| Squadron Leader Manu Chaudhary (19896) Flying (Pilot) has been on the posted strength of Indian Air Force Squadron 2004, part of IAF Contingent in Congo since 13 Jul 2003. During this period he has been performing the duties of the Squadron Flight Commander.
A Qualified Flying Instructor with over 4500 hours of flying experience, the officer has consistently displayed a penchant for leading from the front. Since the squadron's induction to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), he has flown over 290 hours and has time and again exhibited willingness for undertaking difficult tasks, when called upon to do so. In the initial phase of the Contingent's induction, he personally reconnoitred the area, selecting helipads for future operations. Most of these helipads were in areas never hitherto visited by UN forces and were controlled by various rebel groups, some inimical to the UN. He also actively participated in Operation Dhanush in May-June 04.
On 29 May 04, following the unrest in the town of Bukavu, Kelehe, a small hamlet on the road from Goma to Bukam was the scene of an ambush laid out by militia in which they killed one UN military observer while another, a lady officer was reported missing. Sqn Ldr Chaudhary was tasked to insert troops to search for the missing military observer. While the Mi-25s fired some rockets to sanitise the area, the Mi-17, captained by Sqn Ldr Chaudhary landed the search party comprising 36 troops, in two shuttles. With little regard to personal safety, the officer landed at the site, which the rebels, armed with rocket propelled grenades and other heavy calibre weapons, could have targeted from a vantage point close by. Had it not been for the search party being inserted in time, the marooned officer would not have been rescued. The missing lady officer was subsequently rescued, albeit badly injured and in a state of shock. In the glorious traditions of the Indian Air Force, the officer planned the mission meticulously and carried it out with the elan and professionalism. that epitomizes the officer's approach to his duty.
For consistently exhibiting courage in hostile environment, the Hon'bie President is pleased to award Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) to Squadron Leader Manu Chaudhary.