Woman leads guard of honour for the first time

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New Delhi: In a first, a woman officer from the Indian Air Force, Wing Commander Puja Thakur, led the ceremonial guard of honour presented to visiting US President Barack Obama at Rashtrapati Bhavan here Sunday.

Thakur was seen — and heard — giving commands, which were followed by the national anthems of the US and India. The 21-gun salute boomed next.

Thakur then escorted Obama for the inspection of the tri-service guard of honour.

Thakur hails from Rajasthan and has served in the IAF for 13 and a half years and is an administrative officer posted at its publicity cell, DISHA, at the Delhi Air Headquarters in New Delhi.

She is also a para jumper.

Thakur told reporters after the ceremony that she felt proud.

“It is a proud moment. I hope it inspires more women to join the forces,” Thakur said. She said there was no discrimination between women and men in the air force.

“There is no difference between men and women in the forces,” she said.

The officer told NDTV that she came to know about her role in leading the guard of honour only a few days ago.

“Since the past few days, we’ve been practising for it. However, we start with our drill movements and ceremonials right from the first day of our training… And we are always prepared,” Thakur said.

She also said that her family is proud of her. Her father is a retired Colonel from the Indian Army.

Her leading the ceremonial guard of honour comes as ‘nari shakti’ (woman power) is the theme for Republic Day parade this year where Obama is the chief guest. This Jan 26 will also be the first time when women contingents of the army, air force and navy will march down Rajpath.

Another woman officer, Flight Lieutenant Smita Singh, was the supernumerary officer.

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