UPDF Aviation Unit in Somalia Under New Command

UPDF Aviation Unit in Somalia Under New Command
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Brig Gen Ham Atwooki Kaija, who has served as the commander of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) Aviation Unit for the past two years, officially handed over command to Col George Buga Andrua today. This transition occurred at Baledogle Military Airfield, located 110 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.

During the handover ceremony, Brig Gen Peter Gaetano Omola, the sector one commander, extended his congratulations to Brig Gen Kaija for the successful completion of his tenure. He commended Brig Kaija for his demonstrated skills, resilience, and his positive impact on the mission. Brig Gen Omola emphasized the significant role of Aviation Utilities in the fight against Al-Shabaab terrorists, describing them as a game changer. He praised Brig Gen Kaija’s sacrifice, bravery, determination, and teamwork, which he credited with ensuring the force’s survivability and the degradation of Al-Shabaab. He further highlighted the valuable working relationship with the Aviation Unit, acknowledging their role as a game changer in the mission’s success.

Col Buga Andrua, the incoming commander, was also congratulated by Gen Omola. He urged Col Buga Andrua to foster teamwork and seek advice across all areas of responsibility. Gen Omola expressed his anticipation of working together, highlighting the importance of teamwork in military operations and his commitment to supporting Col Buga Andrua in carrying out his tasks, despite the challenges.

In his handover report, Brig Gen Atwook Kaija mentioned that since the deployment of the UPDF Aviation unit in the mission area in August 2020, the military helicopters have executed numerous successful operations in support of joint forces in sectors 1, 3, 4, and 5. These operations adhered to ATMIS’s mandate, concept of operations, Standard Operating Procedures, and Letter of Assist. The aircraft managed to save the lives of their own and friendly forces, as well as neutralize many Al-Shabaab members and destroy their weaponry.

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Col George Buga Andrua expressed his gratitude to UPDF leadership for entrusting him with the responsibility of commanding the Aviation Unit. He pledged to work diligently, uphold high spirits, and carry on the legacy of his predecessor.

The UPDF Aviation unit’s deployment in Somalia was initiated in August 2020 as part of the AMISOM/ATMIS harmonized concept of operation. This concept aimed to develop air assets as a force multiplier for peace support operations in Somalia. Their operations included close air support for tasks such as rapid casualty evacuation, troop insertion and extraction, and the destruction of Al-Shabaab targets.

The handover ceremony was attended by various military officials, including Col John Bosco Kalyango, the sector one Contingent Administration Officer (CAO), Lt Col Kefa Mukomba, the deputy Aviation commander, Lt Col Peter Barigye, the deputy Battle Group 36 commander, and all heads of department within the Aviation unit.

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