This year’s recipient of the Sword of Peace, the highest operational award in the SA Air Force (SAAF), is the Directorate: Helicopter Systems.
No further information was provided by SAAF Corporate Staff Services, but it can be reliably assumed the Sword of Peace went to the rotary-wing component of the service for work done in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where a composite SAAF helicopter unit is deployed as part of the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB).
The CHU comprises three Rooivalk combat support helicopters from 16 Squadron at AFB Bloemspruit and five Oryx medium transport helicopters, drawn from either 17, 19 and 22 Squadrons or 87 Helicopter Flying School. The aircraft are manned on short rotation tours by aircrew from the four squadrons and the flying school.
Last year Lieutenant Colonel Stefan King, second in command of AFB Hoedspruit-based 19 Squadron was nominated for the Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage, the UN’s highest peacekeeping award. The award was presented – posthumously – to Malawian peacekeeper private Chancy Chitete.
SAAF helicopters also distinguished themselves in disaster relief efforts in Mozambique in March 2019 following the devastating Cyclone Idai.
Other awards presented by SAAF Chief Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang at the awards evening event last week went to the SAAF Gymnasium (training), 15 Squadron (aviation safety), AFB Waterkloof (fire and rescue), 21 Squadron (permanent flying unit), 5 ASU (air servicing units), 505 Squadron (protection squadron), SAAF Museum (ops support unit) and CFS Langebaanweg (training unit).
The award, along with other annual SAAF awards, were presented a day before the SAAF Prestige Day at AFB Zwartkop on 31 January. defenceWeb has since made numerous enquiries of SAAF Corporate Staff Services, the department tasked with press and public relations for the air force. A list of award winners was received a week after the event with this publication being told, variously, “the list of award winners will be released once it is cleared by human resources” and “we are still waiting for the names of award winners” by staff in Brigadier General Hilton Smith’s department.