The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) Gen David Muhoozi has on behalf of the Force paid tribute to the two Defence Air Forces’ pilots who died when their Jet Ranger crashed during a training mission on Tuesday.
The CDF hailed the fallen pilots for their selfless service to the UPDF and the nation at large. He was addressing mourners during a requiem service for the Late Major Naomi Karungi at Church of the Resurrection, Bugolobi in Kampala on Thursday.
Gen Muhoozi also trashed rumours that inexperienced Pilot Karungi could be reason the Jet crashed at Ndeese Hill in Butambala district. “Karungi, a soldier of Christ, was a well trained and experienced lady pilot of the UPDF who was rightly placed in a specialty of her passion. The UPDF has made a double loss of comrades; Maj Naomi Karungi and Pilot Cadet John Wakalu Benon. Our own have left the stage at the infancy of their careers,” he said.
The CDF grieved with the families of the fallen pilots, the UPDF fraternity and the nation at large for the loss of persons he referred to as very resourceful citizens of Uganda. “The Late Major Naomi Karungi specifically made a landmark for females who would wish to pursue the aviation career. I urge our pilots to follow in her footsteps,” the CDF said.
He pledged support to the families of the fallen pilots. Gen Muhoozi and other high ranking UPDF Officers attended the vigils of both pilots a night prior to the requiem services. The requiem service for the Late Pilot Cadet John Wakalu Benon was held at Devine Healing Church, Entebbe. The Commander Air Forces (CAF), Lt Gen Charles Lutaaya represented the UPDF at the requiem service which was held at around the same time with that of Maj Karungi.
Lt Gen Charles Lutaaya said it was sad losing the two well trained and disciplined pilots. He added that the Late Maj Karungi was highly experienced in her field and was a role model in the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Air Forces (UPDAF), breaking the male monopoly in the Service.
“The Late Karungi was able to do what men do and many times even better. By the time of her death, she held an important appointment of Squadron Commander of Augusta Bell Squadron in the UPDAF,” Gen Lutaaya revealed, adding that the Late Maj Karungi was competent enough at her duties and she did what it took to perform her duties perfectly. He further said that due to her intelligence, patience and commitment, UPDAF identified Maj Karungi’s capabilities and entrusted her with a command responsibility in the Service.
The Late Karungi joined the Forces in January 2004 and at her time of death had served for 16 years. She has been a pilot for 13 years. Meanwhile Late Pilot Cadet Wokalo John Wakalu Benon was training to become a Captain on Augusta Bell Jet Ranger under the mentorship of the Late Maj Karungi. The remains of the two Late Pilots were air lifted to their ancestral homes where they will be laid to rest today, January 31, 2020.