Armed Forces Day 2016 promises to be bigger and better than any of its three predecessors with more than a thousand servicemen and women expected to be on parade along with more than 100 military aircraft and vehicles.
Add to this no less than six SA Navy vessels off Port Elizabeth in Algoa Bay and the event looks set to be an impressive display of military power from all four arms of service.
SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief President Jacob Zuma will take the salute at the February 21 march- and flypast after laying a wreath at the SS Mendi Memorial in New Brighton. He will also present medals to soldiers and take the salute.
The selection of February 21 as South Africa’s Armed Forces Day is a further commemoration of the country’s worst naval tragedy – the sinking of the troopship SS Mendi in the English Channel on the same day in 1917.
Eastern Province is the first coastal province to host the event and this has paved the way for the maritime arm of service to show its muscle in the form of the supply and replenishment vessel, SAS Drakensberg; the Valour Class frigate SAS Amatola’ the Heroine class submarine SAS Queen Modjadji; SAS Galeshewe, a currently serving offshore patrol vessel, the River class minehunter SAS Umhloti and the Navy’s “White Lady”, the hydrographic vessel SAS Protea.
All ships will be open to the public from February 13 to 16 according to SANDF Corporate Communications.
Among the objectives of Armed Forces Day are, according to Department of Defence head of communication Siphiwe Dlamini to unit South Africans behind their military; to allow the SANDF to interact with communities; to expand public understanding of the military’s role and purpose; to showcase the latest military equipment and technology and to demonstrate combat readiness against threats as well as supporting government in times of peace.
The showcase and demonstrate parts of the event will the Navy show its specialist skills in dealing with pirates; a beach landing by elements of the SA Army; extraction of injured soldiers by SA Air Force (SAAF) helicopters working with SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) emergency medical care practitioners.