Sixth May 1976 is a glorious day in history when the UAE Armed Forces was unified under one flag and one command to be an impregnable shield to defend our nation and our achievements.
On this occasion, the “Nation Shield” Journal had the pleasure to interview His Excellency Staff Major-General Eissa Y. Al Mazrou’iy, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, who said that in four decades our army had become one of the top-rated armies in the world in terms of weapons, training and technology, thanks to the limitless support of our wise, far-sighted leadership.
The following is the full text of the interview with Major-General Mazrou’iy:
Since the early beginnings in 1970’s the UAE armed forces have been a pioneer institution to instill loyalty and allegiance. As we celebrate the 36th anniversary of the Armed Forces Unification Day, would you shed light on those beginnings, the role the armed forces played in recruiting national resources and the criteria set for recruiting more citizens?
The answer goes back to 1970s. Although I was not part of the early days of the armed forces I can say that those beginnings have focused on the human resources as a cornerstone for any force meant to be a shield to defend the nation and national achievements and to meet the needs in terms of training, weapons, up-to-date technology and military sciences.
The armed forces have come a long way on that track. Early beginnings came in stages. First as “Coast of Oman Scouts”, then as “Trucial Emirates Force”, later as “Defense Force”, and more recently as the Armed Forces. The credit in this step-by-step development goes rightly to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (May God bless his soul), Father and Founder of the UAE Federation who laid the foundation for the military thinking and doctrine adopted by the armed forces until they became a highly sophisticated force.
The formation of the armed forces coincided with the early days of the 1971 Federation, as the concept behind the forces was in line with the new-born UAE’s socio-economic and social master development plan. The two building processes went hand in hand in complete harmony in all sectors of life.
A close look at this march is suffice to drive home the fact that the armed forces have been a candid reflection of the different stages the UAE went through in order to cope with modern age.
Speaking of armed forces development, the credit should go first to Allah, then to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (May God bless his soul), Father and Founder of the UAE Federation whose shrewd thinking and far-sightedness gave birth to the armed forces and the plans to develop and train them for their mission armed with science, knowledge and faith.
His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces (May God protect him), has played a key role in turning the late Father and Founder of the Federation Sheikh Zayed’s vision into reality. His Highness was totally focussed on the armed forces development plans, establishing military academies and institutions to arm cadets with modern military sciences.
Recruitment of Human Resources
This is one of the missions that deserve our deepest recognition and appreciation. Mine is a case in point. As a schoolboy, I decided to join the force following a visit to our school by an armed forces delegation in the late 1970’s. I was deeply impressed by the delegation’s representation about the armed forces and the opportunities offered to cadets to fulfil their dreams as engineers, pilots and doctors.
Later on, we had another visit by an army team for recruitment and I had the honor to join the force. I was enrollled in the Air Force and became a Lieutenant. I had also the honor to accompany His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, in a school tour. I believe the Armed Forces’ recruitment policy is a successful one, whereby the “crème de la crème” are allowed to join. This policy is still applicable, though with different techniques.
How do you evaluate in-school military training? Are there any future plans for improvement to avoid the negative aspects of cultural globalization that go counter to our traditions?
It is somewhere between B and B+ in terms of community culture, and A+ in terms of objectives met. The experiment may be expanded to include all schools in future. I believe the term “military training” is inadequate, and would better be described as “educating the young”, i.e. getting them to adopt our genuine values, especially when the defining line between various cultures is blurred by globalization.
We have a duty, as parents, officials - military and otherwise - and educators to enlighten our younger generation. In-school training is successful in bringing up a true citizen.
There are plans to change curricula in a way that suits present trends of the age. The family and school are no longer the sole catalyst for guidance.
Cooperation with Civil Entities
The armed forces have signed agreements with various civil institutions. What is the target?
The world has become sort of a village under the new globalized system. It has become a world based on specialization. A General Practioner, for example, is no longer qualified to handle a cardio-vascular condition. So, when we speak about building a nation and a community, you would need a network of collaborative institutions in order to realize cherished goals. Teamwork is now the key.
Inter-agency collaboration and coordination is essential to comply with the communal requirements according to a fully integrated master plan.
Women in the Armed Forces
We all know how committed to the UAE women our wise leadership is and we realize that women now play a key role in our military institutions. Are there any plans to expand women’s involvement in the armed forces?
Women have been, no doubt, the focus of attention on the part of our wise leadership who has always believed that women had a role to play. So, trust was given, and women proved they were rightly up to it. Now, women work hand in hand with men to boost national development in all fields. They proved trustworthy and perfectly capable of joining the force. We feel proud, indeed, for women’s participation in various sectors of the armed forces.
Particular reference should be made to the remarkable role played by Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Head of the General Women’s Union and President of the Family Development Foundation and Chairperson of the Supreme Maternity and Child Council, in supporting women participation. Reference should also be made to Khawal bin Al Azwar Military School which was established in 1991 to train girl students in military sciences. We also have military academies and instuitutes where girl students are accepted, trained and graduated in various ranks.
Women have played a key role in bringing up the younger generations, and hence deserved our leadership’s support and trust.
The Administration and Human Resources Authority have plans to expand women’s participation in the armed forces in future.
Do you think the current education output qualifies citizens adequately to join the force and assimilate modern military sciences?
No, it is not, for many reasons. Syllabuses basically targeted certain categories and addressed certain values. They were changed and improved by 70-80 per cent, but the younger generations will be luckier and should be perfectly prepared to serve the nation. I think the next stage requires us to focus on how to deepen national identity by having military culture included as a topic in our curricula.
Message to the Youth
What is your message to our citizens? Do you think their involvement in the armed forces is compatible with their expectations? Are there any obstacles on the way?
The UAE has oil, but the real wealth of the armed forces is the human resources. Our youth stand for the future, for hope, and our wise leadership is expecting much from them.
For citizens being involved in the armed forces, yes, they are always welcome, but the number of applicants is much less than expected, I have to say. There is a shortage of pilots, engineers and others in various branches of the armed forces. The reason is simple: all citizens are allowed to take up whatever they want as a profession, but joining the force should be motivated by an intrinsic sincere desire to serve the armed forces where challenges are tougher.
Special attention is given by the armed forces to defense exhibitions, particularly IDEX and Dubai Air Show. What do these exhibitions stand for, military-wise? How extensive is their contribution?
The idea to establish in-country exhibitions is a brilliant one. The credit here goes to His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces (May God protect him). The idea also offered us a rare opportunity to get in touch with various military technologies to choose from.
Our world class exhibitions have put us on an equal footing with other developed nations and enabled us to seek transfer of technology in all military branches from various parts of the world, which is cost-effective, time and effort saving and provided our commanders and officers with priceless knowledge.
There are other benefits involved in terms of revenues, tourist development and highlighting UAE’s name on the world map. The world had a better opportunity to know our nation and our achievemenets better as the exhibitions were well covered by international media, carrying our name far and wide.
Another beneficiary is the armed forces. Our officers would meet with manufacturers and consumers and attend workshops and symposia where high caliber papers are presented. Exhibitions, moreover, offer representatives of top defense corporations a golden chance to exchange ideas and expertise under one roof and to close deals. They also prove world confidence in UAE’s ability to organize international events effictently and competently.
IDEX and Dubai Air Show work in harmony and complement each other to serve the national interests of the UAE.
UAE-based military academies are a vital artery for armed forces development plans. How far have these academies been successful in coping with corresponding institutions world wide? Have they been successful in adequately training our human resources? Are there any plans for more military academies in the coming years?
Academies, I can say, have done a perfect job for which they were initially established. They have managed to match the performance of globally recognized academies, which explains why Arab and friendly nations compete to win a seat in UAE military academies. Our academies, including Command and Joint Staff College, were highly rated by western experts.
There are plans for more academies, and respective instructions are being implemented by the military. One example is the National Defense Academy (NDA) where the first batch is scheduled to graduate next year. NDA is attended by civilian and military officials scheduled to take up senior positions in the forthcoming stage.
As for Arabic as the language of instruction instead of English, I beg to differ because most modern scientific references in military and civil sciences are in English.
The armed forces have scored major successes recently against piracy in the Arabia Sea and the Indian Ocean. Could you elaborate?
It is a joint effort we are proud to be part of. All UAE vessels sailing through the Arabian Sea are protected by our naval forces which have our full confidence in their abilities.
Iranian Nuclear Program
The Iranial nuclear program is highly controversial on regional and international levels. How far is this program seen as a threat to regional security?
The Iranian nuclear program is a threat to regional security for many reasons:
Gulf Missile Defense (GMD)
How do you see the Gulf Missile Defense (GMD) program which was announced in Riyadh recently?
The program was meant to set up a fully integrated GCC early warning system. It is our view that evey nation has the right for self defense as prescribed by international laws. Joint GCC defense is s strategic option and a rational decision.
How do you evaluate future Gulf security in the light of UAE’s national security requirements and regional struggle?
Gulf security is a strategic option, perhaps the only one that would guarantee GCC security and stability. Gulf security is non-negotiable as was manifested in Bahrain.
Peninsula Shield Force (PSF)
What are the common factors that could render the Peninsula Shield Force (PSF) a fully integrated Gulf platform capable of handling threats and challenges?
It is basically one factor: The GCC’s will to strengthen regional security and stability and defend national achievements against external threats. It is this determination that will give PSF the desired momentum to act confidently and competently.
Recent GCC cooperation regarding the Bahrain case highlighted GCC’s need to strengthen joint security and defense cooperation. How do you evaluate this cooperation and ensuing challenges?
I do not think we have any problem regarding our will to strengthen inter-state security. The will is there, and all nations are ready to encounter any challenges. Stability in Bahrain means stability in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and all GCC nations.
Do you consider cyber war a new challenge to GCC armed forces?
Cyber war is certainly a new challenge to all nations. It is a new dimension in the security and stability equation, and a threat that should be neutralized by all state institutions: the armed forces, Ministry of the Interior, power plants etc.
UAE’s International Contributions
How do you evaluate UAE’s various contributions to International peackeeing force and humanitarian relief operations? What is the lesson learned? And how do these contributions help build the human resources of the armed forces? Did they help strengthen UAE’s position regionally and internationally?
UAE armed forces had multiple contributions to humanitarian relief operation world wide. They have played a vital peacekeeping role under the United Nations which earned them world recognition and respect. There is no doubt that the wise policy laid down by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (May God bless his soul) and pursued by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, (May God protect him), has motivated the UAE people to extend a helping hand to the needy. They have gained wide experience in handling people of different backgrounds.
Our force was part of the Arab Deterrent Force to maintain peace in Lebanon, helped the Somali people in the early 1990s, joined in the liberation of Kuwait, and participated in relief missions in Kosovo, Pakistan and Yemen.
How do you evaluate the performance of military media? What are your expectations from this vital sector? And how do you see media’s role in the armed forces and the UAE community in general?
You have done a very good job, but huge challenges still lie ahead, considering the digital media revolution. Efforts should be doubled, and a clear-cut vision is needed to face these challenges.