I have always observed the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) from afar, and with fascination.
That soon grew to become admiration, particularly in the past four or five years.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not talking about its prowess at its main duties as the air component of Nigeria’s armed forces, no.
That’s another story, for another day.
This time, I’m making observations about a sector near and dear to my heart, and which should be the same to every sensible human being.
I’m talking about the health sector, and the increasingly important role, which the NAF is playing in it.
While medical outreaches have practically become a culture of the armed forces, the NAF appears to go way ahead of that, and is showing commitment to enhancing medical services available to serving personnel, civilian staff, and host communities.
Perhaps – or most likely – owing to the current leadership of the NAF by Air Marshal S.B Abubakar, the arm of service has grown to become known for offering excellent health services, and having in its employ some of the finest doctors and trained medical staff in the nation.
A recent example, roughly two weeks ago, is the effort to mitigate the hardships currently being experienced by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Sabon Birni Community in Sabon Birni Local Government Area (LGA) of Sokoto State due to the activities of armed bandits.
The NAF on the 19th of June commenced a 3-day medical outreach in the area, also intended to enhance good civil-military relations between the NAF and the local community, will go a long way to fostering improved information-sharing.
During the 3-day outreach, the NAF medical team undertook health education talks, free consultations and dispensing of medications, de-worming and immunisation of children, distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, as well as visual acuity checks and provision of prescription eye glasses.
Aside the healthcare services, some palliatives including food items, soaps, blankets and footwear were also distributed to assuage the sufferings of the IDPs.
Seated in faraway Kaduna, I couldn’t help but feel touched.
Even politicians were touched, as flagging off the medical outreach, the Sokoto State Commissioner of Health, Dr Muhammad Ali Inname, thanked the NAF for extending the gesture, describing it as timely and apt.
To be honest, Dr. Inname made me even happier when he disclosed that the outreach was the second edition he would witness as commissioner of health in the state, where the NAF would bring its expertise and support to its various host communities.
Hear him: “There is no better time than now to provide medical support, considering the recent incidents that Sabon Birni LGA has witnessed. I believe that the medical outreach will go a long way in alleviating the sufferings of the people.”
The leader of the NAF medical team, Group Captain Ali Tanko, who is also the Director of Public Health and Humanitarian Services of the NAF, stated that the medical outreach was the initiative of the CAS, who was moved by the plight of the displaced persons in the local government.
Then, if you back up a little, precisely to late April this year, you will find more heartening news from the health sector, in relation to the NAF.
That was when, in furtherance of efforts to build the capacity of its personnel for the effective and efficient conduct of Aeromedical Evacuation missions to airlift wounded soldiers from various theatres of operation to appropriate treatment facilities, the NAF conducted a training for some of its flight nurses and aircrew.
The week-long training, with a simulation exercise at the flight line of the 307 Executive Airlift Group, Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja using the C-130H aircraft, was aimed at enhancing the knowledge of participants to enable them ensure that wounded personnel are stabilised and provided necessary life support from point of enplaning until they arrive at the destination facility.
A NAF C-130H aircraft was configured to carry specialised stretchers for the patients along with necessary life support equipment, including patient monitors and ventilators. I read the news online, and saw the photos on social media, and I was full of hope.
Then, at the event, Air Marshal Abubakar said that it aptly depicted what was expected of flight nurses and other crew members while conducting aeromedical evacuation of wounded soldiers from the battlefield to the locations of designated medical facilities.
He noted that the capability, which would reduce the risk to wounded personnel and enhance their chances of survival, could also be deployed for the emergency movement of COVID-19 patients, if so required.
Timely, indeed! The CAS disclosed that the NAF had, over the past four years, made concerted efforts to build the capacity of its medical personnel to not only ensure the provision of qualitative healthcare services to personnel and their families but also to ensure effective care for personnel wounded in action.
To this end, he said, NAF Trauma/Emergency Care Teams had been set up in all theatres of operation.
He noted that this has helped to boost morale and the fighting spirit of the personnel.
Unsurprisingly, some quick internet research showed me that the NAF has a very high number of doctors and medical personnel, from physicians to surgeons, and even psychologists.
Something tells me it has the highest number in the nation, but that remains unconfirmed.
Additionally, being a resident of Mando and therefore neighbour to the NAF Base here in Kaduna, I know several people who have benefited from medical services of the NAF in one way or the other, directly or indirectly.
Their accounts are always of encounters with sound professionals working in a clean and well-equipped environment.
For a nation that is currently battling a myriad of security issues, it is a responsible arm of service that will dedicate time, effort, and resources to ensure their men and women are of sound mind and body, to enable effectiveness, for the good of all.
Muhammad, a schoolteacher, wrote in from Mando, Kaduna.