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 SAAF inaugurates new SMAF

By Amn Lebogang Ramaboea, AD ASTRA magazine and photos by WO2 Christo Crous.

The first black Sergeant Major of the South African Air Force (SMAF) was installed with Ceremonial elegance and splendor. The Change of Office Parade was held at Air Force Gymnasium, south of Tshwane, on 15 October 2008. The day marked the dawn of a new era in the organisation.

WO1 Lefu Daniel Tshabalala the new incumbent brought with him good ideas when he came into his new office. He stepped into the shoes of WO1 Stephanus Johan du Preez, who proudly served the organisation for 41 years.

WO1 Tshabalala was born on 12 November 1957 in Viljoenskroon, in the Free State. His military career started in 1977 when he joined the Bophuthatswana Defence Force. After acquiring army knowledge, he was posted as chief personnel clerk at the Bophuthatswana Defence Headquarters Unit. Then, he became the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of both the HQ Unit and Bophuthatswana Air Force (BAF) in 1990 and 1992 respectively.

Thereafter, he integrated into the South African Air Force (SAAF) in 1995. During his stay in the SAAF, he held many positions including the Sergeant Major of the Inspector General of the Air Force. September 2004 saw him being in charge of the Warrant Officers’ Academy. He completed his Senior Warrant Officers’ Course at the SA Army College in 1989.

The diligent WO1 Tshabalala always sought for more knowledge. An opportunity came in 1996 to study abroad and he took it with both hands. He attended the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Course at the Defence Equal Opportunity Management Institute in Orlando, Florida, USA.

In an interview with AD ASTRA magazine on 15 October 2008, WO1 Daniel Tshabalala said: “ Today I am the happiest man on earth, because I have always worked towards achieving this position. My goal from today is to serve my subordinates, then my superiors. As the first black SMAF, a lot will be expected from me and I am up for the challenge”.

He added that his skin must not be the measuring stick for occupying the office. He said he was looking forward to working closely with Chief of the Air Force (CAF), Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano. He praised his predecessor and pointed out that he would do his utmost to ensure good governance in his new office. WO1 Tshabalala is a proud husband to Mmafumane.

In his parting address WO1 Johan du Preez said: ”This is where trust and respect are born between superiors and subordinates. I enjoyed working with most competent officers and warrant officers, who helped in the molding of my way forward. I have experienced the good and sometimes, in a far lesser way, the not so good. To succeed, you must forget your personal issues and take ownership of our Air Force values.”

WO1 Juan Carlos Perez represented the Argentinean Air Force (AAF) at the inauguration ceremony. In an interview with AD ASTRA magazine, WO1 Manuel Rubidlos from the Spanish Air Force (SAF) said: “ It’s a great honor to come and represent my country here, when the SA Air Force inaugurates the first black person as its SMAF”. He noted that after speaking to the new SMAF he was overwhelmed with the sense that the perfect person had been selected.

CAF, Lt Gen C Gagiano said: “The task of the SMAF is surely one of the most vital and difficult in the SAAF. He has to be a father figure for all Warrant Officers and subordinates in other ranks. In short, he is the guardian of the image of the Air Force. The successor of WO1 du Preez will indeed have a difficult task if they are to equal his achievements. I wish him and his wife Elize a happy retirement, together to enjoy wonderful times of which his official commitments had deprived him in the past”.

Outstanding members have passed through his capable hands and judging from the farewell gifts he got, it is quite clear that he was much loved. That goes to show that the clothes and manners do not make the man, but when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance.

Ends/lr

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