Before getting into the meat of this column, a few apologies might be in order.
As you may be aware, defenceWeb has been at the South African Navy`s 3rd Sea Power for Africa symposium in Cape Town this week and that has played havoc with deadlines and publication times.
I normally like to publish between 2pm and 3pm and this was often not possible this week. Likewise, the selection of news items became somewhat truncated. For that too, I apologise.
A mea culpa to the Navy too, there is so much to report on the conference I have yet to write. I will endeavour to do so in the next few days…
I`d like to say we`ll be on track today, but I`ve picked up a dose of bronchitis in the Cape and am somewhat under the weather at the moment. I`ll make sure I`m better by Monday and then we will fall back into routine.
To change the subject.
I think all of us attending this week`s event in Cape Town were once again impressed by the Navy`s organisational ability. The event was slickly run and everything happened ion time. One was also impressed by the forthrightness of many of the speakers, especially Vice Admiral Johannes Mudimu, the host, and Rear Admiral Ola Saaid Ibrahim of Nigeria. Neither minced their words.
Perhaps the secret to the Navy`s success lies in its small size. African Armed Forces Journal publisher Peter McIntosh points out the sea service musters 5000 sailors – it is the size of an Army brigade. In other words, it is a small and tight family.
I`m sure that is one part of the equation. Another must be V Adm Mudimu`s mission-orientated leadership style, which is SA National Defence Force doctrine, but not practice.
A further reason must be the Navy`s close meshing of specialist and executive functions. The Navy, for example, has been unique among the service in appointing line officers to media liaison posts – not as a dead end but as part of career-grooming.
A good example is the current Flag Officer Fleet (FOF), Rear Admiral Robert “Rusty” Higgs a diver and submariner who served a tour as navy spokesman before being promoted admiral and assigned responsibility for the directorate maritime warfare. His promotion to FOF was to follow.
More uniquely, they have also given specialists command experience. One of Higgs` successors in the media slot went on to successfully lead a SA contingent assigned to the United Nations and another commanded the Naval College, the maritime service`s officer school.
Speaking for myself, this is surely a model to follow.