A change of command parade was held at South African Army headquarters this morning for the new Deputy Army chief, Major General Lawrence Smith, who replaces Major General Les Rudman from the first of next month.
Smith said the main focus of the Army will remain external obligations regarding peace support and force preparation needed to keep the army fulfilling its duties. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is engaged in peace support operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur, is patrolling the borders under Operation Corona and has committed a battalion to the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC).
Chief of the Army Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo expressed his appreciation towards Rudman and said that the Army is going through a very difficult period but, “I want to assure you we take the South African Army seriously…it’s a national asset and we are dedicating our energies to build the South African Army into the kind of army the people of South Africa can be proud of.”
Rudman said that he planned to continue working following his retirement and was still being interviewed for possible positions. He told defenceWeb he might not necessarily end up in the military field as he is also qualified to serve on company boards (he is a member of the Institute of Directors Southern Africa).
Rudman said he had mixed feelings about leaving the military, which is a family he will always be part of. Upon leaving office on March 31, Rudman will have spent 42 years and two months in the military – 21 years on either side of 1994.
“The South African Army as part of the SANDF has come a long way since 1994. Our common history is one spanning periods of strife and conflict. The fact that we are together here today has taken a lot of work, commitment and effort…we have achieved the seemingly impossible at times. For this we continue to receive acknowledgement from many of our contemporaries in militaries throughout the world,” he said during the parade in Pretoria.
“Let me from my side make use of this opportunity to pay tribute to the majority of you for your professionalism and unselfish efforts to bring peace to our region and the African continent and to commend all members of the SA Army for their sterling efforts to ensure the safety and security of our country,” he told assembled soldiers and guests.
Rudman thanked his family, wife, God and colleagues for the roles they have played in his life and the opportunity to serve with brilliant people in many military organisations. He also thanked the “often unsung support” of the Reserves and friends in the defence industry who have supported the Army.
Rudman congratulated Smith on his new appointment, saying “he brings a vast amount of experience in both the training and operational environments to his post. His ability to manage complex situations as well as his knowledge of and acceptance within our SADC region and the African Union will stand him in good stead.”
In spite of the tough economic climate South Africa, and the world, is experiencing, Rudman was confident the Army has the right young leaders coming in and these are showing great potential. Regarding leadership, the outgoing deputy chief was confident in his replacement, saying he had no advice to give him because he does not need any.
Smith has accumulated decades of experience since entering the South African military in 1975. His operational experience includes serving in the Border War, commanding the SA Protection Support Detachment in Burundi in 2001 and 2002 as well as commanding Sector 5 in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003 and 2004.
Smith commanded the SADC Standby Force military component during Exercise Golfinho in 2008/9 and was appointed head of the African Union Standby Force during the combat readiness exercise Amani Africa in November 2010. More recently he has been involved in the preparation of the African Capacity for Immedaite Response to Crises (ACIRC) force and was deputy exercise director for Exercuse Utulivu Africa 2014.
Prior to being named SA Army second in command, Smith was General Officer Commanding 43 SA Brigade headquarters.