“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”
That quote from renowned American author John C Maxwell aptly describes the Chief of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, General Dato’ Sri Haji Affendi bin Buang RMAF.
One look at him reminded me of the first Chief of the RMAF that I served under, the late Lieutenant-General Tan Sri Mohamed bin Ngah Said RMAF – charismatic, feet-on-the-ground practical.
General Affendi is that. A senior RMAF officer describes him as “an intelligent, smartly dressed, easy going, approachable and true Air Force General.”
“If you want to see things get done, Apai will get it done,” he added.
And it is no wonder that “Apai”, the Iban word for “Father” is not just his callsign, but in the true sense what the men and women of the RMAF regard him as.
Hailing from Kuching, Sarawak, General Affendi is the first RMAF Chief from the eastern half of Malaysia. He joined as an Officer Cadet in 1980 before undergoing his basic flight training at the No.1 Flight Training School in RMAF Alor Setar (now Air Force College). He subsequently trained on the Aermacchi MB-339A before joining the No.9 Squadron for a type-conversion on the McDonnell Douglas A-4PTM Skyhawk, and later served as an operational fighter pilot of the No.6 Squadron.
He was recognised as an ace when flying the Skyhawks doing Close Air Support and Battlefield Interdiction missions against the Communist insurgency in the late 1980s. A senior Air Defence Controller described him:
“Apai is s***hot! With Apai you seldom need to call Check Six. He will manoeuvre and saddle-in to kill the bandit.”
In 1994 he was one of the officers selected for the MiG-29 Project Team who inducted and built up the operational capabilities of the RMAF MiG-29s. Later he flew the MiG-29s on patrols in the Spratlys area.
In recognition of his leadership, steadfastness and bravery in conductng his missions, he was not only awarded with military gallantry honours but also recently conferred the sacred Blue Beret of the Pasukan Khas TUDM (PASKAU).
Out of his office, General Affendi is known to shun protocol whenever possible. He prefers to be with the men and women he leads and meets them whenever he can. Despite being the Chief, General Affendi prefers to wade in the same mud as the one his men and women wade in. You will never see him sit in a VIP seat when travelling on board any of the RMAF transport aircraft. He prefers to work within his means.
And given the tough times the almost 59-year old RMAF is going through due to the global economic slowdown, only the tough will get going. And when the jobs needs to be done, Apai will see it get done.