

"We do not wish to encourage conflict, but should it be thrust upon us, I am confident that our Armed Forces will form a fortified wall against the adversary, and keep the Indian flag flying high," Patil said.

She said the 44 Squadron is a unit with a rich tradition of valour and selfless service to the nation. Within a year of its formation in 1961, it was called upon to participate in the Indo-China conflict of 1962.

Flying the multi-role strategic heavy lift aircraft, the IL-76, the 'Mighty Jets' have earned praise for themselves in the field of air transport operations, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. In 44 Squadron lies the capability of the IAF to project its air power on a global scale. The Squadron continues its journey to greater glory on the firm foundation laid by its pioneers, she said.

"The 110 Helicopter Unit has been closely associated with the development of the North East region of our country, working relentlessly to extend support to the local populace," the president said.

"It made notable contributions during the 1962 Operations in the Walong sector. Its efforts during the 1971 operations were crucial in mobilising troops in quick time.

Since then, the Unit has participated with exemplary courage and fortitude in various military activities.

"For the contribution of the Unit in bringing timely relief in the aftermath of Bangladesh floods in 1988, the Orissa Cyclone of 1999 and the Tsunami in 2004, the Nation owes a huge debt of gratitude to the 'Vanguards'. The Unit continues to strive for excellence," Patil said.

Patil also oversaw the march past and war skills displayed by the Air Force Units. Later the president released and signed the First Day Cover and Brochure and was presented with a memento by Commanding Officers of the 44 Squadron and 110 Helicopter Unit.

The president is on a four-day visit to West Bengal, Nagaland and Manipur form March 8-11.


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