The Route March

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Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that to test personnel fit for military duties, to foster espirit de corps, as well as to deter criminality in the command’s area of responsibility, personnel of the Naval Training Command and its sister agencies went on a route march in Lagos

Undoubtedly, in the face of current security challenges in the country, the need to keep personnel fit for operation cannot be overemphasised. This is why fitness and mental alertness are among the critical elements of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ette Ibas’ policy thrust.

Thus, to ensure that its personnel are fit to carry out their military duties, especially in the face of insurgency and militancy bedevilling the North-east and Southern part of the country, the Nigerian Navy (NN) recently conducted a physical fitness test on its officers and men in Lagos.

A firm believer in leadership by example, the 10km route march that started from the naval base in Apapa to Costain Roundabout and back, was led by the Flag Officer Commanding, Rear Admiral Ifeola Mohammed.

The 10km march, which was targeted at keeping personnel fit for military duties, was held in the Lagos Area of Responsibility (AOR) and it was a prelude to show the level of preparedness of the navy and was targeted at keeping personnel fit for military duties, fostering espirit de corps and providing an avenue as well as to deter criminalities in the command’s area of responsibility.

It is with this in mind that the Nigerian Navy usually organises the one-day route march every quarter aimed at raising the level of physical fitness of personnel.

This route march, which is the third quarter route march in the navy’s calendar, was carried out by officers and ratings of the command in Lagos area with the objective being to give confidence to the Nigerian public on the preparedness of the navy in securing the territorial domain of the armed forces, thus enforcing the fact that the NN is prepared physically to support government in all the endeavours; security-wise, that might be thrust on the navy.

The March
Imagine hundreds of uniformed men marching along the streets of Lagos. It was a sight to behold as the personnel walked in pairs of five in different squads in an orderly manner. Led by the Special Boat Services (SBS), followed by the ratings squad and then that of the officers, the route march was truly a spellbinding moment.

The personnel of the NAVTRAC numbering over 1000 had participated in the confidence building route march as related to internal security operations.

The personnel had first assembled as early as 6am at the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Quorra parade ground, located inside NAVTRAC, Apapa, Lagos, before they walked as far as Costain under bridge and back again to the base.

To sustain the momentum of the walk, the personnel chanted morale-inducing songs from the take off point at 6am till they all later rendezvoused back at the parade ground of NNS Quorra at exactly 8.05am.

When the troops of NAVTRAC and elements of the NSCDC, DSS, Police and FRSC got to the parade found, the physical training instructor took the exercise group through several exercises to warm up and iron out any kinks in their muscles.

One of the highlights of the march were the elements of the SBS, who took to chanting their creed, before the entire personnel of the command gave three hearty cheers to the FOC by removing their head dressing before the general salute fanfare.

The FOC’s Address
After the exercise routines, the FOC NAVTRAC, Rear Admiral Ifeola Mohammed, mounted the podium to address. He said, “This is the third Quarter Route March and it’s a show of selfless service and willingness to desire continuation and offer credible service to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“I congratulate you for turning out cheerfully to do us proud. Route marches are organised in Nigeria as a show of our commitment to continuously defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria as a a means of reassuring the general public that we are willing and ready to defend them at any point in times of either peace, insurgency and situations of war.

“Throughout the route march, everyone conducted themselves well. There was no molestation of civilians. I saw women with children who tried to cut through the ranks but the internal security and personnel merely told them to leave.”
Addressing the under-training officers and ratings he said, “Within the last three months, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ette-Ibas, has redoubled all efforts to see to the issues of accommodation, renovation of buildings and construction of new ones are already taking place all over Nigeria.

“The CNS has put in place 100 compressed buildings and they have been completed and furnished. Again, new structures are springing up in Navy Town, Ojo, and virtually all the commands have one new project or the other.

“This comes at a huge cost to the Nigerian Navy. It is because of the determination of the Navy Headquarters to leave a legacy and the necessary resources and tools you need to work with. The CNS went ahead to construct 60 Epenal boats, which has been inaugurated and deployed.

“Our newly built tugboat Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Ugwu and the second indigenous built NNS Karaduwa and the one still expected from China, as well as the arrow heads and wave riders inaugurated is for you to protect the territorial domains of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We are ready to give you the training and experience you need to set the rightful skill and knowledge for you to perform in the field as young officers and ratings.”

He charged them to, as a matter of necessity when they finish training and have been imbued with confidence and “when you get to the field and see what’s wrong, don’t join them, rather by strength of character, show them that you just passed through training at NAVTRAC.

“Through deliberate introspection, generate your own motivation and don’t join up in the grumbling because if you do, you will end up sad and frustrated.”
On interagency collaboration exhibited during the walk he said, “It was a show of solidarity and carmaderie. I didn’t see any of them drop. They were even cheerful to the end of the route march, especially the women.”

While lauding the press he said, “The press turned out for the exercise and they were dressed appropriately. We cherish the support you give to us by publicising our activities so that Nigerians will know we are not sleeping.”

Since capitalisation is currently ongoing in the force, even with the best equipment if they do not have a well-honed personnel, it’s simply stating the obvious to note that they would not be able to deliver on their mandate.

Given that, the aim of walk, which was to ensure that they are physically available to match the sophisticated equipment that has been acquired for the NN, was a step in the right direction.

At the end of the exercise, the objectives of ensuring fit personnel was not just achieved, but also civilians who joined the exercise were better off for it.
The route march also signaled to the onlookers and motorists in the area of the readiness of the navy to battle co tempera challenges, just as it passed a strong message to the residents of Ijora and its environs, thus reminding them of the nearness of the navy to respond to their distress calls.