Tkbesh!: Femi Soneye is Nigerian journalist stationed at a US air force base in Washington DC supporting the security of the President Barack Obama. Is this correct and how did you land this job?
Femi Soneye: Yes I serve the United States Government at the Andrews Air Force Base, which supports the President and members of Congress. It is where the Air Force One is situated, and it’s a joint base with the Navy, Marines and the Army. It was the will to serve and meeting the criteria that got me there. The most important thing is to be ready to commit yourself, your life, and swear the oath to defend the constitution of the United States, once you can resolve within yourself to do that, it’s now left for the criteria, which includes eligibility, physical, mental, health assessment and finally the real military hard-core training.
Tkbesh!: What were you doing before this mission and for how long have you been on this mission?
Femi Soneye: I have been serving at this capacity since 2009. Prior to serving the government I was running a media consultant firm in Washington, DC
Tkbesh!: You are no ordinary journalist Mr. Soneye. I know your job consists of overseeing the combat/health readiness of service men in your unit to ensure they are fit to fight and ready for a deployment under a short notice. How do you combine this assignment with the responsibility of editing the magazine and the unit’s newsletter?
Femi Soneye: The hallmark of our training is to be flexible and to achieve excellence in all we do, if you read the United States Air Force Mission, according to the National Security Act of 1947 that created it, it states that, “In general the United States Air Force shall include aviation forces both combat and service not otherwise assigned. It shall be organized, trained, and equipped primarily for prompt and sustained offensive and defensive air operations. The Air Force shall be responsible for the preparation of the air forces necessary for the effective prosecution of war except as otherwise assigned and, in accordance with integrated joint mobilization plans, for the expansion of the peacetime components of the Air Force to meet the needs of war.” So we are primarily trained for multiple functions.
Tkbesh!: With the United States being a highly cultural diversed country in the world it wouldn’t be surprising to find other Nigerians around working with the presidency. Is this true and how many Nigerians do you personally know and what do they do?
Femi Soneye: The U.S Air Force have over 600,000 active, reserve and guard service men demographically represented from all parts of the world. I have seen several Nigerians in the medical field, I have seen a pilot and several other engineers and combat personnel.
Tkbesh!: Must you have a military background to do what you do?
Femi Soneye: Definitely, you must have gone through the military core trainings to be able to be deployed to any postings, because what we do is not just ordinary stuff, they are real stuff, and so you must have gone through extensive and robust training. Mind you we are the number one Air Force in the world; we have air and space superiority over any force in the world, we also have a space force enhancement, so our servicemen must be ready to act. When you also consider the equipment’s like the Nuclear Deterrence and our Aircrafts then you will agree with me you need a military background and training to survive.
Tkbesh!: Care to explain in brief what is your academic background?
Femi soneye: I attended the Nigerian Navy Primary school in Apapa, Lagos, from where I also did my high school at the Randle High School, also in Apapa, Lagos.I got a diploma from Royalway College in Yaba, Lagos before proceeding to the University of Calabar.I also attended Maclay in Sydney, Australia, and also briefly attended the Montgomery College in Maryland, U.S.A.
Tkbesh!: With your experience and qualifications, you could have chosen to work with any free government. Nigeria or otherwise. Why did you choose to work for the United States government? Is this based on merit or political?
Femi Soneye: Like I said earlier, I decided to serve the U.S government and was fortunate, there was an opening, I passed through the entire criterion, and was selected. It was the will to serve. It’s purely on merit and the will to serve.
Tkbesh!: With United States withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan and Iraq some people think US could linger around a bit more. Don’t you think the Iraq and Afghan government are ready to curve the terrorism and effectively run their respective government?
Femi Soneye: The United States position is that it will not stay a day longer than needed in any of these two countries. With our mission in those areas terrorism has reduced tremendously. I want to quote the comment of commander in chief of the armed forces, president Obama; our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.” In the case of Iraq we have withdrew, and no combat troops are there any more, what we have are support troops with counter insurgency strategy.
Tkbesh!: PTSD is very common amongst service men returning from these war zones. Is the presidency doing all they can to help the transition?
Femi Soneye: Yes, the US government is doing a whole lot to treat service men and women with Post- Traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. After each deployment we all get mandatory checks with mental health care giver, and we have periodic checks and it’s available to all service men and women in their unit. Psychological treatments, including both cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic treatments are available for all in their respective units in helping people manage and reduce their PTSD symptoms.
Tkbesh!: There’s a rumor going around that the United States government is looking into weighing in on the Boko Haram issues in the northern part of Nigeria. Some even said that the US government is branding them a terrorist group. Is this true and to what capacity is the United States involvement?
Femi Soneye: I know that the United States government is providing support for Nigeria to curb the actions of Boko Haram, I am also aware that the State Department considered labeling the group a Foreign Terrorist Organization, FTO. The Nigerian Government through its Ambassador in the US has put up a strong defense against this action and the ambassador, Prof Adefuye has been able to provide a case for Nigeria and the state department rather than label Nigeria, are now providing assistance in helping to reduce their excesses and also help to solve the social and economic problems that brought the group.
Tkbesh!: Lastly, you must travel a lot between different countries. How has this affected your family?
Femi Soneye: Yes I have, it has taking me to every continent, if you look at all what we do like, Personnel Recovery, PR, Disaster rescue and humanitarian assistance, agile combat support, Global Precision Attack, Global Integrated Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, Cyberspace and air superiority and many more you don’t get to sleep often at home. My family understands and rather it has impacted positively.
Tkbesh!: There was an article about a while back in the papers. A US delegate to Nigeria did actually declare that Nigeria is going to be the next giant business economy in Africa. How strong is the business relationship between USA and Nigeria?
Femi Soneye: It is very strong and robust, especially since the appointment of the new ambassador to the US, Prof Adefuye, he is a blessing for Nigeria, as he has organized several trade missions to Nigeria and arranged investment forums with the investors, and most of them are in Nigeria now doing business and employing Nigerians. Nigeria is an ally of the United States and considered a regional giant. Like the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said, if Nigeria can have strong institutions, it will be greater than what it is now.
Tkbesh!: Thank you for your time Mr Soneye
Femi Soneye: You are most welcome Tkbesh
Copyright © Tkbesh!, 2012. All Right Reserved.