The South African military outpost in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is a two-service one headed by the SA Air Force (SAAF) with a recent change of command parade seeing one military aviator replace another as Officer Commanding (OC) Composite Helicopter Unit (CHU).
The new man at the helm is Lieutenant Colonel Lutendo Mahada, previously at SAAF headquarters in Pretoria as a transport planner. He is no stranger to military aviation with a logbook containing hours on the Astra PC7, C208, C172, C212, Falcon 50 and 900 as well as “pilot three” on the Presidential BBJ Zinkwazi (ZS-RSA).
His predecessor, Lieutenant Colonel Chris van der Riet owns a logbook currently standing at four thousand five hundred hours on 13 types. His current DRC tour is not his first – that was completed without mishaps in 2009. He has been CHU OC since January 2022.
Bidding the unit, which comprise Oryx and Rooivalk rotary-winged aircraft and a SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) level two hospital, farewell Van der Riet urged the men and women formerly under his command, to support their new boss like they did him. All on the CHU Goma base were exhorted to “always bear in mind the UN (United Nations) mandate when executing your duties”.