You can have all the training, you can have all the skills, unless you are tested from time to time, you will not be able to know whether there will be gab,” these were the words of the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Siddique Abubakar, last week at a simulation of counter terrorism exercise organised by the Nigerian Air Force at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja.
When you are given the responsibility of defending the territorial integrity of your nation through and from the air, you must take time for certain things. Time to form Inter-Service Corporation and of course, time to form honest relationship with civilians. Time to establish standards. Time to get motivated. In the same vein, there are certain things for which there is no time. No time for excuses. No time for surprises. No time for inner turmoil. The NAF leadership understands this too well and therefore takes this responsibility seriously.
In times like these, and as always, every unit in the military formation needs an ultimate goal, a purpose for which it unites and prepares. Thinking about the goal that lies ahead is what gives the NAF leadership the energy to achieve success. It’s what excites them. It’s why they endure the practice. Without making noise about it, the NAF team believes that no matter what intermediate steps you take, your command should always have your ultimate goal in mind and allow its pursuit to invigorate you.
The present NAF leadership believes that motivated personnel are the bedrock of a formidable and dependable force. The NAF top echelon has at different fora and in different circumstances, shown that they know their onions. The top echelon has been able to rekindle the pride in the service without undue noise, been able to convince men and officers of the Nigerian Air Force that they are simply the best ever through promotion of the NAF core values.
Focusing on the common purpose, the Chief of Air Staff reiterated that;” it is very important that you evaluate your plan from time to time. Or else, you might have some gaps in what you have put together. So this is not done because we are anticipating anything, no, if you have to do any anticipating, then it would be too late.” This is so because their tasks are so demanding that a weak link on the team could get everyone on the team killed.
I agree that no group of men is closest to perfection in their chosen field. But the NAF example has so far shown that the more activities they embrace the greater accountability they will develop. NAF therefore encourages its personnel to participate in meaningful activities together in and out of work.
As someone who grew in the army barracks, I know that the time you spend as a unit is defined by moments: moments that unite, create understanding, and allow you to discover your collective identity and ability. These moments make you one, make you better, and make you proud. I also know that some moments are planned. You know they need to happen, so you design them. But there are other moments that happen on their own, a natural by-product of team formation. Still, other moments pass by unnoticed until you discover their importance later on. You come to realise what they really meant and how critical they actually were or are..
The key to the success of the SEALs, the US Marine, commissioned by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, capable of operating in the Sea, from the Air, and on Land, is their training-the real emphasis of which is not learning about weapons or gaining technical skills; it’s about strengthening people and developing teamwork. No one can doubt that weapons change, and so do methods of conducting operations, but what is true of the SEALs, and relevant to the force is that intense mental and physical training should be robust and holistic.
The core values for any NAF Team cannot and must not be compromised. Reawakening these values in its personnel is a task as important as safeguarding the nation. This is where the value of pride in duty and self must fuse to produce a force to reckon with.
The Air Marshal tells us “right now, we have deployments in most of the airports, of this special forces. So if there is anything outside what we are expecting, it is to quickly mobilise the forces who are in different parts of the country.”
With admirable determination the mission to ensure the integrity of the airspace by gaining and maintaining control of the air while retaining displaying credible capacity to fulfill other airpower tasks demanded by national defense and security imperatives, the NAF is doing everything possible to reposition the itself into a highly professional and disciplined force through capacity building initiatives for effective, efficient and timely deployment of air power in response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives.
What is working for officers and men of the NAF is the commitment to such core values of integrity, excellence and service delivery.
— Stephen is an Abuja based journalist.