Part 3: The Making of an Airman

If you are curious what life is like as a NAF pilot, its pretty good compared to its sister service. The Nigerian Air Force has shrunk to its lowest level quantitatively since 1984. In the mid-eighties the NAF had three complete fighter squadrons across active duty guard and reserves. Now it can barely field one complete squadron. At the same time the workload has increased ten fold. Deployments are getting longer and fewer pilots are required to put their life on the line to do more flying vintage aircrafts.

Abuja hasn’t made it easier, with the Senate locked in budget squabbles that create uncertainty over funding for capital assets. All this despite the fact that service men and woman are out their in the frontlines risking their lives in Nigeria’s longest war.

This has created an environment where people are just tired and burning out after active duty commitment, with many leaving the service to work for commercial airlines that pays far better, with great bonuses and annual leaves. Another benefit : Pilots don’t have to worry about Boko Haram anti-aircraft guns and enemy aircraft trying to shoot them from the sky.

The appointment of Air Vice Marshall Abubakar Sadique as Chief of Air Staff in 2016 was the turning point for Nigerian Air Force pilots. A pragmatic man who knows the Air Force will have to work harder to retain experienced pilots. He began a major reformation of the NAF personnel structure to keep pilots, ground crew and maintenance. His plan was to make momentary compensation and benefits more appealing to Air Force pilots.

In 2016 the Chief of Air Staff Abubakar Sadique announced significant changes to Air Force benefit program. Combined with non-financial incentives, it formed the Air Force attempt to develop a holistic approach to keeping its experienced pilots. This new approach will make it easier for more air force to stay in the Nigerian Air Force

The retention benefits features :

  • Increase in annual bonus cap.
  • Quality accommodation.
  • Very high quality schools for Air Force servicemen and women.

If takes more than six months for a NAF pilot to finish training. Once finished they are cleared to fly airplanes but not cleared for combat.

Being mindful of the primacy of the human being as an enabler and multiplier of other resources, the Nigerian Air Force has focused on massive infrastructural developments aimed at improving and sustaining the morale of personnel and their families.

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Air Force pilots enjoy a balanced lifestyle, with excellent accommodation
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Accommodation is top notch. Airmen now choose to live on base with their families.

Other aspects of personnel welfare includes the provision of sporting facilities, like gyms. Since 2015 the NAF has constructed a total of seven fully equipped gyms.

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Facilities includes state of the art fitness centres that operates 7 days a week 90.5 hours weekly.
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Facilities includes state of the art fitness centres that operates 7 days a week 90.5 hours weekly.
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Facilities includes state of the art fitness centres that operates 7 days a week 90.5 hours weekly.
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Alpha Jet pilots 
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Air Force pilots build close bonds and lifelong friendships, sharing amazing experiences and a common love for flying.

The NAF places emphasis on providing quality education to children of  Air Force personnel while they are on deployment. New boarding comprehensive schools for girls. Day secondary schools. These are schools built and equipped to surpass what is obtainable in most private schools, with e learning materials, quality teachers etc.

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The service that is tasking a pilot to put his life on the line for the nation should provide not only accommodation for him and his family, but should provide a good school for his children, so that once he is in the northeast flying he knows his family is safe and well taken care off.

COS Abubakar Sadique

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NAF Comprehensive Secondary school.
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NAF Comprehensive Secondary school.
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NAF Comprehensive Secondary school.

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Classroom spaces are light, airy, with two teachers, the assistant teacher sits at the back.

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Some classroom is set up based on what is necessary to meet learning objectives. 
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Some classroom is set up based on what is necessary to meet learning objectives. 
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There might be desks, cushions, or benches arranged in rows or circles, however the teachers want them, as not every classroom will follow a template. 
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There might be desks, cushions, or benches arranged in rows or circles, however the teachers want them, as not every classroom will follow a template. 
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Student library.
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Some classroom is set up based on what is necessary to meet learning objectives. 

E-learning is part of school curriculum 

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The Nigerian Air Force embarked on capacity building of personnel, as key to putting man and machine to effective use towards the attainment if its statutory responsibilities.

This key initiative of the Chief of Air Staff Abubakar Sadique was well thought out, the result can be seen in the operational effectiveness of the NAF against Boko Haram, even though the aircraft platforms are antiquated. The issue of welfare of personnel is paramount in what the Air Force is doing. Aircraft’s don’t come cheap. If you are entrusting a young man with a multi-million dollar aircraft to protect the nation, then it’s emparative that young man’s family have a place they can call home in the base. Children of pilots are provided with the best of schools.

Perhaps the most impressive facet of the NAF welfare program is in its medical facilities.  Families of personnel receive some of the best medical care in the country. Modern and well staffed reference hospitals are bring set up in based all over the country.

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