By Ocitti Robert

GULU: Jubilation, fanfare and stunts were some of the experiences that dominated the pass-out ceremony of 18 Uganda People’s Defence Air Forces (UPDAF) pilots along with 172 aircraft engineers on Tuesday, November 7, 2019. The function was held at Gulu Air Force base in Bardege Division, Gulu Municipality.  President Yoweri Museveni, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Uganda Armed Forces presided over the ceremony. The fresh graduates were passed out after undergoing eight years of studies and training.

One of the combat jet planes at the Gulu Airforce runway (Photo: Ocitti Robert)

Colonel Rebecca Mpagi, the director of personnel and administration of UPDAF appealed to the parents to always give the army their best children but not those whom they look at as burdens in the community. “If you don’t treat your children well, it means those children will grow up into rebels and we don’t want such children. We want children who will join us and make us proud like these ones, the pilots and engineers who will make us stand with our heads raised high. We got good children”, said Colonel Mpagi. “When you hear that UPDF is recruiting, please give us your best. We need lawyers, doctors, medical people and others”, Mpagi appealed.

Lieutenant General Charles Lwanga Lutaya, the commander of UPDAF cautioned the graduates against reckless lifestyles and urged them to remain focused as they carry on with their cardinal duties.

Guests have a jovial moment with President Museveni

President Museveni expressed happiness that the group had mastered the skills taught to them without making any mistakes as demonstrated to him during the mock drills at the function. The Commander in Chief of the armed forces said, “The Bible says whatever man sows is what he reaps. You chose to do sciences at A-level and this has helped you understand and learn quickly what was taught to you. This has been witnessed today”. Museveni added that, “Now that you have completed training, you need to remain healthy by avoiding reckless living, serve above self and above all be patriotic”. On healthy living and being patriotic, the president said, “What is crucial now is for them to remain healthy, avoid reckless living and then have the three qualities of integrity, service before self and excellence. You could also add patriotism. Loving the country helps you understand better. It consolidates all the other points”. The President commended the Bulgarian instructors for the job well done in imparting skills into the cadet officers who will now be able to fly fighter jets for the UPDAF. The newly graduated airmen, recited to the president the airman’s creed that is instrumental for building confidence and hope.

Museveni makes promises

The president also officially commissioned the UPDF Gulu air force base training centre and an aircraft monitoring centre. He assured residents that government’s plan is in the pipeline to have to revamp Gulu Aerodrome to an international standard.

“We are going to improve the airport to international standards so that it can be used by big and international planes. In the 1960s this was a very active airbase where it was one of the busiest in Uganda and in this respect, tourism, exports of goods and services will be boosted because they will be transported by air in order to meet local and international demands. This air force base is just the beginning,” Museveni said. The president also said the expansion of the airdrome will enhance tourism and tapped into the numerous tourism potentials of the region.

President Museveni instructed the leadership of Gulu district to get in touch with the construction companies working on the various roads in Gulu municipality to find a way of including some of the roads in Bardege division which connect to the airport for upgrade as soon as possible. “The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) should liaise with companies which are doing roads in this area to come and tarmac these internal roads. I think we don’t need dust here. Dust and mud are for Rwakitura and those places. These machines don’t need dust so the access road and the other roads, we shall work on them”, promised Museveni.

Some of the successful trainee pilots

Major Santos Okot Lapolo, the Resident District Commissioner of Gulu said he is going to make sure that the president’s pledges are fulfilled. “My role is to coordinate first the district local government especially the LC5 chairperson and the mayor of Gulu Municipality to ensure that we follow up these pledges by the president with the CDF to ensure that they are fulfilled”, said Major Lapolo.  The ceremony was also attended by the Chief of Defence Forces, General David Muhoozi, the commander Special Forces Command, Major General James Birungi, the commander of Reserve Force, Lieutenant General Charles Otema Awany, Chief of Staff Air Forces, and Major General Paul Lokech, fourth division commander, Brigadier Bonny Bamwiseki and Kitgum Municipality MP, Beatrice Anywar among others. End