SA Army mechanics put best foot forward for Ex Vuk’uhlome

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Judicious application of in-house skills boosted the number of vehicles as well as other essential equipment available for use in the upcoming SA Army division exercise at its Combat Training Centre (CTC) in the Northern Cape.

The skills in the form of Technical Service Corps (TSC) mechanics and technical personnel were instrumental in allowing SA Army Chief, Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha, his commander, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief, General Rudzani Maphwanya and other senior landward force officers to see refurbished, repaired and serviceable vehicles – as it were – rolling – at the Department of Defence (DoD) Mobilisation Centre outside Bloemfontein on Friday.

First billed as “a massive project to move prime mission equipment (PME)” the event morphed into a show of military vehicles regarded as “unserviceable and obsolete for many years” now “in relatively good shape, up and running” according to Army Corporate Communication.

Reporting on Friday’s event, the landward force’s specialist communication unit has it TSC personnel “achieved considerable success in resuscitating these Prime Mission Equipment which comprises of Mambas, which are armoured personnel carriers which are used for internal security purposes, Samil 50s, which are reliable logistical transport vehicles, and Casspirs, which are mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles used to transport motorised infantry troops”. The writer further notes “field stoves and mobile showers were also refurbished and are now fit for purpose”.

The report continues, verbatim: “The headway that was made by these intrepid Technical Service Team is as rare as a hen’s denture and it has enabled them to cement their place in the history of the South African military landscape. In a truly astonishing turn of events they resuscitated numerous prime mission equipment in a short space of time and this had an immense impact on the day-to-day operations of the SA Army. Beyond that, the project also played a significant role by enabling the SANDF, particularly the South African Army, [to save] billions of rands”.

Additionally, the report acknowledges the Cuban military mechanic contingent in South Africa as part of the joint Cuban/South Africa Project Thusano, scheduled to end – with some exceptions – in two years. It states, in part: “it [the “resuscitation”] was a great step forward and a remarkable technical achievement by innovative members from the TSC who benefited tremendously from collaborating with the Cubans. The Cubans subscribe to the maxim that a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle by imparting their skills to the TSC personnel”.

Maphwanya said Technical Service Corps members went to Cuba to accumulate skills and experience, returned to repair SA Army equipment. “I came here and witnessed an old abandoned train they’d fixed and it was rolling. So like a phoenix that rose from the ashes, the vehicles are now up and running, fit for the purpose after being resuscitated by our technical personnel,” he said.

“We initially started by saying millions. We were told by the industry that it is not in the perimeter of millions but actually billions. We had to say to the industry, can they please come on board with their expertise in terms of what we are going to see.”

Over 500 refurbished military vehicles began the move from the Free State to Lohatla on Friday morning for utilisation in November’s Exercise Vuk’uhlome.