National Inclusion Week: Abbas Salihu – Ministry of Defence
Warrant Officer (WO1) Abbas Salihu is Vice Chair of the Armed Forces Muslim Association and has recently completed Hajj.
I am currently based in the University of London Training Corps, but originally from Jimeta, Nigeria. My role is to support the Commanding Officer in delivering the requirements of the Officer Training Corps Directive. I am also responsible for maintaining discipline and standards, whilst nurturing the social and moral development of Officer Cadets.
Prior to joining the Army, I was a professional Judo player. It was privilege to represent my country in International tournaments in Africa, Europe and beyond. This activity continued when I joined the Army, I was one of the Army elite full-time athlete training at the University of Bath.
During my training period I won several medals and awards for my Corps (RLC), the Army, UK Armed Forces and my country. When I was a Corporal, I was the first black and first junior soldier to captain both the Army and UK Armed Forces Judo Team. Now I have turned to coaching the Army Judo team.
I decided to join the Army after my friend, who is still serving, recommended it. I was aware that both black and Muslim soldiers have served in both World Wars in the British Armed Forces. However, I didn’t expect the level of diversity within the British Army, there are people serving from many different religious backgrounds and many different networks to accommodate this.
The Armed Forces Muslim Association (AFMA) and my Unit have been great in supporting me during Ramadan — particularly when I was in Afghanistan in 2013. The network provides a sense of belonging as well as the assurance that I can speak to someone who understands the religion (Imams) for spiritual guidance and also some senior officers that can provide mentoring/advice accordingly.
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My highlight of being in the UK Armed Forces has to be the opportunity I was given recently to go to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj. For me, as a Muslim serving soldier in the UK Armed Forces, to be given the chance to perform that once in a lifetime pilgrimage is an honour.
The Army ensures that everyone is able to maximise their potential, irrespective of their background. In my case, this included receiving full time elite athlete training and the opportunity to further my education through an Army funded degree. As a result, I became a Regimental Sergeant Major and Warrant Officer Class 1 within 16 years of being in the Army.