The Army Day Parade felt so fulfilling and Parade will be “another feather” to her cap, she added

On January 26, the trailblazer officer will lead the contingent of the Corps of Signals, making her “Family of Faujis” and the nation proud. Wearing a khaki uniform and holding a ceremonial sword, as she marched down the Rajpath during the full dress rehearsal of the Republic Day Parade on Thursday, she was the cynosure of all eyes.

“It was a feeling of immense honour and great pride, a sense of achievement and worthiness, and absolute blessing,” said Gill, the fourth generation in her family to serve the Army. Gills says 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.

The Army Day Parade felt so fulfilling and the R-Day Parade will be “another feather” to her cap, she added. Hoshiarpur-born Gill, who holds a BTech 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, and he had taken part in the Burma theatre. 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 told PTI.

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 ‘faujis’ (jawans or 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.

The Punjab-born did her schooling in multiple cities and counts photography, travelling and music among her hobbies. The Army will showcase its military might and various state-of-the-art assets during the majestic January 26 parade, with artillery gun systems Dhanush and Short Span Bridge system to make their appearance for the first time, officials said on Thursday.

Sixteen marching contingents will take part in the parade from the armed forces, paramilitary forces, Delhi Police, NCC and NSS, along with 13 military bands. At the Army Day function, she had drawn praise from senior officers and loud cheers from the audience, which included members of the diplomatic corps.

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.

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, adding, “on the Rajapth, we ‘Faujis’ draw josh from each other, and march with a common heartbeat”.