Change of plan for aspirant South African Air Force officers who failed fitness test

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Goalposts have been moved – temporarily it appears – for a component of the SA Air Force (SAAF) officers’ forming course (OFC).

The shift is confirmed in a CAF (Chief Air Force) signal signed by Lieutenant-General Wiseman Mbambo and comes in the wake of nine of 16 SAAF personnel selected for course 02/2023 failing the stipulated fitness test requirement.

The three-star’s signal, which defenceWeb has seen, reads in part: “The SAAF should consider affording these aspirant officers an opportunity to become officer’s course qualified. It would be in the best interests of the organisation and indeed its members, particularly those who passed the fitness test, to be allowed to continue with the OFC as planned”.

“A once-off waiver should be granted to the nine learners who failed the fitness test. These members should gradually and progressively physically prepare themselves to undertake and pass the fitness test, two months into the OFC.

“Members who fail the fitness test but pass the course will be recognised as having passed the OFC but would still be required to successfully undertake and pass the fitness test at their respective units to be fully OFC qualified for commissioning/appointment as officers.”

Mbambo’s signal, dated 20 July, ends by asking CDFP (Chief Director Force Preparation) to “ensure” OFC 02/2023 “continues as planned to avoid creating a backlog”.

African Defence Review (ADR) Director Darren Olivier asked how more than half the course failed fitness requirements so soon after passing them during basics. “That indicates deeper issues and I don’t believe waiving the requirement is the correct approach. It creates a bad precedent,” he said.

“This is also unfair to candidates who failed past courses for not maintaining the required level of fitness, as well as those who worked hard to maintain standards despite their course workload. Standards exist for a reason, waiving them is a slippery slope. At the same time the question needs to be asked about what their unit leadership was doing to let it reach this point. This is a leadership failure at multiple levels,” he maintains.