BEIJING, May 12 -- The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) used female soldiers as honor guards during a diplomatic ceremony for the first time in its history on Monday.
Thirteen female soldiers stood in the PLA's honor guard at the east gate of the Great Hall of the People. With their male comrades, they were addressed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and visiting Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.
"I feel so proud and lucky," said Cheng Cheng, one of the female honor guards who served as PLA Air Force flag bearer.
"Not only do we represent the army, but also the motherland," Cheng added.
It was the first time female soldiers have been used in the PLA's honor guard in its 62-year-long history, and also the first time that they have served in a diplomatic ceremony, said Li Bentao, head of the honor guard.
The first group of female honor guards, 30 in total, were recruited in February and underwent intensive training for three months. The guards are above 1.73 meters tall, and 80 percent of them hold college degrees.
Liu Haiming, political commissar of the PLA honor guard, said female soldiers and officers are playing increasingly important roles in combat, training and other military missions.