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The best of 2017 celebration: Prestige Awards and Prestige Parade 
Article by Lebogang Mametja; Ad Astra Journalist and Photos by Cpl Mabelina Mokoatle

The South African Air Force (SAAF) executed two of the most important events in its calendar on the 1st and the 2nd of February 2018,the South African Air Force Prestige Awards and The Prestige Parade respectively.

The Prestige Award Evening as well as the Prestige Parade are events in the South African Air Force that are of utmost importance that seek to recognise the achievements of excellence by the best performing directorates, air force bases, units and squadrons during the year 2017. The winners of the awards were chosen through intricate, thorough evaluation and audit processes conducted by multiple inspectors from the SAAF inspectorate during the 2017 assessment year, based on the criteria of the European Foundation for Quality excellence Model (EFQM).

The attendees at the Prestige evening were guided through the evening’s proceedings by Col Danie Van Der Westhuizen and Captain Mandisa Mfeka. The host squadron for the evening, 28 Squadron, AFB Waterkloof, was decked in a beautiful crystal setting, coupled with white tables and chairs. The talented SAAF choir serenaded the guests with spectacular musical numbers.

Prestige evening MC's Col Dannie van der Westhuisen and Captain Mandisa Mfeka

The guests at the Prestige evening were treated to a special musical performance by the Honorary Colonel to the Air Force Headquarters Unit, Colonel Yvonne Mhinga, better known by her stage name as, Yvonne Chaka Chaka. The Colonel sang a song in commemoration of the late, great Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, a song titled ‘Amazing Man’.

Colonel Yvone Chaka Chaka addressing the guests prior to performing

The time had come to hand out the long awaited and well deserved Prestige awards for the year 2017. A total of nineteen awards were handed out during prestige evening to well deserving directorates, air force bases, units and squadrons.

Lt Colonel C. Burnell received the Best Flying Unit award on behalf of 44 Squadron; AFB Waterkloof. Lt Colonel Burnell was asked by Ad Astra what the award meant to her and she replied and said “It signifies team work. The unit has worked very hard as a team to work towards something great and go from nothing to something.” She added that it took having a clear common goal in the unit to be able to win such a prestigious award.

Chief of the Air Force Lt Gen F.Z. Msimang and best flying unit award recepient OC 44 Sqn Lt Col C. Burnell

With ambitions to win the award again Lt Col Burnell was asked what improvements she would implement to ensure that 44 Squadron wins the award again, “We need to focus on the daily small successes because they can add up to big successes such as winning this award. Planning ahead and having a clear thought out strategy helps a lot as well” she said.

The Prestige Awards Evening was followed by the Prestige Parade on the 2nd of February 2018. Prestige parade took place in order to celebrate the winners of the Prestige Evening Awards. In celebration of the winners, various South African Air Force aircraft displays decorated the skies above AFB Swartkop West.

Lt General F.Z. Msimang addressed the crowd of uniformed members and civilians and said “I salute each and every woman and man of the South African Air Force, uniformed and civilian, permanent force and reserve force, who through your commitment and passion to serve, ably met the challenges of 2017 with a high level of purpose-unleashing creativity, decisiveness and bold collective action.”

During the commencement of the Prestige Parade the Chief of the Air Force (CAF) presented Air Force Base (AFB) Langerbaanweg with an award as overall winner of 2017, saying “Last night, at the prestige award evening, we celebrated excellence; the honour of serving with dignity and commitment. The prestige awards recognise exceptional performance among Units, Bases and Directorates in the South African Air Force. We congratulate the Prestige Unit of the Air Force 2017 cycle – Air Force Base Langerbaanweg. Well done!”

CAF, Lt Gen F.Z. Msimang handing over Prestige Unit of the Year Trophy to OC Langebaanweg Brig Gen M. Matanda

The Prestigious events have not only served as a way to celebrate and congratulate the best performing directorates, air force bases, units and squadrons for the year 2017 but has proven as motivation to the Air Force as a whole to work hard, remain disciplined and continue serving with pride and passion.

Congratulations to all the winners at the Prestige Awards!

Winners of various awards are as follows:

The Royal Air Force Training Award

85 Combat Flying School, AFB Makhado

The Aviation Safety Award

15 Squadron, AFB Durban

The Safety, Health, Environment, Risk & Quality Award

SAAF College

The Sword of Peace Award

28 Squadron, AFB Waterkloof

Fire and Rescue Services

AFB Langerbaanweg sharing with AFB Waterkloof

The Myrnel Floating Trophy: Best SAAF Mess for 2017

Combined Mess, AFB Overberg

SAAF Chef of the Year

Sergeant M. Myburgh, AFB Waterkloof VIP Kitchen

Category Best Directorates

Directorate Base Support Systems

Category Best Air Force Base

AFB Ysterplaat

Category Best Flying Units (Permanent)

44 Squadron, AFB Waterkloof

Category Best Air Servicing Units

2 Air Servicing unit, AFB Langerbaanweg

Category Best Protection Squadrons

10 Air Depot, Thaba Tshwane, 503 Security Squadron

Category Best Operational Support Units

Bushveld Airspace Control Centre

Category Best General Support Units

Air Force Headquarters Unit.

Category Best Training Units

Central Flying School Laangerbaanweg

The SAAF SPORT Man of the year in individual sports codes for 2017

Major J.Q. Van Der Walt

The SAAF SPORT Woman of the year in individual sports codes for 2017

Warrant Officer Class 2 Y.E. Naude

Top NCO Achiever of the year 2017

Flight Sergeant J.E. Khoza

Top WO of the year 2017

Senior Warrant Officer C.M. Palmer-Pilgrim


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