KAMPALA – A cloud of grief hang over Church of the Resurrection in Bugolobi, Kampala, on Thursday morning as hundreds of mourners, including senior army officers, paid tribute to Maj Naome Karungi, who perished in the ill-fated UPDAF Jet Ranger AF302 that crashed on Tuesday in Gomba district.
Karungi died alongside her co-pilot Benon Wakalo after the Jet Ranger AF302 came down at around 12pm as the two soldiers flew back to Entebbe from Mubende district where they had gone for an air force training exercise.
Speaking during the requiem mass, the Uganda People’s Defence Air Forces (UPDAF) Chief of Staff, Brig. Charles Okidi, said Karungi was a very brave officer, who sometimes did tasks that even men could not do.
“She was a very brilliant officer who could listen to corrections. During operations, she was not just a normal officer. She was so brave that she could do anything that men could do and did it with passion,” Brig. Okidi said.
Mourners could hardly hold back their tears after it was revealed that Karungi was set for an instructors’ course in the US so she could be able to train other pilots.
“She had been nominated to go for a pilot instructors’ course in the US because we thought if she became an instructor, her patience would give others ample time to learn,” Brig. Okidi said.
Jacqueline Akello from the US embassy in Kampala added: “She was supposed to go in February and her visa was ready. As I was trying to clear her documents, the news was broken to me that she had died in a crash. It struck me,”Akello said.
MKarungi was born in December 1978 in Akajumbura, Nyakahita, Kiruhura district while Wakalo was from Manafa district. Maj Karungi attended Kasambya Primary School in Lyantonde, before joining Kinoni Girls Secondary School in Mbarara district, now Rwampara.
She joined Makerere University in 1999 where she did a degree in Social Sciences and graduated in 2002. She briefly worked with Kampala City Council, now Kampala City Authority.
She later joined the army in 2004 for basic military at Kasenyi training school in Entebbe. After the military training, Maj Karungi did and highly passed the aptitude tests to qualify for a course at Soroti Flying School. The interview was conducted by the Civil Aviation Authority on behalf of the Airforce
In 2005, she went to Soroti Flying School where she acquired Pilot Private License. With this qualification, she could fly planes with fixed wings.