Kingsley Omonobi and Joseph Erunke
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) on Tuesday produced its first-ever female fighter pilot and first female combat helicopter pilot.
The service also decorated the first female Air Warrant Officer, who was said to have braced all odds and proved herself worthy of the promotion to the enviable rank of Air Warrant officer.
The development came just as the NAF said its counter-insurgency efforts would soon be greatly enhanced with the acquisition of 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 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, the Chief of Air Staff,Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said 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 a 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.”