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NAF makes history, wings first female fighter pilot, first female combat helicopter pilot

Also decorates first female Air Warrant officer

We ‘ve trained 67 Instructor pilots in 5 years ― CAS

Says 101 pilots winged within the same period

Development portrays NAF as an equal opportunity establishment, says Minister Tallen

By Kingsley Omonobi & Joseph Erunke

AFTER 55 years of existence, the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, Tuesday, made history as it did not only wing its first-ever female fighter pilot but also a first-ever female combat helicopter pilot.
President Buhari orders fresh deployment of fighters jets to Zamfara

The service also witnessed another groundbreaking feat with the decoration of another first female Air Warrant Officer, who was said to have braced all odds and established herself as more than worthy of the promotion to the enviable rank of Air Warrant officer.

The development came as the Nigerian Air Force said its counterinsurgency efforts will soon be greatly enhanced as it was preparing to receive two additional helicopter gunships.

The two female fighter pilots,Flying Officer Kafayat Sank and Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, who broke the service’ 55 year old jinx,were said to be Regular Combatant officers while the decorated Air Warrant officer, Grace Garuba is said to be the first female Senior Non-Commissioned Officer (SNCO) to be promoted to the highest rank in the Non-Commissioned Officers’ cadre since the force was established on April 18, 1964.

Speaking at the winging ceremony of 13 newly trained pilots, among who were the two female pilots and the decorated first female Air Warrant officer, in Abuja,Tuesday,the Chief of Air Staff,Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, explained that while the first female fighter pilot was trained at the United States Air Force following an excellent performance during her initial flying training course at 401 Flying Training School in Kaduna, the second graduated from Starlite International Training Academy.

He said:”I am particularly happy because out of the 13 pilots to be winged are two female Regular Combatant officers. Not only because they are female officers, but they are also outstanding aviators.

“While one of the two pilots is the first female fighter pilot in the 55 years history of the NAF, the second one is the first female combat helicopter pilot in the history of the Service.

“The first female fighter pilot trained at the United States Air Force following an excellent performance during her initial flying training course at 401 Flying Training School in Kaduna, while the second graduated from Starlite International Training Academy. They both performed excellently well during their training.

“It is common knowledge that of all resources available to a leader or manager, the human resource is the most important.

“This is because the human resource drives all other resources pursuant to the attainment of organisational objectives. It is predicated on this consideration that the NAF spares nothing at developing its human resource capital. This desire for excellence is even more compelling in the face of current and perceived future national security challenges.”

Abubakar disclosed that the Nigerian Air Force under his leadership had so winged a total of over 110 pilots besides 67 Instructor pilots trained.

“I am aware that with this ceremony, the Nigerian Air Force would have winged a total of over 110 pilots since the inception of this administration.

“Currently, we have 61 pilots undergoing ab-initio/basic flying training, while 50 are undergoing various forms of advanced flying training courses both locally and abroad. As such we are highly delighted to see the rewards of our collective efforts.

The Nigerian Air Force chief said he was “confident that the NAF and indeed Nigeria will soon be reaping the benefits that these pilots would undoubtedly add to our operations.”

He spoke further:”In a bid to consolidate on our gains on the fighter aircraft stream and our force projection outlook, all hands have been on deck to increase the number of serviceable L-39ZA aircraft for basic fighter training.

“Also, increased serviceability of the A-Jets has inspired continuous advance fighter training locally. More so, with the NAF preparing to receive two additional helicopter gunships, our counterinsurgency efforts will soon be greatly enhanced. Furthermore, it is envisaged that with the induction of the Super Tucano A29 aircraft into the NAF inventory, our fighter training efforts will also be greatly enhanced.

“All these are complemented by ongoing efforts at reactivating grounded aircraft locally with our technical partners, which has improved our maintenance capabilities and afforded our technicians the opportunity to benefit from on-the-job training. These achievements have saved the nation scarce resources.”

Abubakar said “NAF has continued to invest in human capacity building, since the Service is a veritable instrument for the maintenance of national security,” adding that, “The NAF will continue to discharge her constitutional responsibility of protecting Nigeria’s sovereignty and integrity by air.”

While congratulating the newly winged pilots and their family members for the feats, he tasked the new pilots “to be prepared for the arduous task ahead of you as you fit into the operational flying environment.”

“I must add that the mission of a fruitful flying career has just begun and as such you must stay inspired. You must open your minds to learn and be prepared to be guided by your senior colleagues in the field.

” You must note that you require a lot of discipline, diligence, humility, loyalty and result oriented hard work to succeed in this profession.

“Therefore, do not forget the three Ds to success which are; ‘Drive, Discipline and Desire to be better every day’. The current national security situation requires us to remain highly committed and focused. We must be willing, able and ready always. I, therefore, urge you to be ready to respond swiftly wherever and whenever you are called upon in defence of our national sovereignty and interests,” he further said.

He used the occasion to “reassure all Nigerians that the Nigerian Air Force remains fully committed to the successful execution of its constitutional roles and will strive to continually meet its statutory responsibility of defending the territorial integrity of the nation, acting singly or jointly with our sister services and other security agencies.”

Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, who was the special guest of honour at the event, while speaking, said the development “portrays the Nigerian Air Force positively as it has shown that it is an equal opportunity establishment that encourages all its personnel to achieve excellence in their career.”

” It is obvious that the Chief of the Air Staff is providing the right leadership and guidance to ensure the realization of the primary key driver of his vision, which is hinged on human capacity development.  We are indeed proud of the milestones reached by the NAF and the achievements of the Chief of the Air Staff,” she said.

She spoke further: ” I am particularly happy that history is being made here today with the winging of the first-ever female fighter pilot as well as the first-ever female combat helicopter pilot produced by the Nigerian Air Force.

“Today’s event attests to the laudable achievements and transformation taking place in the Nigerian Air Force.

“It also portrays the Nigerian Air Force positively as it has shown that it is an equal opportunity establishment that encourages all its personnel to achieve excellence in their career. It is obvious that the Chief of the Air Staff is providing the right leadership and guidance to ensure the realization of the primary key driver of his vision, which is hinged on human capacity development.  We are indeed proud of the milestones reached by the NAF and the achievements of the Chief of the Air Staff.

“I am aware that with this winging ceremony, the Nigerian Air Force would have winged a total of over 110 pilots since the inception of his administration.  This is indeed worthy of commendation and further demonstrates the preparedness of the Nigerian Air Force towards meeting our national security needs.  I am convinced that the pilots being winged today will put in their best and contribute their quota towards consolidating the success attained in eliminating current security challenges in the North East and North West as well as communal clashes, kidnapping and armed banditry.

“Let me also use this opportunity to enjoin Nigerian to remain patriotic and support the current administration in efforts being made at bequeathing a safe and secure Nigeria to our children.  Furthermore, I want to assure Nigerians of the commitment and resolve of the Federal Government to spare no effort or resources towards safeguarding lives and properties of our fellow citizens across the length and breadth of the country.

“To the young pilots winged today, I heartily congratulate you on your accomplishments and for coming this far in your career.  There is no doubt that today is a special day in your lives and those of your families.  Their support, no doubt, must have helped you remain courageous, determined and focused towards crossing the hurdles associated with flying training.

“While you have every reason to be happy and fulfilled as you join the elite corps of military pilots, it is important to remind you that this is just the beginning of another chapter of your career as officers in the Nigerian Air Force.  You should by now know that the reward for hard work is more work.  Therefore, I enjoin you all to continue to work hard and also add value to the operations of the Nigerian Air Force in order to reach the zenith of your career.

“I will not fail to express our profound gratitude to Mr President, who in spite of competing economic needs in the country continues to support and give special attention to the operational requirements of our Armed Forces.  Consequently, I want to assure Mr President of our unalloyed loyalty and total commitment to his aspiration for a peaceful and prosperous   Nigeria.”

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