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Canadian becomes first woman officer to lead Changing of the Guard

LONDON -- A Canadian soldier made history Monday by becoming the first woman to lead the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London.

Megan Couto led her unit -- the Second Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry or "The Patricia's" -- in the ceremony, an event witnessed by thousands of tourists annually.

"I'm just focusing on doing my job as best I can and staying humble," said Couto, 24. "Any of my peers would be absolutely delighted to be captain of the queen's guard and I'm equally honored."

The unit was invited to Britain to mark the 150th anniversary of Canada's confederation.

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The role of Mounting The Queen's Guard usually falls to the British Army's Household Division, which is part of the male-dominated infantry division.

No British woman has yet led the Queen's Guard because they were not allowed in "ground close combat" until July 2016. Britain's government is phasing in combat roles for women over the next three years.

Canadian women have been allowed to serve in the infantry since the 1980s.

"A lot of the things that I do, I am the first," Couto, an infantry officer and graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, told CBC. "But that's kind of the blessing that in Canada, it's not that huge of a deal."

The Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry is based in Manitoba, Canada. The unit is named after Princess Patricia of Connaught, a granddaughter of Britain's Queen Victoria.