26/06/2017 16:29 BST

Canadian Soldier Megan Couto Becomes First Female Captain In History To Lead Queen's Guard

Striking a blow for equality in the military.

A Canadian soldier has become the first woman ever to command troops guarding the Queen at Buckingham Palace. 

Captain Megan Couto made history this morning when she took charge of the ceremonial Changing of the Guards, becoming the first female officer to do so in 180 years of the tradition. 

“I’m just focusing on doing my job as best I can and staying humble,” the 24-year-old told the Press Association

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Megan Couto became the first female captain to lead the Queen's Guard 

“Any of my peers would be absolutely delighted to be Captain of the Queen’s Guard and I’m equally honoured.”

Couto, along with her unit The Second Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (2PPCLI) has been invited to the UK to mark Canada’s 150 year anniversary. 

But the ceremony marks an important step towards equality in the British military.

Until last July, women were banned from ground close combat roles, meaning Couto and her female colleagues could not take on the role. 

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Couto and other female officers were banned from the role until last July 

But the government has now made a commitment to open up these positions to women over the next three years.

“I have always wanted roles in our armed forces to be determined by ability, not gender,” defence secretary Michael Fallon said. 

“Women have already given exemplary service in recent conflicts, working in a variety of highly specialised and vital roles.

“By opening all combat roles to women, we will continue to build on these successes and improve the operational capability of our military”.

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Women can now take on combat roles in the Armed Forces  

While some units of the Royal Armoured Corps have been open to women since last November, female soldiers will be recruited to combat roles in the infantry by the end of 2018. 

“I feel very much like I’m just doing my duty,” Couto - who has been in the military for seven years - told the Telegraph.

“But at the same time I know it’s unique, and a special occasion, and so I’m very grateful and definitely honoured to be given the opportunity.”