The Honourable Minister of Defence (HMOD), Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi (retired) has commended the leadership of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), led by the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, for its capacity building initiatives and infrastructural development efforts towards improving the living standards of personnel for enhanced professional performance. “I believe that the achievements recorded by the NAF are results of your intensive efforts towards repositioning the Service to adequately respond to Nigeria’s security imperatives. I must say that we are proud of you and we urge you not to relent in your efforts”, the HMOD said. This commendation was made today, 29 November 2019, during the combined graduation ceremony of 162 personnel from Special Forces (SF) Course 5/2019 and 46 from the Helicopter Backdoor Gunners (HBDG) Course 5/2019 at the Regiment Training Centre (RTC) Annex in Bauchi State. The HMOD also specially applauded the NAF for training 10 Nigeria Police Force (NPF) officers alongside NAF personnel as HBDGs. According to him, “this singular act, not only promotes inter-Service cooperation but will go a long way in substantiating the fact that no Service can single-handedly prosecute a war or conduct an operation without the support of the other”.

Speaking further, Major General Magashi, who was the Special Guest of Honour (SGOH) at the occasion, added that the efforts of the NAF in building capacity of personnel, were obviously yielding desired results. According to him, this could not have come at a better time as the country was experiencing security challenges that were increasingly requiring the intervention of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN). “Countering these threats, which are synonymous to asymmetric warfare methods, requires a different approach including the use of Special Operations Forces”, he added. He therefore commended the NAF’s efforts at rapidly developing special operations capabilities to a strength of over 1,000 SF personnel, deployed in various theatres of operation within the country.

While expressing delight with the display exhibited by the graduating personnel, the HMOD equally lauded the proactive steps taken by the NAF in protecting its helicopters from flank attacks during internal security operations with the training of the HBDGs. He urged the graduands to use their newly acquired skills to attain the operational objectives of their respective Services in future deployments. He also enjoined them to continue improving their proficiency in their respective areas of expertise as they play their part towards ensuring a safer and more secure Nigeria. The HMOD stated that the Ministry, on its part, would continue to make concerted efforts to ensure that the AFN is well equipped with modern equipment to effectively carry out its constitutional roles.

Earlier in his remarks, the CAS recounted how, upon assumption of office, he realized the capability gap in SF operations which necessitated the expansion of the NAF Regiment Speciality, scaling-up of SF training as well as the establishment of Quick Response Units across Nigeria for rapid response and deployment of air assets during crises. He noted furthermore that, in its quest to look inwards for the purpose of minimizing the cost of training, the NAF had made efforts to localize the training of SF and HBDG personnel using its own personnel. He said this was achieved through collaboration with the British Military Advisory Training Team (BMATT) and an Israeli Firm, the Four Troops Company, for initial in-country training of SF personnel as well as the eventual training of SF instructors.

Air Marshal Abubakar noted that, so far, the NAF had trained a total of 3,143 personnel on Force Protection in Complex Air-to-Ground Environment (FPCAGE) and 778 SF personnel, in-country. Out of these numbers, he explained that a total of 330 SF and 950 FPCAGE personnel were trained solely by the NAF’s SF Instructors. These efforts, he said, were in line with one of the key drivers of his Vision, which focusses on “robust and result oriented training for enhanced professional performance”. The CAS stated furthermore that, in order to reduce the pressure on training facilities at the RTC Main Campus in Kaduna, the Service decided to create an RTC Annex at Bauchi. According to him, the objective is to ensure that personnel train in a realistic North-East environment which is currently the hot bed of security challenges.

Speaking further, the CAS noted that the NAF has once again demonstrated the importance of synergy in training, with the involvement of 10 personnel of the NPF on the course. “It is believed that other sister security agencies would key in to this arrangement in the future”, he added. While pledging the unwavering dedication of the Service towards ensuring the security of Nigeria and Nigerians, Air Marshal Abubakar seized the opportunity to thank the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, for his untiring support for the NAF. “The commitment displayed by the current administration towards increasing the Air Power capabilities of the NAF through the acquisition of platforms is being paid back by personnel with enhanced professionalism on our part”, he added. He equally thanked the National Assembly, especially the Chairmen and members of the Senate and House Committees on Air Force, as well as the Government and people of Bauchi State for their continued support to the Service.

In his welcome address, the Air Officer Commanding Ground Training Command (AOC GTC), Air Vice Marshal Idi Amin, while commending the CAS for emplacing the necessary facilities for effective training such as the Commando Village, four new blocks of accommodation with a capacity of housing 240 students as well as the ongoing construction of an obstacle course and rappelling tower, highlighted that a significant aspect of the graduation was the joint training of NPF and NAF personnel as HBDGs, which, he said, was in line with a key driver of the CAS’ vision which focusses on “comradeship, regimentation and inter-Service cooperation”.

The occasion featured tactical demonstrations by the graduating students at the NAF Commando Village. This included unarmed combat display, using the “Krav Maga” technique, as well as an air-ground assault simulation exercise, which involved engagement of an enemy location by an HBDG and rappelling of SF personnel into a hostile environment to flush out bandits from their camp. Awards were also presented to graduating students who distinguished themselves on the course, which included an Outstanding Bravery Award for the first NAF female Regiment Rappel Instructor and first female Backdoor Gunner, Lance Corporal Basirat Salaudeen.

Dignitaries at the event included the Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of the Senate and House Committees on Air Force, the Inspector General of Police and representatives of the Chief of Defence Staff and other Service Chiefs as well as the representatives of the Executive Governor of Bauchi State and the Emir of Bauchi, among many others.

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