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Meet Puja Thakur, the officer who led Guard of Honour for Obama

For wing commander Pooja Thakur, becoming the first female commanding officer to head the inter-services Guard of Honour inspected by US President Barack Obama on Sunday was a proud moment to be cherished forever.

india Updated: Jan 26, 2015 03:40 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta
Wing-Commander-Pooja-Thakur-speaks-to--reporters-in-New-Delhi-on-Sunday-Thakur-led-the-ceremonial-Guard-of-Honour-for-US-President-Barack-Obama-at-the-Rashtrapati-Bhavan-earlier-in-the-day-PTI-Photo
Wing-Commander-Pooja-Thakur-speaks-to--reporters-in-New-Delhi-on-Sunday-Thakur-led-the-ceremonial-Guard-of-Honour-for-US-President-Barack-Obama-at-the-Rashtrapati-Bhavan-earlier-in-the-day-PTI-Photo

For wing commander Pooja Thakur, becoming the first female commanding officer to head the inter-services Guard of Honour inspected by US President Barack Obama on Sunday was a proud moment to be cherished forever.

Obama was given a ceremonial reception on the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan soon after he landed in Delhi for a three-day visit, with a grand ceremony followed by the Guard of Honour. The US President also received a 21-gun salute.

“I was excited and slightly nervous too. It’s a huge responsibility and I had to live up to everybody’s expectations,” said Thakur, commissioned into the Air Force in 2000.

Meet the 'proud' woman who commanded the Guard of Honour services for Obama

Thakur was told only a week ago she would be commanding the Guard of Honour. “Though in the defence, one is always prepared, preparation required for ceremonies such as these is different,” she said.

Women’s power is the theme for this year’s Republic Day parade where the Army, Navy and IAF are fielding an all-women marching contingent for the first time. A woman officer from Manipur will unfurl the flag at the parade on Monday, another first.

For the post graduate in English, joining the military was also carrying a family tradition forward.

“My father retired as a colonel and was a big influence. I always wanted to join the forces,” she said. The 36-year-old is currently posted with the publicity cell under the Directorate of Personnel Officers at the Air Force headquarters in Delhi.

Though women officers in the armed forces have come a long way, Thakur would like to see a day when they are inducted into combat roles. “There is no gender bias in the forces but it’s my dream to see women officers in combat roles,” she said. Women officers are not currently assigned combat roles in the military.