Wg Cdr Andy Mensah (Rtd) honoured by Ghana Air Force
On Thursday, January 19, 2023, Wing Commander Andy Mensah (Rtd) was, in an impressive ceremony at the Air Force Headquarters, Burma Camp, led by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Frank Hanson, honoured by the Ghana Air Force for his service to God and country. His name was engraved in gold on a monument at the Air Force Headquarters, Burma Camp.
Welcoming guests, who included former Chief Justice Her Ladyship Justice Sophia Akuffo, former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air-Marshal Michael Samson-Oje, Generals/Marshals and senior officers of the Ghana Armed Forces(GAF), members of the Ghana Military Academy Intake 7, classmates of Wg Cdr Mensah at Mfantsipim School, Mfantsipim Old Boys Association (MOBA) 1961, AVM Hanson, described Wg Cdr Andy Mensah as an outstanding officer.
The Chief of Staff eulogised Wg Cdr Andy Mensah, and thanked his wife, Marian Mensah, for her excellent support to her husband. Apart from the citation immortalising him, Wg Cdr Mensah was presented with a miniature citation to adorn his hall with. The AVM also quoted from a previous article in which I stated: “In my recent article titled “Give me my flowers while I can smell them,” I appealed to Ghanaians to make Ghanaians they admire know of their admiration for them, because of their contributions to life locally, nationally or internationally. I added that we should not wait till they lie stiff in their “chop-box” as my son called his grandpa’s casket, before heaping praises on them. I concluded the article with the question below:
“Has Ghana honoured our deserving heroes?”
In September 2001, Zimbabwe’s Centre for Peace Initiatives in Africa (CPIA) honoured the first African United Nations Force Commander, Ghana’s General E. A. Erskine, by naming a Centre after him called the “General Erskine Research and Documentation Centre” (GERDC). With his death in 2021, hopefully a monument will be named after him posthumously.
However, there is a waiting opportunity to honour Ghana’s second United Nations Force Commander and former CDS General Seth Obeng while he is alive.
While there certainly are others, I have restricted myself only to the institution I know well, the military.
As Bob Cole said, multitudinous platitudes heaped during Thanksgiving Services mean nothing to the deceased as they lie stiff in the “chop-box” as a little boy called his grandfather’s casket!
While they are alive, let us give deserving individuals the recognition, praise and honour for their contributions to Ghana/humanity, and also to encourage the younger generation to make sacrifices, in the words, “Give me my flowers while I can still smell them.”
So, who is Wg Cdr Andy Mensah (Rtd)?
Wg Cdr Andy Mensah
A product of Mfantsipim School (MOBA 1961), he enlisted in the GAF as an Officer Cadet in 1963. He was commissioned in 1965 into the Ghana Air Force, and won the Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah Award for the best trainee pilot on commission as a Second-Lieutenant.
In 1967, he was one of six pilots and two Air Traffic Controllers Ghana sent to Zaire, now Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to help stabilise the political situation.
A Qualified Flying Instructor (QFI) as the then Major Mensah was in 1976, he headed the Flight Training School, Takoradi, where Ghana’s Air Force pilots are trained. At the time, the Air Force used Army ranks until the change in 1978. Not surprisingly, with his instructors Capt. Awuku, Capt. Mante, Capt. Quaison, etc., he produced former Chiefs of Air Staff (CAS) like Air Marshal Samson-Oje, AVM Nagai, and also pilots like Gp Capt. Forjoe and Sqn Ldr Ebo-Bartels.
Wg Cdr Mensah was one of the first Ghanaian officers to graduate from the Nigerian Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji-Kaduna in the early 1980s, after an outstanding performance.
He honourably retired from the GAF in 1983.
He would, for the next six years, serve as the Director-General (DG), Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA). Subsequently, he worked as the Director-General, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), headquartered in Dakar, Senegal.
In all the appointments, he excelled as a leader with an unmatched sense of humour in defusing difficult situations. Subordinates felt very comfortable under his leadership and, therefore, gave their best.
At the 80th birthday party of Wg Cdr Andy Mensah on October 1, 2022, AVM Hanson promised to honour Wg Cdr Mensah (Rtd). True to his word, the AVM presided over the function to honour him at the Air Force Headquarters on January 19, 2023. In the words of Wg Cdr Andy Mensah to the AVM, “Sir, you have also by this event, exhibited your integrity to live by your word as an officer.”
Quoting Abraham Lincoln’s famous saying that “a nation which does not honour its heroes will not long endure”, Wg Cdr Mensah emphasised the importance of being fair and firm, disciplined and speaking truth to power without being rude. Recognition of merit is important for institutional development. He paid a tribute to former Chief of Air Staff, Air Cdr K.K. Pumpuni (Rtd), whom he called “my mentor.” He also complimented Her Ladyship Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo, Chairperson of the Board when he was the DG, Ghana Civil Aviation Authority.
Significantly, Wg Cdr Mensah stated that he hoped the other Services, Army and Navy would do likewise, as I stated in previous writings as follows;
“Charity, it is said, begins at home! The Air Force has set the pace! Knowing the Navy, they are coming slowly and steadily, but surely.”
I guess the Army has already warmed up to give the first African UN Force Commander, Gen. Erskine, a posthumous recognition soon, and also our second Force Commander of UNIFIL, Gen. Seth Obeng, who is very much alive.
Once again, Ghanaians in positions of authority, please do not leave recognition to institutions only! Our heroes must be nationally recognised. That way, when the question “Is Ghana worth dying for? asked, an answer can readily be given!
Remember the saying, “give me the flowers while I can still smell them!”
Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!
The writer is former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association, Nairobi, Kenya & Council Chairman, Family Health University College, Accra.