Presidential award to IAF personnel

August 14, 2022 Photo(s): By PRO (Air Force)

President Confers Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) on Flight Lieutenant D. Ravindra Rao (35147) Flying (Pilot)

Flight Lieutenant D. Ravindra Rao (35147) Flying (Pilot) is on posted strength of a Fighter Squadron.

On 06 Nov 21, Fit Lt D. Ravindra Rao was ferrying a Jaguar fighter aircraft to another base as part of a detachment. After landing, while carrying out post flight inspection of his aircraft, he heard a loud explosion and saw another Jaguar aircraft crashing and skidding off the runway. He, while still kitted up with his full flying clothing, sprinted towards the crash site and found the crashed aircraft inverted with a part of canopy broken, both engines still running and the pilot bleeding and hanging from the ejection seat straps. By this time, one Crash Fire Tender (CFT) had already reached the crash site and was dousing the crashed aircraft to extinguish flames. In the meantime, the second CFT also reached the accident site and was actively directed by Flight Lieutenant D. Ravindra Rao to throw extinguishing foam at the correct place. He established that the engines were still running and the pilot's ejection seat was live, which posed a grave risk of fire and explosion. Moreover, the pilot was not able to escape from the inverted aircraft. Without wasting any time and thinking of any danger to his life, Fit Lt D. Ravindra Rao crawled into the inverted cockpit, operated the crash gang bar and attempted to operate engine throttles to stop position. Meanwhile, the water sprayed on the engines became hot and started pouring on him and the pilot inside the cockpit. The extensive CO2 foam sprayed by the CFT made it difficult to breathe in that confined space; but he, undeterred by all dangers, continued the rescue operation. He had to reach for the stuck & inverted pilot's legs and remove leg-restrainers and open part of g-suit to free the semi-conscious individual. He helped to extricate the pilot from aircraft, helped the medical team to remove the pilot's flying clothing, assisted them to provide first aid and strap the pilot on to the crash stretcher.

Fit Lt D. Ravindra Rao showed exceptional courage and gallantry in face of a direct threat to his life. He went far beyond the normal call of duty, personally involved himself in the rescue of the semi-conscious pilot and assisted & guided the rescue crew in effectively completing the rescue operation.

For this act of exceptional courage, Flight Lieutenant D. Ravindra Rao is awarded Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).

President Confers Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) on Group Captain Rahul Singh (27001) Flying (Pilot)

Group Captain Rahul Singh (27001) Flying (Pilot) is on the posted strength of a C-17 Transport Squadron.

On 15 Aug 21, as part of Operation Devi Shakti, the officer was detailed as the Overall Mission Commander of the three C-17 aircraft tasked for the evacuation of Indian Embassy staff and diaspora from Kabul in the face of Taliban's then imminent takeover. With the very real threat of MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defence Systems) & small arms fire around the airport, and a Navigation Aid and Communication black out, the mission required intricate planning and comprehensive preparation. The flight landed at Kabul airport at night and taxied to the spot vacated by the preceding C-17 aircraft. After holding on ground for nearly four hours the possibility of the remaining evacuees reaching the airport still remained bleak. At this point the situation turned hostile with sporadic gunfire and swarms of civilians having broken through the southern perimeter wall rushing towards aircraft parked in the northern part of the airfield. The officer displaying superior judgement and dynamic decision making, executed an expeditious departure for Dushanbe to obviate any harm to the aircraft. At Dushanbe, he remained in constant contact with Air HQ Ops room and Indian Air Attache via SATCOM to keep updated on the latest ground situation and coordinate a second landing attempt. Close to midnight, sensing an opportunity the officer took off for Kabul for a possible blind landing using NVGs (Night Vision Goggles). Short of Kabul Airport, the flight had to hold for close to an hour (burning precious fuel) near Durand line as communications could not be established with the now evacuated ATC tower and Radar Approach services. The officer, displaying sharp situational awareness and swift decision-making, contacted USAF Airborne Control, and obtained an accurate update of the ground situation. At the same time he was also coordinating via SATCOM with the Air Attache on ground. After frantic negotiations the aircraft was finally cleared for landing at own risk. Post parking, the officer established contact with the US Ground Force commander and directed the GARUD forces to establish a defensive perimeter around the aircraft. Post a four hour delayed arrival of the 153 evacuees; the officer promptly taxied out and executed a flawless Tactical Departure in order to avoid ground fire in the absence of any ground Navigation Aids.

For this act of exceptional courage, Group Captain Rahul Singh is awarded Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).

President Confers Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) on Group Captain Ravi Nanda (27686) Flying (Pilot)

Group Captain Ravi Nanda (27686) Flying (Pilot) is the Commanding Officer of a C-130J Transport Squadron.

On 20 Aug 2021, as a part of Operation Devi Shakti, he was tasked for a Special Operation into the destabilised war-torn nation of Afghanistan. The embassy staff had already been evacuated on 16 Aug 21, hence there was no source to achieve reliable ground intelligence. The officer was the commander of a mission to fly into the epicentre of the conflict zone of Kabul to insert a 'Specialised Government Team' for facilitating swift evacuation of Indian Diaspora under imminent threat to their lives.

The officer led this high-risk midnight mission facing the utmost dangers of an absolutely uncontrolled airspace, dense traffic of unknown aerial platforms, extremely limited visual cues in the middle of unforgiving mountainous terrain and above all, a hostile ground situation with small arms, rocket propelled grenades and shoulder launched missiles. A high level of unpredictability and danger existed due to lack of intelligence at the target airfield. The officer exhibited exceptional professional courage, grit & leadership in flying this perilous mission with unprecedented threats emanating from a volatile war zone in presence of radical militias. Amidst of a chaotic ground situation, ongoing sporadic gunfire in the vicinity of airport and possible threat to life and equipment, he effectively used Night Vision Goggles (NVG) to land safely at Kabul. He displayed sharp situational awareness, dynamic decision making and controlled his team of Special Forces to ensure safety of the aircraft for more than an hour. The officer planned an efficient tactical departure in dark night and also safely evacuated 87 Indians to Dushanbe.

For this act of exceptional courage, Group Captain Ravi Nanda is awarded Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).

President Confers Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) on 912788 Sergeant Parmender Singh Parmar, Flight Gunner

912788 Sergeant Parmender Singh Parmar, Flight Gunner is on the posted strength of a Mi-17 V5 helicopter unit.

On 13 Sep 2021, a message was received from District Administration of Jamnagar regarding rescue of six civilians from Banga Village near Kalavad in Gujarat. The rescue operation involved winching up of six survivors from a building on the verge of being marooned and engulfed by heavy flowing river waters. The crew on reaching the village spotted the marooned house in the middle of an overflowing river. They quickly realised the gravity of the situation since it was raining heavily and the flow of river was increasing by the minute.

Sergeant Parmar and an additional Flight Gunner tried to rescue the civilians by lowering the winch cradle over the roof of the building, however no one turned up. Seeing other civilians on top of neighbouring buildings pointing to the marooned building he assessed that the stranded civilians were unable to reach the roof top. The crew made two unsuccessful attempts to rescue the civilians from the front main door; however the civilians could not board the winch cradle due to fear and heavy flow of the river. The intensity of the rain as well as the flow of the river had increased during the operation. Sergeant Parmar assessed that if not acted upon in time the survivors in the broken down building would be soon washed away. Despite the danger of being washed away himself, he volunteered to be winched down to the door of the building, without regard for his own safety. On reaching down, he realised the fury of the river with the staircase to the roof and one wall being washed away. He quickly planned the sequence of evacuation and helped the six civilians board the winch cradle, two at a time. After all of them were rescued, he was the last to be winched up from the marooned house. His ability to assess the gravity of the situation that was quickly getting out of control, timely intervention, disregard for personal safety and exceptional courage in the face of imminent danger ensured survival of all six stranded people.

For this act of exceptional courage, Sergeant Parmender Singh Parmar is awarded Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).

President Confers Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) on 924678 Sergeant Shyam Veer Singh Indian Air Force (Garud)

924678 Sergeant Shyam Veer Singh Indian Air Force (Garud) is on the posted strength of a Garud Flight.

He was performing the duties of scout of a Garud Team during an operation which was a 96 hrs mission and was being conducted at an altitude reaching upto 13,000 ft (launched on a specific intelligence input about presence of terrorists). The operation was at Dhachigam Reserve Forest in Tral District, Pulwama.

On 21 Aug 21 at approximately 0630 hrs the Garud team was moving toward a target area. Suddenly, a terrorist came out of the covering and opened heavy volume of fire towards forces which were closing in towards the covering. In such a situation, Sgt ShyamVeer acted with tremendous amount of grit and retaliated with pin point and effective heavy fire. Undeterred by the hostile circumstances, Sgt Shyam Veer displayed exceptional courage and rushed to a favourable tactical position and engaged the terrorist from a close range of ten meter and eliminated him. The terrorist was later identified as a Category A terrorist of Jaish-e-Mohammad Tanzeem.

For this act of exceptional courage, Sergeant Shyam Veer Singh is awarded Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).

President Confers Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) on Squadron Leader Dilip Gurnani, (33566) Administration/Fighter Controller (Garud)

Squadron Leader Dilip Gurnani, (33566) Administration/Fighter Controller/Garud is the Commanding Officer of a Garud Flight. He was assigned the responsibility of Garud Detachment Commander while on deployment in Op Rakshak with a battalion of Rashtriya Rifles.

On 13 Oct 2021, during Operation Wagad, based on a specific intelligence input regarding presence of terrorists, a specific search operation was planned and launched in a dense build-up area in general area Wagad of Tral town, District Pulwama.

Squadron Leader Dilip Gurnani led the Garud Squad from Northern direction and cordoned the target area by 1120 hours. A total of 19 houses were taken inside the Cordon. During systematic search of the houses, at approximately 1410 hours when a Garud search party was approaching the target house they came under heavy volume of fire.

Squadron Leader Dilip Gurnani along with his team immediately retaliated with pin point, effective & heavy volume of fire, and foiled the escape attempt of a terrorist through effective fire control and co-ordination between the Garud team.

At approximately 1520 hours, a terrorist lobbed a grenade at the Garud team & came out of the house firing indiscriminately in an attempt to escape. At this critical juncture, Squadron Leader Dilip Gurnani displaying good situational awareness, exceptional courage and unparalleled selflessness, dashed to a favorable tactical position and engaged the terrorist from a close range of five meters and eliminated him. The terrorist was later identified as Category A terrorist, of Jaish-e-Mohammad Tanzeem.

For this act of exceptional courage, Squadron Leader Dilip Gurnani is awarded Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).

President Confers Mention-in-Dispatcheson Wing Commander Abhishek Pujari (30605) Aeronautical Engineer (Electronics)

Wing Commander Abhishek Pujari (30605) Aeronautical Engineer (Electronics) is on the posted strength of a C-17 Transport Squadron with effect from 20 August 2018 as an Engineering Officer.

On 16 Aug 21, as part of Operation Devi Shakti, the officer was detailed as Maintenance Team Leader of the C-17 aircraft tasked for the evacuation of Indian Embassy staff and diaspora from Kabul in the face of Taliban's then imminent takeover. The officer had also been a part of previous evacuations from Khandhar and Mazar-e-Sharif and effectively used this valuable experience for the meticulous planning of the first evacuation mission from Kabul.

Owing to the hostile environment in which the aircraft was going to operate, the missions were highly critical and mandated with stipulated time frames. Hence, the officer utilized his experience to carry with him spares that could be critical for temporary repairs in case of damage to structure due to bullet hits/ FOD (Foreign Object Damage). The officer ensured preparedness of aircraft in time resulting in timely launch from home base. After landing at Kabul, the officer initiated a quick turnaround servicing in a hostile environment to ensure that the aircraft was ready for departure as soon as possible. He efficiently managed his team to achieve the task in an expeditious manner. In spite of an existing hostile ground situation, the officer undertook all maintenance activities which were to be conducted from outside the aircraft, without concern for his own safety. Towards this he carried out a detailed brief of the maintenance crew which included aspects relating to safety and security of both the aircraft and personnel involved in the various servicing activities. Under his supervision the aircraft was prepared for boarding and seating of the embassy personnel and staff including ITBP personnel, in shortest possible time, in hostile environment.

For his exceptional devotion to duty, Wing Commander Abhisek Pujari is awarded Mention-in-Despatches.

President Confers Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) on Wing Commander Deepika Misra (29283) Flying (Pilot)

Wing Commander Deepika Misra (29283) Flying (Pilot) is on the posted strength of a Helicopter Unit. She is a Qualified Flying Instructor and an Instrument Rated Instructor & Examiner.

On 02 Aug 21, the officer was detailed to undertake Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations in response to flash floods in northern Madhya Pradesh. Despite the odds of deteriorating weather, strong winds and the nearing sunset time, Wing Commander Deepika negotiated the challenging weather and was the first and only respondent to reach the affected area the same evening. Her initial aerial recce and inputs thereof proved to be instrumental in planning of the entire rescue operation by IAF, NDRF, SDRF and other civil authorities.

After the initial recce, she sprang into action, picking up stranded people from roads, fields and rising grounds and dropping them to safe places away from flood waters. In one instance she had to evacuate four villagers from a roof top. Despite the high risk of spatial disorientation due to limited visual cues and flowing water, she was successful in saving their lives. The rescue operation including low hover pick-ups and winching lasted for an exhaustive eight days and she saved lives of 47 people including ladies 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.

For this act of exceptional courage, Wing Commander Deepika Misra is awarded Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).