The injunction earlier this year by CAF Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo to “set the eagle free” as part of his vision for a rejuvenated SA Air Force (SAAF) found further expression at what an air force communications officer termed “a reclassification parade”.
The parade, at Air Force Base (AFB) Swartkop in Valhalla, Centurion, last week welcomed a new batch of “aviation artisans” into the ranks of the airborne service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). Proof of his interest in what former ground crew and support personnel of various vital disciplines are to the sharp end of the SAAF was Mbambo’s presence at the parade as review officer.
He told those on parade, as reported by Captain Tebogo August, the reclassification into fully-fledged artisans “is a step in a right and a much-needed boost in the drive toward innovative ideas”.
These, according to the three-star, are “what is needed to propel the air force forward”.
The 93 aviation artisans came through more than a year’s specialist training at nearby 68 Air School in Lyttelton. Here their skills in, among others, radar electronics, aircraft mechanics, aircraft painting, ground electro mechanics, communication electronics and aircraft survival fitting were honed as part of Mbambo’s vision of the SAAF as an air force projecting effective air and space power through innovation in its theatre of operations.
He told the parade at the SAAF’s oldest base he was “confident” the air artisans’ training was of a high standard, in line with that required by legislation.
“Support the larger SAAF and the SANDF with commitment and zeal don’t be too confident or arrogant. A new journey begins, serve with devotion and the organisation will in return, give you space to grow as artisans,” he said.
68 Air School Officer Commanding Colonel Johannes Molomo assured CAF and the SAAF Command Council the new and newly named additions to the ground crew and support personnel ranks were both “prepared and combat ready”.
Another recent effort related to the “free the eagle” initiative was a youth outreach ahead of the Newcastle Air Show in KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday 4 June. This saw SAAF participation, including two Hawk Mk120 lead-in fighter-trainers.