The Nigerian Air Force (NAF), today 15 March 2019, graduated another batch of Special Forces (SF) personnel to boost Internal Security (IS) operations in the country. The 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 (RTC), 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”. Before now, the 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.
In his remarks at the graduation ceremony, the 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 SF personnel as part of the overall strategy for its capacity building initiatives. The CAS promised to sustain the training of SF personnel to enhance NAF force projection posture, while also improving its Base Defence/force protection capability. Air Marshal Abubakar, who expressed satisfaction with the quality of the training, noted that NAF SF 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 Elections. These performances, the CAS said, were indications that the efforts of the NAF toward building an efficient force structure, with the NAF SF as a vital component, were yielding positive results.
Air Marshal Abubakar charged the graduands to be prepared to do their best in all circumstances as their future assignments would require courage, good judgement and commitment. The CAS emphasized the need for the SF 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 RTC and his Team of Instructors for their tireless efforts in molding NAF Regiment personnel. He also assured the Centre of the support of Headquarters (HQ) NAF to enable it effectively discharge its responsibility of training elite fighting personnel for the NAF and the Nation.
While concluding his remarks, the CAS 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 Federal Government has no doubt positively impacted on the NAF and led to increased aircraft serviceability and availability as well as improved training and enhanced facilities”, he said. The CAS 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 in support of 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 to 31 different locations in the country flying about 348 hours in a total 334 sorties. NAF Ground Support Equipment in several locations were also use to load and offload the materials from both NAF and non-NAF aircraft involved in the exercise. This, the CAS said, was a clear testament to the improved support provided to the NAF by the Federal Government to the improved airlift capacity of the Service, which was made possible by the serviceability status of the 8 aircraft involed in the exercise.
While unveiling the new accoutrements and insignia of the NAF Regiment as well as the new nickname of the SF – ‘the PANTHERS’ -, the Director of Regiment HQ NAF, Air Commodore Babatunde Phillips, highlighted how the specialty had been transformed over the past 4 years with massive capacity building initiatives. He said that the transformation had resulted in raising the number of NAF SF personnel from less than 300 in 2015 to a well-trained, well-equipped and well-motivated force of over 1,000; along with 44 SF instructors also recently trained. 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.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Commandant RTC, Wing Commander Stephen Sekegor, noted that the rationale behind the localization of SF training was to ensure prudent management of resources while still ensuring qualitative training. He thanked the CAS 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 the CAS that RTC would continue to provide the requisite specialized 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 RTC as well as the simulation of a coordinated assault on an enemy location conducted by the graduating SF personnel to the admiration of guests. Also, certificates and awards were presented to students who distinguished themselves during the Course. The CAS also commissioned a newly-constructed SF Command Training Shed as a joint user facility for the Military Training Centre (MTC) and 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.
Director of Public Relations and Information
Nigerian Air Force