Last week’s parade in Simon’s Town, where close on 200 medals were presented for long service in the national defence force, is one of a number of similar parades to be held nationally until year-end.
While it has long been military tradition to recognise long and loyal service – and defenceWeb is not for a minute suggesting it be stopped – the current personnel situation of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) makes the medal parades part of a Catch 22 that senior defence and military management either cannot or are unwilling to find a solution to.
On one hand there seems to be general, excuse the pun, consensus the SANDF should be subjected to a rigorous round of retrenchment. Benefits would be a younger defence force that would take up less of the existing, and shrinking, defence budget.
On the other hand it appears the powers-that-be have not put in place exit mechanisms for those wanting, or having, to leave the uniformed civil service. This could see the ranks of the unemployed – already perilously high – swell even further and this is not wanted.
As the scenario stands, top management including Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and SANDF Chief, General Solly Shoke, are going to have to put on their thinking caps speedily because the longer the delay the worse the problem becomes of older soldiers with no even remotely basic future in Civvy Street.
Suggestions have been made to use recently retired soldiers as the base of a corps to handle sentry and guard duties at military facilities and installations and possibly even national key points. This suggestion has merit and deserves investigation and implementation at the earliest possible opportunity.
It will remove the “rent-a-cop” security presently at the Armscor building which also houses Defence HQ.
Personal experience of no less than four checkpoints on the way in with surly “guards” doing their own impressions of the intimidatory stare before being allowed further. Then, on the way out, gates are opened without any checks and at one checkpoint, no guard in evidence, only a raised boom.
Older soldiers trained and presentable in military uniform – not camouflage, but the smarter step-outs – would be a far better option. Retired SA Air Force Chief, Denis Earp, once told this writer “if someone has to do guard or sentry duty, do it properly or not at all”.
His sentiment still rings true.