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 USAF delegation visits SANDF

By CO Solomon M. Kotane, Ad Astra magazine

Photos by Cpl Mapitsi Emily Mamabolo, (Media Liaison Unit) and Lt Col Micheal K. Webb (USAF, War College)

Eighteen United States Air Force (USAF) Air War College (AWC) students and faculty advisors ended a five-day visit to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) by paying a courtesy call on the South African Air Force (SAAF) headquarters on 15 March 2008.

Led by the faculty head, Dr Daniel Henk, the delegation sought for an opportunity to further their studies of the South African strategic and regional issues of government, military, industry, health and education. The students were in the ranks of Lieutenant Colonels and Colonels selected from all branches of the US military and public service members of equivalent grades.

Addressing the students at the SAAF headquarters, Brigadier General (Brig Gen) Hugh Tredgold Paine, Director Air Capability Plan (DACP), summarised the strategic overview of the SAAF. The General also said: “The SA Air Force needed a capacity that was able to reach well beyond its national borders”.

“Shortage of experienced human resources would continue to be the single biggest obstacle to operational readiness,” the General explained. Also, that innovative leadership was required to deal with the many change requirements”.

Asked by a member of the delegation, whether South Africa was working jointly with other members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on aviation problems, General Paine lamented that “it was still early days”. We needed to be very cautious, he noted, lest we would be seen as dominating some regional states. We require, he said, huge corporation in some land-based operations.

Talking about the need to retain professionals, many of whom are said to have either left or to be considering exiting the Air Force for greener pastures elsewhere, the General indicated that South Africa had consistently held warm military relations with the US. General Paine gave an example of synergy training that continued to take place in the marines. This interaction, he reckoned, continued to take place despite the “intermittent socio-political changes in both countries.

According to Col Byron Clay, (US Satellite/Space Operation), one of the two black members of the delegation, the trip had been an eye-opener to many members of the team. It was the first time for almost all the members to visit South Africa. Col Patricia McGinnis, was the only female member of the US group.

The US team included the following members:

a) Capt Erick Stillwell, AWC Faculty
b) Col Glenn Ferguson
c) Col David Holliday
d) Col Lee Randsell
e) Lt Col Charles Greenwald
f) Lt Col Jeffrey Palmer
g) Lt Col William Routt
h) Lt Col John Carl
i) Lt Col Harold Rogers
j) Lt Col Ronald Elrod
k) Lt Col Kimberley Greene
l) Lt Col Micheal Thomas, and
m) Lt Col James Peccia.

Referring to the budget reduction in the SAAF, the General pointed out that it impacted negatively on the aviation crew. It led to “moderation of expectations”, he said. Furthermore, he opined that some of the members, departed for wrong reasons. The General believed that “as they arrived in the new destinations, they discovered that they did not belong there. They also realised that they belonged to the Air Force”.

Brig Gen Tersia Jacobs, Director Corporate Staff Services (DCSS), hosted the US team and Lt Col Thornton C. Schultz, US Air Attaché escorted them around the country. Other SAAF personnel, who acted as Liaison Officers for the trip included: Lt Nthabeleng Mosalo, Lt Col Basimane Kgasoane, (SAAF Foreign Relations Section), Maj Joy Christie (AFB Ysterplaat) and Lt Patrick Paulse (AFB Langebaanweg).

Some members of the delegation also visited the Robben Island, Constantia Winery, Central Flying School, Armscor and other institutions of interest in Gauteng. The US delegation, which had earlier visited the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), had been offered a marathon 40-hour tuition on South Africa and the DRC before leaving the USA. The students left the RSA on 15 March 2008.

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