The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) in partnership with the British Military Advisory Training Team have trained no fewer than 150 advanced Special Forces operatives, who would be deployed to areas facing security challenges across the country,
Speaking in a welcome address at the graduation ceremony on Friday, held at the Regiment Training Centre Annex, Special Operations Command of the Nigerian Air Force, Bauchi, the Air Officer Commanding, Ground Training Command, Air Vice Marshal Ibukunle Daramola, said that 285 personnel were nominated for the Advanced Special Operations Course 1/2022 training but only 150 graduated.
“Out of the 285 personnel nominated for the course, only 150 were found fit after series of medical and physical screening and inaugurated to commence the course.
“At the end of the course, 145 personnel, comprising 3 officers and 142 airmen will be graduating today and they have been found worthy in character and learning to qualify as Advanced Special Forces Operatives, also known as Nigerian Air Force Panthers,” he said.
He said that the Special Forces operations are characterized by speed, precision, destabilizing shock effects and perseverance of forces which require that these Special Forces operations are painstakingly selected to ensure the attainment of desired effects and outcomes.
Daramola said: “The kinds of effects that Special Forces operations are able to deliver are very critical at this material time, considering the fact that present threats to our national security are from violent non-state actors waging terrorist and insurgent campaigns against the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“As such, these newly bred operatives would be employed as part of our offensive to ensure normalcy and calm are restored to restive communities within Nigeria.
“Ground Training Command remains resolute in ensuring qualitative training to enable us have the best quality as well as the right numerical strength of personnel to prosecute the fight against terrorism and insurgency working in synergy with sister Services and other security agencies.”
He said that in equipping them for the task ahead, some of the curriculum of the Advanced Special Operations Course entailed counter improvised explosive devices training, air-to-ground integration, remotely piloted aerial systems training, close quarter battle drills, among others.
He emphasizing that, “as expected, the course was intentionally made tough to ensure that our trainees can withstand the gruelling physical conditions of ground operations.”
Cross section of the British and Nigerian trainers
Also speaking, the Commander, British Military Advisory Training Team, Col. Rory Shannon, who described as “deep-rooted and very strong” the relationship between Nigeria and the United Kingdom, said that the Advanced Operatives Course has helped develop the foundation building on previous trainings and setting participants and students up for much more effective counter-violent extremists operations in North-East Nigeria, the Lake Chad Basin and other troubled areas.
“At the Security and Defense Dialogue that was held between the United Kingdom and Nigeria’s Armed Forces and other Agencies in January of this year, our Chief of Defense Staff Spoke reiterating a desire to strengthen links between our militaries including in this particular area.
“The Nigeria-UK relations is hugely important. The deployment of what we’ve conveyed here will help save lives and defeat a common enemy. So I know that there are continuing close cooperation, we will continue to contribute to improving the security situation,” he said.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, in a speech delivered through the Chief of Policy and Plan of the Nigerian Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Charles Ohwo, expressed optimism that the graduating students have imbibed the necessary skills, tactics, techniques and procedures required to conduct special operations pursuant to achieving the operational objectives of the Nigerian Air Force.
He said: “These operations are critical given the myriad of asymmetric security threats facing the nation today which require intervention from the Armed Forces of Nigeria and the Nigerian Air Force in particular.
“Indeed, our ability to conduct air without hostile interference and respond swiftly to threats, has been key to minimizing hostile attacks on the civil populace thereby providing a foundation for our successes.
“Our successes in the various theatres of operation have however necessitated the need for heightened security on our bases. Accordingly, the Nigerian Air Force has made concerted efforts, over the years, to build our internal capacity and resilience for force protection by boosting the strength of our Regiment and Special Operations Forces personnel through ‘purposeful training and human capacity development.”
He said that in furtherance of his vision of enhancing and sustaining critical airpower capabilities required for joint force employment in pursuit of national security imperatives, the Nigerian Air Force has so far trained about 5,000 Regiment and 2,000 Special Operations Forces personnel.
He said this was largely facilitated by the support NAF continues to enjoy from the British Military Advisory Training Team, through whose support several Force Protection in Complex Air-Ground Environment Courses and now the Advanced Special Operations Course have been conducted.
“We appreciate BMATT’s continued support and look forward to more of such collaborations, including the next batch of the Advanced Special Operations Forces training. I am confident that, as these personnel are deployed to various theatres of operations for force protection, protection of critical national infrastructure as well as other direct-action tasks necessary for the projection of airpower to meet operational exigencies, the Service, and indeed the Nation, will derive significant benefit from their dedication and unique capabilities,” he said.
The CAS charged the graduands to redouble their efforts and engage the security challenges with rugged optimism and renewed determination, while remaining professional in the discharge of their constitutional duty of ensuring the security of our beloved Nation and its good people.