14th June 2017 15:48:36 Hours
On the eve of his retirement, Air Chief Marshal Kolitha Gunatilleke, Chief of Defence Staff paid a courtesy call on the Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Crisanthe De Silva Wednesday (14) morning at the Army Headquarters.
Upon his arrival at the Army Headquarters, the Commanding Officer of the Headquarter Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Anil Somaweera received him before the visitor was invited to take the salute in the Guard Turnout. A few minutes later, a Guard of Honour at the Defence Ministry ground greeted the outgoing Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
Seconds later, Lieutenant General Crisanthe De Silva, Commander of the Army extended a warm welcome to the visiting Air Chief Marshal Kolitha Gunatilleke in the foyer of the Commander’s Secretariat at the Army Headquarters. At the same time, the CDS greeted the Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, Principal Staff Officers and Senior Officers who were present there, together with the Commander of the Army.
During the cordial meeting with the Army Commander, Air Chief Marshal Kolitha Gunatilleke recalled gestures of goodwill, cooperation and close working relationship, both the Army and the CDS office enjoyed during his tenure of service. He also thanked the Army for its exemplary services and humanitarian roles in times of emergencies and national disasters and wished the Army good luck with its future roles.
Lieutenant General Crisanthe De Silva, in return extending his best wishes to the retiring CDS gratefully acknowledged the support he offered the Army all the time. Symbolizing the goodwill, the Commander of the Army presented him with a memento. The CDS reciprocated the gesture.
Towards the end of the interaction, the visiting CDS signed the VIP Book at the Commander’s Office as a formality and took his leave of the Commander of the Army.
Air Chief Marshal Gunatilleke joined the SLAF in 1980 as an Officer Cadet of the 8th Intake. He graduated from the Air Force Academy, China Bay, and was commissioned as Pilot Officer in April 1982. He was awarded his flying brevet on successful completion of his basic and advanced flying training.
His first tour of duty was with No 2 Transport Squadron where he gained proficiency on the Riley Herons and the Avros. It was there that he was picked to become a Flying Instructor. He underwent Flying Instructor Training with the Pakistan Air Force and became a Qualified Flying Instructor.
As a transport pilot, he has flown Antonov An 32B, HS-748 Avros, Y-8s, Y-12s and Riley Herons.
As a flying instructor, Air Chief Marshal Gunatilleke has taught many a pilot in the Chipmunk, Cessna 150, Dove, the Cessna 337, Riley Heron, Avro, SF 260 TP, Pucara, Y-12 as well as the Beechcraft B-200T.
Flying the SF 260 TP and the IA 58 Pucara, Air Chief Marshal Gunatilleke saw extensive action and participated actively in support of all ground operations against the LTTE. His conspicuous gallantry earned him the Rana Wickrama Padakkama and the Rana Sura Padakkama.
He has accumulated over 4000 hours of flying in his roles as a transport pilot, an attack pilot and as an instructor. He possesses a VVIP, Master Green Instrument Rating. He has also held the appointment of the Command Instrument Rating Examiner.
Air Chief Marshal Gunatilleke’s professional development included training at many overseas training institutions. Notable among them are the Command and Staff College, Pakistan, Joint Air Warfare College in India, Air Command and Staff College in Alabama, USA and National Defence College in Pakistan. He participated in the Executive Course of the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Hawaii. Air Chief Marshal Gunatilleke had the distinction of being a member of the first batch to be conferred with the Master of Science (Defence Studies) Degree in Management from the General Sir John Kotalawala Defence University.
During his career spanning over three decades, Air Chief Marshal Gunatilleke has Commanded No 1 Flying Training Wing and No 2 Transport Squadron. He served as the Staff Officer Operations at Air Force Headquarters. He completed a tenure as Base Commander SLAF China Bay. As Base Commander SLAF Katunayake, Air Chief Marshal Gunatilleke was at the helm of the largest of the SLAF’s bases.
He was appointed to Air Force Headquarters as the Director Training in January 2008 and served in that capacity till he was called to take on the responsibility of the appointment of the Director Air Operations. In this capacity he was responsible for the direction of all air operations during the critical latter stages of the Humanitarian Operation, during which the SLAF broke all records in numbers of sorties flown, in the attack, surveillance, CASEVAC and transport roles. Air Chief Marshal Gunatilleke was appointed as the Chief of Staff on 28 February 2011 and held the same position till he was elevated to the appointment of Commander of the Air Force on 28 February 2014. On 1 June 2015 Air Chief Marshal Kolitha Gunatilleke was appointed to the highest appointment in the Military as the Chief of Defence Staff of Sri Lanka.
His service decorations and medals include the Vadamarachchi Medal (1989), Armed Service Long Service Medal (1994), Riviresa Campaign Service Medal (1999), North & East Operation Medal (2000), SLAF 50th Anniversary (2001), Utthama Seva Padakkama (2003), Armed Service Long Service Clasp (2003), North & East Humanitarian Medal (2011), and the Vishishta Seva Vibushanaya (2011).
An Avid Sportsman, Air Chief Marshal Gunatilleke had the distinction of being a member of the Badminton National Pool. He has continued his involvement in sports in the sphere of sports administration as well having held appointments such as President National Rifle Association of Sri Lanka from 2007 to 2009, the Chairman Selection Committee -Badminton in 2010.
Air Chief Marshal Kolitha Gunatilleke and his wife Roshani are the proud parents of Anushka. In his times of leisure and relaxation, he enjoys music, social dancing and reading.