By Martha Obi, Abuja
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF), has graduated first batch of Special Forces (SF) personnel to boost Internal Security (IS) operations.
The Director Public Relations and Information NAF, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola said that DA 175 graduating students of SF Course 4/2019 successfully completed the 10-week rigorous and intensive training in asymmetric warfare at the Regiment Training Centre, Kaduna.
“Significantly, this is the first time in the history of the NAF that SF personnel would be trained wholly by NAF Instructors thereby actualising one of the key drivers of the Chief of the Air Staff’s vision of reinforcing a culture of self-reliance and prudent management of resources,” Daramola stated.
He said before now, NAF had engaged the services of an Israeli Company, the Four Troops Team, to train NAF SF personnel, aside overseas’ training in various countries such as Belarus, China and Pakistan.
Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar stated that in the last 4 years, the NAF had made deliberate efforts to reposition the service into a highly professional fighting force, with the training of over 1,000 Special Forces personnel as part of the overall strategy for its capacity building initiatives.
He promised to sustain the training of Special Forces personnel to enhance NAF force projection posture while also improving its Base Defence/Force protection capability.
Huge impact in fighting terrorism
Air Marshal Abubakar expressed satisfaction with the quality of the training, stressing that the personnel were making huge impacts in the fight against terrorism and armed banditry across the country.
According to him, examples of these achievements include the recent arrest of armed bandits at Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State as well as the professional conduct of NAF personnel deployed to support the Nigerian Police in providing security during the recently concluded General Election.
These performances, Air Marshal Abubakar said were indications that the efforts of the NAF towards building an efficient force structure, with the Special Forces as a vital component were yielding positive results.
Air Marshal Abubakar challenged the graduands to be prepared to do their best in all circumstances as their future assignments would require courage, good judgement and commitment.
Air Marshal Abubakar emphasised the need for the personnel to rededicate themselves to duties and conduct themselves in accordance with NAF’s core values of ‘Integrity’, ‘Service before Self’ and ‘Excellence’.
He commended the Air Officer Commanding Ground Training Command, Air Vice Marshal Idi Amin as well as the Commandant Regiment Training Centre and his Team of Instructors for their tireless efforts in moulding NAF Regiment personnel.
He also assured the Centre of the support of Headquarters of NAF to enable it effectively discharge its responsibility of training elite fighting personnel for the NAF and the Nation.
Air Marshal Abubakar thanked the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, for the priority attention given to the requirements of the NAF.
“The support provided by the Nigerian Government has no doubt positively impacted on the NAF and led to increased aircraft service ability and availability as well as improved training and enhanced facilities,” he said.
Air Marshal Abubakar also appreciated the efforts of officers, airmen and airwomen of the NAF who participated in various airlift and other support activities during the recently concluded elections.
Their achievement, he said, was a major logistics feat.
According to him, the airlift provided by the NAF to support the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other agencies was excellent.
He highlighted that the NAF used 8 aircraft to airlift a total of 628,298kg of election materials to4 different locations in the country flying about 348 hours in a total 334 sorties.
NAF Ground Support Equipment in several locations were also used to load and offload the materials from both NAF and non-NAF aircraft involved in the exercise.
“This is a clear testament to the improved support provided to the NAF by the Nigerian government to the improved airlift capacity of the Service, which was made possible by the service ability status of the 8 aircraft involved in the exercise,” he explained.
Unveiling the new accoutrements and insignia of the NAF Regiment as well as the new nickname of the Special Forces ‘the PANTHERS’, the Director of Regiment Headquarters NAF, Air Commodore Babatunde Phillips highlighted how the specialty had been transformed over the past 4 years with massive capacity building initiatives.
Air Commodore Phillips said that the transformation had resulted in raising the number of NAF Special Forces personnel from less than 300 in 2015 to a well-trained, well-equipped and well-motivated force of over 1,000; along with 44 instructors also recently trained.
Models of professionalism
He noted that the PANTHERS, who were currently deployed for internal security operations in 14 different States across the country, would continue to be models of professionalism displaying courage, valour, strength, swiftness, agility, adaptability and tenacity in the discharge of their duties.
The Commandant of Regiment Training Centre Wing Commander Stephen Sekegor said that “the rationale behind the localisation of the Special Forces training was to ensure prudent management of resources while still ensuring qualitative training.’’
He thanked Air Marshal Abubakar for his visionary leadership which had resulted in the phenomenal enhancement of the capacity the NAF Regiment Specialty to better conduct base operations in both conventional and asymmetric warfare environments.
He assured him that Regiment Training Centre would continue to provide the requisite specialised training to meet the contemporary security challenges facing the nation.
Highlights of the graduation ceremony included; unarmed combat, weapons handling and Research & Development displays by Regiment Training Centre as well as the simulation of a coordinated assault on an enemy location conducted by the graduating Special Forces personnel to the admiration of guests.
Also, certificates and awards were presented to students who distinguished themselves during the Course.
The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Abubakar also commissioned a newly-constructed SF Command Training Shed as a joint user facility for the Military Training Centre (MTC) and Regiment Training Centre, RTC.
Present at the ceremony were the Commandant Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji, General Officer Commanding 1 Division Nigerian Army as well as the Air Officers Commanding Air Training Command and Ground Training Command, amongst many other serving and retired senior officers.