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All you need to know about Wing Commander Pooja Thakur

Last updated on: January 25, 2015 15:02 IST

Wing Commander Pooja Thakur leading the inter-services Guard of Honour for US President Barack Obama at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Photograph: Press Information Bureau

President Pranab Mukherjee formally welcomed his United States counterpart Barack Obama to India on Sunday at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

President Obama was accorded a ceremonial reception at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, with a grand welcome ceremony followed by the Guard of Honour, where the battalion was led by a woman officer.

The inter-services Guard of Honour for US President Barack Obama at the Rashtrapati Bhavan was led by Wing Commander Pooja Thakur, the first time a woman officer has led the Guard of Honour for a major visiting dignitary at the presidential palace.

Wing Cdr Pooja Thakur, who has served in the IAF for 13 and a half years, is an administration officer and is posted at its publicity cell, DISHA, at the Delhi Air Headquarters in New Delhi. She is a para jumper, and hails from Rajasthan.

Speaking to ANI, Wing Cdr Pooja Thakur said, "Right from our training days we are treated just like male officers, so first we are officers then we are women."

At the same time, she conceded, "I am probably the first woman to command a joint services guard of honour, so I am proud and honoured."

Wing Cdr Pooja Thakur has served in the IAF for 13 and a half years. Photograph: Press Information Bureau

Women officers will also play a leading role in Monday's Republic Day parade, in which President Obama will be the chief guest.

At Sunday's guard of honour, the US President received a 21-gun salute, and national anthems of both nations were played.

Among the personalities present to receive President Obama at the Rashtrapati Bhavan were Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Ministers Manohar Parrikar, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh, along with Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung.

Soon after the official welcome, Obama was quoted as saying: "Grateful for the extraordinary hospitality, it's a great honour to be back in India."

After inspecting the guard of honour, the American President left for Mahatma Gandhi's memorial Rajghat, where he will pay tribute and plant a sapling.