Air force base honours members

Athina May

With polished black boots and crisp navy-blue uniforms, Air Force Base Ysterplaat servicemen and women fell into formation at the annual award ceremony to acknowledge those who have devoted their lives to serving their country.

As a helicopter flew overhead, a drum roll by the air force marching band ushered in Lieutenant General Fabian Zimpande Msimang and the parade master to inspect the parade.

Then it was time for the medals to be presented. First up were those presented with the Tshumelo Ikatelaho ribbon for general campaign service.

Next were those who received the Mandela Medal bronze award, which was instituted in November 2014, and is given to servicemen and women who personally provided medical care and attention to former president Nelson Mandela during his final illness or performed duties during the memorial service.

While award recipients stood in formation, the Medal for Loyal Service, which is given to members who have served the military for 20 years, was presented to Lieutenant-Colonel Wilfred January and Candidate Officer Hurbert Arendse who have both served the base for many years.

Lieutenant-General Msimang addressed the air force members and their families, saying the men and women of the force were symbols of South Africa’s strength.

“We witness one of the defence force’s most outstanding traditions, where we publicly reward and recognise the extraodinary achievements of profound service by our men and women in blue. Military medals are proudly displayed by soldiers around the world as a symbol of honour, bravery, loyalty and dedication to their country.

“The South Africa Air Force (SAAF) played an active role in humanitarian relief in Mozambique and single-handedly stabilised Burundi. You eliminated M23, which was a major threat to security in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).You must be saluted for your role, and we are blessed to have such quality of servicemen,” he said, adding that the medals made of “sweat, determination and guts”.