AFB Ysterplaat



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22 Squadron
35 Squadron
110 Squadron
80 Air Nav School
2 ASU - Detached
505 Squadron


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AFB Ysterplaat is the current golden leader in excellence in the South African Air Force. Snugly facing Table Mountain and within walking distance from the shore, the people of AFB Ysterplaat state publicly that they are infected with ‘mountain fever’. Symptoms of this phenomenon include frequent smiling which is a byproduct of deep-seated humour, intense loyalty to the South African Air Force, an eagerness to create something out of nothing, a willingness to assist beyond a job description and a tendency to place duty before self.

AFB Ysterplaat is the manifestation of human magnificence where a base has miraculously arisen from the debris of closure and retracted resources. . During the previous rationalization cycle, the South African Air Force decided to close down AFB Ysterplaat, a strategic decision which had to be reversed after resource allocation had already been withdrawn from the base. Many people were transferred and many left the South African Air Force. Facilities deteriorated and systems collapsed, yet remaining staff continued to drive the winding down process.

In 2004 it was decided to appoint Col Kobus Butler as Officer Commanding of AFB Ysterplaat and he found only one resource left with which to revive the derelict base - the people. With only this human resource, Col Butler has managed to turn a doomed base into the flagship of the South African Air Force.

Col Butler commends his staff and says: “It’s the people, it is they who have done everything. They came in after hours to paint the offices, they clean the toilets and mow the lawns with their own equipment.” Radical changes are however driven by leadership. Col Butler restored trust in the South African Air Force at the base. He also reintroduced meaning in the working environment of his staff and believes that the more one encourages people, the more initiative they will display. Col Butler’s reverential approach towards his staff is to address the problem, not the person. In this manner neglected duties can be rectified without harming the dignity of the individual.

Col Butler implements micro-management and has the philosophy that if something is broken it should be fixed immediately before a small hitch turns into a costly problem. “If there is a loose tile, fix it today. Tomorrow you will be used the loose tile and when more tiles become loose you will ignore it until it becomes ugly and expensive to replace”, explains Col Butler. He has his finger on the pulse and knows at every moment of the day the progress of all management issues. He makes it his business to turn even the most down to earth production matter into a management issue, such as determining delays in the installation of a fly screen for one of the messes. Col Butler knows what is happening - not because he wants to police his staff - but because they are part of the management of the base. Every morning he meets with his executive management team where the commanders of the squadrons and units share their anticipated daily programme. Potential problems are raised at this congenial meeting and suggested solutions chosen, always with a target date and time. One of the success factors of his management style is his continuous follow-up of outstanding issues which he keeps red tagged until they are entirely solved.

Col Butler meets once a week with all the heads of sections with the overall aim to continuously save costs without impeding efficiency. An excellent example is the base telephone account. Phone cards were introduced for private calls and the number of telephone lines at the base was reduced. Telephone expenditure was reduced from R64 000 to R23 000 within one year.

Upgrading of facilities is evident all over the base where existing material is often reapplied to restore functionality. Personnel have so much zest that apart from renovating the base, various community outreach actions have been initiated, such as the wood of felled foreign trees donated to a needy group in the community.

Although Col Butler and his management team benchmark at other bases to discover more innovative ideas, AFB Ysterplaat is an example of what can be achieved when people pull together under sound leadership. Congratulations AFB Ysterplaat, you are an asset to the South African Air Force!

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