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President lauds armed forces' selfless devotion

Staff Reporter
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Awards standards to 44 Squadron and 110 Helicopter Unit at Bagdogra Air Force station

‘Life-savers': President Pratibha Patil releasing a postage stamp during presentation of President's Standards to 44 Squadron and 110 Helicopter Unit at a ceremony at Bagdogra Air Force Station near Siliguri on Wednesday. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P. V. Naik looks on. Photo: PTI
‘Life-savers': President Pratibha Patil releasing a postage stamp during presentation of President's Standards to 44 Squadron and 110 Helicopter Unit at a ceremony at Bagdogra Air Force Station near Siliguri on Wednesday. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P. V. Naik looks on. Photo: PTI

Underlining India's commitment to promote and preserve peace, President Pratibha Patil asserted on Wednesday that it will not deter the country from using its military might to safeguard its sovereignty.

Speaking on the occasion of awarding standards to 44 Squadron and 110 Helicopter Unit at the Air Force Station at Bagdogra in West Bengal's Darjeeling district, Ms. Patil hailed the armed forces' “selfless devotion, professionalism and courage in the face of adversity” and expressed confidence about their ability to counter any attack on India's sovereignty.

‘Secure borders'

“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…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,” she said.

Ms. Patil also highlighted the critical role played by the IAF as “life-savers” in peacetime by round-the-year patrolling of the ice-capped mountainous borders and extending yeoman service during natural calamities or attacks by anti-national elements.

Applauding the services of the helicopter and transport units of the IAF during both war and peacetime, she called them the “backbone” of the IAF. Ms. Patil recalled the services rendered by the 44 Squadron and 110 Helicopter Unit – popularly known as the ‘Mighty Jets' and ‘Vanguards' respectively – since the 1960s.

‘Conflicts'

“Within a year of its formation, the 44 Squadron was called upon to participate in the India-China conflict of 1962. The airlift of tanks to Chushul, located at a height of 14,000 feet, is well documented. During the India-Pakistan conflict of 1965, the Squadron carried out extensive airlift operations in support of the Army, while in the India-Pakistan conflict of 1971 it carried out extensive bombing missions with AN-12 aircraft, which had been suitably modified for the bombing role,” she said.

Flying the multi-role strategic heavy-lift aircraft IL-76 in the field of air transport operations, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, the 44 Squadron has been awarded ‘Battle of Honours' which is deemed as a rare honour for a transport squadron.

Ms. Patil also praised the 110 Helicopter Unit's contribution to the development of the north-eastern region of the country since its participation in the Sino-Indian War in 1962 in the Walong sector.

“Its efforts during the 1971 operations were crucial in mobilising troops in quick time…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,” she said.


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