ABU DHABI // A milestone in the UAE’s military journey is how Brig Gen Shahwan Al Dhaheri recalls the unification process of the UAE Armed Forces when he witnessed it 41 years ago.
He was 20 at the time and had been serving in the land forces as an armed officer for two years.
“We are the generation that lived the moment the unification announcement was made in the beginning of our military journey,” Brig Gen Al Dhaheri said.
“It was a difficult journey and when Founding Father Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Saeed took this historical decision, it helped us a lot.”
He said the transition also meant an upgrade in terms of training, equipment and overall quality. “Capabilities in general were upgraded,” he said.
With that, the UAE Army gained a strong and stable presence in the region.
Brig Gen Al Dhaheri, who retired in 2002, attributed the order and discipline he adopted in life to his 28 years of service.
He said this benefit was why he encouraged one of his two sons to join the army.
“He is now serving as a first lieutenant because I know this path would benefit his future.”
He stressed the importance for military personnel to meet high standards even if they would not often be involved in conflicts.
“You could serve in the military your entire life and not have your country call on you to fight, but if one day your country needs you, you must be prepared,” he said.
Sarah Saeed, 26, an Emirati student, said it was important the army remained unified and strong to be ready when needed.
“Celebrating unification is critical to make nationals feel secure and protected on a unified front,” she said. “When I look back at the humanitarian efforts and supporting coalitions, it makes me proud. A highly qualified army is important to the development of a nation.”
Her brothers, who are 28 and 18, were enrolled in National Service and Ms Saeed said it reflected positively on their character and social relations.
“Investing in a nation’s military force is productive for its individuals and I have sensed that from my brothers’ experiences,” she said. “They are more resilient now and not as moody as they used to be.
“They’ve been very helpful around the house, they run errands and if there is an emergency, they can deal with it, as opposed to before when they were lazy and dependent.”
Yaqutah Abdullah, a 28-year-old Emirati whose brother has been in the Air Force for five years, was impressed by the sense of commitment army personnel had to the country. Her brother, 26, was summoned to fight with the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen a year ago.
“When he comes to visit, you can tell from his look he has faced extraordinary circumstances,” she said.
“He is always determined to go back.”
He was the first member of the family to be involved in a conflict. They had to overcome fear and sorrow when he was summoned.
“But I feel good that our army has accomplishments and our soldiers are being productive, not just sitting in offices,” Ms Abdullah said.
“My brother’s personality has come a long way since he joined the army. Now he is strong and has become accountable for his actions.
“He is more committed to the family now, he used to always spend time with his friends, but now he takes more care of us when he is around.”