The drive of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) to further bridge capacity and capability gaps in the fights against insurgency and armed banditry in the Country has received a fresh boost with the graduation of another batch of Special Forces (SF) and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) personnel.
The Combined Graduation Ceremony, which took place today, 5 December 2020, at the Regiment Training Centre (RTC) Annex in Bauchi, comprised 162 students of the SF Course 7/2020 and 41 trainees of CSAR Course 3/2020. The graduating SF Course is the ninth set to be trained by the NAF in the last 5 years, having conducted 7 SF Courses and 2 SF Instructors’ Courses, while the graduating CSAR Course is the third batch, following the graduation of the second set in May 2020.
Speaking during the graduation ceremony, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, charged the graduating participants to bring to bear the professional skills acquired, in the ongoing campaign to restore normalcy to restive parts of the Country.
According to him, the personnel were graduating at a time when the NAF and indeed the Nation were in dire need of their special skills. “Your job will not be an easy one as you would be required to operate under austere conditions and in hostile environments to ensure that the NAF achieves its objectives”, he said.
He further stated that, in order to bridge the capability gap in SF and CSAR operations, the NAF established the Special Operations Command (SOC) with its Headquarters in Bauchi and Quick Response Groups/Wings (QRG/QRW) in Gusau, Owerri, Ipetu-Ijesha, Daura, Birnin Gwari, Agatu, Gembu and Lafia, amongst others.
While acknowledging that the number of QRGs/QRWs was not yet adequate, the CAS observed that the establishment of these SF units provided the desired spread across the Country. This, he said, was in addition to the 205 CSAR Group (205 CSARG) in Kerang, Plateau State.
Speaking further, the CAS noted that, consolidating on the gains made, the Service recently activated the 203 Combat Reconnaissance Group in Gombe and 215 Forward Operating Base, Funtua, the establishment of which was approved earlier this month, for enhanced capability in providing timely and actionable intelligence to further contain insecurity in the Country.
Air Marshal Abubakar disclosed that the NAF had, subsequently, trained over 1,200 personnel both overseas and locally in its bid to generate SF and CSAR teams to man the established units. According to him, international training partners were also engaged to train NAF personnel in order to sustain SF training in the NAF. Since its inception, the CAS said, the NAF SF has been used effectively for force protection, force projection as well as Base Defence, amongst others.
“I am happy to note here today that our SF personnel have performed commendably well when deployed in conjunction with other security agencies in various theatres of operation. Their performance has proven that enhancing the capacity and capability of our personnel is the best way of ensuring the attainment of our operational goals and objectives”, he said.
The consideration to train CSAR operatives locally, the CAS revealed, was as a result of insufficient training slots and high cost of overseas training. He further disclosed that the Directorate of Regiment was accordingly tasked to develop a local training curriculum with the objective of ensuring that the NAF has personnel capable of rescuing downed aircrew in all terrains and weather conditions anywhere in Nigeria.
“It is indeed gratifying to note that their training here is yielding the expected benefits. More so, it is evident that there is a remarkable improvement in the quality of training with the demonstration I earlier witnessed from both courses”, he said.
While congratulating the participants, the CAS urged them to imbibe the attributes of SF operatives, which include honesty, courage, perseverance and adaptability, among others. He also implored them to always remember the NAF’s core values of ‘Integrity’, ‘Service’ and ‘Excellence’ while on their future deployments as this would ensure success in their endeavours.
While reminding the personnel that the scourge of COVID-19 was not yet over, the CAS noted that the NAF, in line with its constitutional role of providing Military Aid to Civil Authority, had been engaged in medical outreach programmes and provision of palliatives in all geo-political zones whilst also emplacing appropriate protective measures and embarking on aggressive enlightenment campaigns to educate personnel and their families on the dangers of the virus as well as how to prevent it.
Air Marshal Abubakar expressed his gratitude to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, for the priority attention given to the operational and other requirements of the NAF. The support, he said, especially in the areas of fleet reactivation and acquisition, training and improved welfare, has impacted positively on the overall performance and operational efficiency of the Service.
“We therefore assure Mr President of our unalloyed loyalty and reiterate our commitment to continue to support the Federal Government in its policy thrust of providing security, improving the economy and fighting corruption in our dear country”, he reiterated.
The CAS also commended the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Ground Training Command (GTC), Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Idi Amin, as well as the Commandant RTC Annex and his team of instructors for working tirelessly to transform the personnel into SF and CSAR operatives. He encouraged them to continue with the excellent work, while promising that the Service would continue to provide them with the required support to position the NAF Regiment as an elite fighting force.
Earlier his welcome address, AOC GTC expressed gratitude to the CAS for the tremendous support as well as the landmark infrastructural facilities emplaced in units within the Command’s Area of Responsibility (AOR). These, he said, included Swimming Pools for training of SF personnel at Kaduna and Bauchi; a 40-Foot Rappelling Tower and Standard Obstacle Course for SF training in Bauchi; a new Commando Village for CSAR training at Ipetu-Ijesha as well as a newly-completed Administrative Block for the Air Provost Training Centre (APTC) and new, well-equipped Medical Centre at 205 CSARG Kerang, Plateau State.
“These have gone a long way in enhancing the skill sets and welfare of our personnel as apparently seen during the demonstrations. These laudable contributions have also helped in increasing the capabilities of the SF operatives in assigned tasks in the various theatres of operation”, he said. The AOC highlighted that SF and CSAR trainings, the world over, are always made to be both physically and mentally rigorous to ensure that only the fittest of personnel with the right mental and physical strength, who can withstand difficult operational and environments, graduate as operatives. H
disclosed that out of the 357 Regiment and Intelligence personnel screened for SF Course 7/2020, only 219 were inaugurated to commence the course, while 162 personnel, comprising 9 officers, 144 airmen and 9 airwomen graduated. Similarly, he remarked that the CSAR had 41 graduating students out of the 60 personnel that were inaugurated.
Highlights of the graduation ceremony were tactical demonstrations by the graduating students and other SF personnel. These included a maritime assault demonstration at the RTC Annex Training Pool; an obstacle crossing demonstration by NAF SF personnel as well as a KRAV MAGA (unarmed combat drill) demonstration.
There was also an air-ground assault simulation exercise, which featured the rappelling of a joint NAF SF, CSAR and Canine (K-9) Team from a Bell 412 Helicopter into a hostile environment to rescue a downed pilot with covering fire provided by a helicopter backdoor gunner on an EC-135 Helicopter, which was executed with precision to the delight of all present. Awards were also presented to graduating students who had distinguished themselves on the 2 Courses.
Also present at the ceremony were the AOC SOC along with Branch Chiefs from Headquarters NAF, Commanders and Commandants of Nigerian Army and NAF Formations as well as Heads of Security Agencies in Bauchi and family members of the grandaunds.