Yudh Seva medal awardee Minty Agarwal, a woman Indian Air Force officer who played a key role as flight controller during the aerial combat with Pakistan in February, on Thursday said the experience of being part of the Balakot operation was "unmatchable" to anything in the world.
On conferred the coveted military honour, she said the feeling cannot be described in words.
"But most certainly, it is that of pride in the uniform I wear, and of humility owing to the fact that the nation has bestowed such an honour," she said.
The defence ministry announced the military awards on the eve of Independence Day celebrations.
Squadron Leader Agarwal became the first defence officer to get Yudh Seva Medal, which is awarded to recognise distinguished service of a high order during war, conflict or hostilities.
"From the time Wing Commander Abhinandan became airborne, I was the one who was providing him with the air situation picture. I saw the fading of F-16 blip from my screen," she told ANI adding that he had launched the offensive on the enemy aircraft at the most appropriate time.
Agarwal had quickly alerted the IAF teams after she spotted a large package of Pakistani Air Force planes heading towards Nowshera sector of Jammu and Kashmir on February 27, a day after India carried out Balakot strikes, officials said on Wednesday.
Her action helped the IAF to quickly respond to Pakistani aggression, they said.
Recounting the chain of events of the two operations, the officer said after conducting the Balakot airstrike successfully, the IAF was expecting a retaliation by the enemy, which ultimately came.
"We carried out the strike over non-military camps (in Balakot) very successfully. We were expecting retaliation from the enemy. All of us were extra ready. They retaliated within 24 hours. Initially, there were only a few (Pakistani) aircraft but slowly the density of aircraft increased," she said.
She also said that Pakistani aircraft had entered the Indian skies with an intention to inflict harm as against the neighbour's claims that the action was to show its capability and will to respond.
"They had come with an intention to carry out any operation but due to the competency of our pilots, controllers and our team, their whole mission was thwarted," she added.
"The operations like the ones on February 26 and 27, are the reason why we adorn the uniform. I was lucky to have got the opportunity to be an integral part of these operations. The experience is unmatchable to anything in the world.
WATCH: Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal lauds Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman
"The fact that India successfully struck the terror camps at Balakot and we thwarted their plans on February 27 are a testimony to the professionalism and dedication of the team IAF," Agarwal said.
IAF fighter jets had bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot on February 26, nearly two weeks after the Pulwama terror attack.
Pakistan retaliated on February 27 by attempting to target Indian military installations.
Besides Agarwal, the Yudh Seva medal winners are Air Commodore Sunil Kashinath Vidhate, Group Captain Yeshpal Singh Negi, Goup Captain Hemant Kumar and Group Captain Hansel Joseph Seqeira.
The IAF received a total of 13 awards, including the five Yudh Seva medals.
At least five IAF pilots who were part of the mission to strike the Jaish-e-Mohammad camp in Balakot were among the military awardees.
Vayu Sena medals were given to Group Captain Saumitra Tamaskar, Wing Commander Pranav Raj, Wing Commander Amit Ranjan, Sq Ldr Rahul Basoya, Sq Ldr Pankaj Arvind Bhujade , Sq Ldr B Karthik Narayan Reddy, Sq Ldr Shashank Singh.
With inputs from ANI