In the continuing quest for greater effectiveness in the employment of its rotary platforms (helicopters) in Northeast and Northwest Theatres of Operations to gain utmost advantage over insurgents and armed bandits, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), today, 11 March 2020, inaugurated another Helicopter Backdoor Gunners’ (HBDG) Course 6/2020 at the NAF Regiment Training Centre (RTC), Kaduna. In addition, the Fast Rope Insertion/Extraction Systems (FRIES) Course 2/2020, which is one of the several training assistance programmes by the United States Government (USG) to tackle terrorism, was also inaugurated. The FRIES Course, which is being conducted by the USG-sponsored Firm, SkyBridge Tactical Training Team, is tailored towards capacity development of Regiment personnel to become Fast Rope Masters capable of inserting troops with the required skill to conduct resupply of combat requirements such as ammunition, ration, water, medical kit and clothing using the ‘Low Cost Low Altitude’ method. The conduct of the 2 courses is also aimed at enhancing synergy for effective Air-Ground integration, hence the inclusion of 20 Nigerian Army (NA) personnel on the Course alongside their NAF counterparts.

In his remarks, the Guest of Honour, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who was represented by the Chief of Training and Operations, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) James Gwani, reiterated the importance of helicopters in counter-insurgency operations. According to him, “the use of rotary platforms has become imperative for close air support as experience over time has shown that rotary platforms are well suited for the fluid nature of the battlespace against insurgents”. He added that the contemporary security challenges facing the Nation had necessitated a significant increase in manpower. Accordingly, he said, since the commencement of his administration, the NAF had raised the number of personnel recruited into the Service while building the capacity of the NAF Regiment to its current strength and capability levels to effectively man the various NAF units. Moreover, in realizing the need to have personnel with specialized training to meet specialized needs in force protection, the CAS disclosed that, the NAF had trained over 4,000 personnel both overseas and locally. The initiative, he added, had ensured that NAF Bases are well secured thereby providing the necessary conditions to guarantee mission accomplishment.

The CAS advised the Course participants to imbibe the attributes and core values of the NAF which include excellence, honesty, courage, perseverance and adaptability during training to ensure success. “The Course you are about to undergo will require a lot of concentration and discipline to prepare you for the tough job ahead. You all have to earn your place and strive to become part of the elite team in your respective Services”, he added. Air Marshal Abubakar, who expressed his gratitude to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, for the priority attention given to the training, operational and other requirements of the NAF, also thanked SkyBridge Tactical Training Team for again coming to Nigeria to conduct the FRIES Course. He expressed hope that the NAF would continue to build and sustain the cordial and long-standing cooperation and relationship with the USG.

Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Air Officer Commanding Ground Training Command (AOC GTC), AVM Idi Amin, revealed that the HBDG Course, which comprised 20 NA and 20 NAF personnel, was aimed at equipping the students with the tactics, techniques and procedures for providing close air support to ground troops during battle. According to him, the combined training of NA and NAF personnel would further enhance synergy between sister Services and other security agencies in the fight against insurgency. He added that properly executed close air support would provide improved freedom of action for ground troops at all echelons during combat as well as in operations-other-than-war.

Before leaving Kaduna, the Representative of the CAS commissioned some newly constructed and furnished buildings at the RTC. These included 3 blocks of classrooms, a 400 capacity seater dining hall as well as a 500-seater auditorium, named “The PANTHERS Hall”. The dining hall was named after Corporal Meschak Komo, an RTC Instructor who died on 14 April 2019 during a parachuting accident.

The event also had the AOC Air Training Command, the Representative of the General Officer Commanding 1 Division NA as well as Commanders of co-located units and other senior officers in Kaduna in attendance.

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