CHU’s lone woman mechanic


One of many women actively involved in UN peacekeeping missions is SA Air Force (SAAF) helicopter mechanic Sergeant Joy Mmotong. She and others form the basis of UN website pieces highlighting a major theme of the world body for this year.

“Women in peacekeeping: a key to peace” is a salute to women blue helmets in all 13 UN peacekeeping missions currently running.

Mmotong’s profile features on the MONUSCO website and reports her as an Oryx helicopter mechanic – the only woman in the current eight-strong support team for the five medium transport South African helicopters stationed at Goma. SAAF aircraft mechanics do three month stints at the Composite Helicopter Unit (CHU) in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Mmotong is currently doing her second tour of duty at CHU and the MONUSCO site reports her as saying: “I have conducted missions to Tanzania and Malawi but MONUSCO is the only peacekeeping mission I served so far. If I have the opportunity, I would carry out other missions with the SAAF. Because it’s an honour to serve at least once in one’s life as a blue helmet under the UN flag”.

The 32-year non-commissioned officer has 10 years’ service with the SAAF to date. She joined the military in January 2010 after seeing an advertisement in a local newspaper in Pretoria, her “home town”. Twelve months of training saw her learn the basics of the profession of soldier. In 2011 she joined the mechanics school of the military air fleet and graduated in 2014.

“I was gifted in mathematics and physics at school,” she said adding it was natural once in uniform, she turned to mechanics “even if I didn’t know anything about it before. I am now assigned to maintenance on the Oryx helicopter”.

When not inside or on top of one of the South African medium transport helicopters Mmotong boxes which she says helps her relax. Her other hobby is working at new recipes. “Cooking is like mechanics: one has to be careful and neat. Similarly in aircraft maintenance there is no room for error.”