By Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
Determined to rout terrorist group, Boko Haram in the North-east, the Nigerian Air Force yesterday graduated 769 special forces trained in partnership with the British Military Advisory Training Team (BMATT).
The graduands bring to 2, 351 special forces trained under the partnership agreement since 2015.
They were trained in basic and advanced regiment courses, including specialised courses such as the Force Protection in Complex Air and Ground Environment (FP-CAGE), Special Forces Instructors’ Course (SFIC) and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) Course, at the Regiment Training Centre (RTC), Kaduna.
In his remarks at the graduation ceremony, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, noted that the graduation of 769 NAF personnel drawn from the regiment, air police and intelligence specialties, was indeed a laudable achievement which would immensely contribute to the fight against insurgency and other forms of criminality whilst also enhancing the execution of the NAF Base Defence Architecture.
The CAS added that since he assumed office, the NAF had continued to build a sustainable and functional air force that “is highly responsive to Nigeria’s contemporary security challenges.”
Air Marshal Abubakar explained further that the NAF had undertaken several air and ground related capacity building initiatives which were meant to significantly enable the Service to have depth, flexibility and capability to operate either singly or jointly with sister Services and other security agencies.
He noted that the desire to make the NAF the best in the sub-region necessitated new platforms, equipment and specialised training.
He therefore seized the opportunity to thank the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, for the priority attention given to the requirements of NAF which had resulted in the acquisition of 18 brand new aircraft in the last three years; with another 12 A-29 Super Tucano aircraft and six Agusta 109 Power Helicopters being expected from the United States of America and Italy, respectively.
He assured the President that the Service would continue to make judicious use of the resources entrusted to it. He also specially appreciated BMATT, the Royal Air Force and the Government of the United Kingdom (UK) for their continued support and commitment to the NAF, in particular, and Nigeria, in general. He also appreciated the Four Troop Team for their unwavering commitment to building NAF’s capability.
He equally commended the efforts of the Air Officer Commanding Ground Training Command as well as the Commandant RTC and his team of instructors for the excellent job they were doing while urging them not to rest on their oars.
While congratulating the graduating students, the CAS noted that the courses were deliberately designed to be rigorous to ensure enhanced professional performance upon completion. This, he said, was aimed at enthroning professionalism. He therefore implored them to put all they had learnt on the course to maximum use to safeguard lives and property of Nigerians at their paces of deployment. The CAS further charged them to be disciplined, vigilant and apolitical at all times while resisting any entreaty to be used by ‘disgruntled elements’ in the society. He also seized the opportunity to assure all Nigerians that the NAF, working in partnership with other Services and security agencies, would continue to work assiduously towards peace and security in the Northeast, Northwest and all other parts of the country where security challenges exist.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Commandant RTC, Wing Commander Steven Sekegor, thanked the CAS for providing the enabling environment for the Centre, noting that the school was able to attain another milestone achievement because of the immense support received from NAF Headquarters. He pointed out that the curricula of RTC Courses had been re-structured to make them more effective and efficient in training personnel to meet the ever changing complexities of military operations either during war or in peace time. He said the graduating students were exposed to both theoretical and practical training, which included weapon handling and marksmanship practice, live shooting at the range, contemporary field tactics, insertion and force protection skills for guarding critical assets, swimming/rescue at sea and survival training in different terrains/environments, among many others, which had prepared them to be more effective and efficient in carrying out assigned tasks.
While giving highlights of the FP-CAGE course, the Detachment Commander of No 5 RAF, Force Protection Wing, Wg Cdr Kevin McMudro, stated that BMATT and the UK Government were committed to providing all necessary assistance to build the capacity of NAF Regiment in order to add value to the efforts of the Nigerian Armed Forces in tackling the irregular warfare challenges facing the country. He noted that the Team had observed tremendous improvements in the quality of the products of the training in successive sets they had trained up to the current 7th batch of FP-CAGE graduating students.
Similarly, the Four Troop Team Leader, Major Rohi Zechut, expressed satisfaction with the quality of the 50 SFIC graduands, who were selected as the ‘best-of-the-best’ from about 500 SF personnel. He expressed confidence that these personnel would form the core of the instructional staff for future SF training in the NAF.
As part of the ceremony, there were practical demonstrations by the graduating students of the various courses covering countering of low level air defence threat; insertion/extraction and CSAR exercise simulating the rescue of a downed pilot in a denied environment as well as a counter vehicular convoy ambush demonstration. Another highlight of the graduation ceremony was the presentation of awards to students who distinguished themselves during the various courses.