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Article by Sgt Tebogo Kekana, photos by Cpl Mabelina Mokoatle and Musiki Singo, 5ASU

There are plenty of activities this week around Durban, eThekwini Municipality that lead to the Armed Forces Day Parade next week. One of the aircraft on static display at the fan park is the South African Air Force’s (SAAF) Augusta 109.

F Sgt Hennie Snyman from 68 Air School and Sgt Sewela Tsele with learners from eMbali Pietermaritzburg

More than 16 schools from in and around the Durban area swamped the display tents put up by the different Arms of Service of the SANDF. F Sgt Hennie Snyman, a SAAF Technical Facilitator at 68 Air School has had more than a 1000 graduates pass through his hands. “I find satisfaction in seeing my former students work excellently on Hawks and Gripen, they master the craft of working on bombs. I watch them with pride seeing all the fears that they came with fade away, as they pass on the passion of what they master with school learners who come to ask about what we do. The school learners want to pose for selfies with the bombs, unfortunately they can not, safety first.” Flight Snyman is a veteran of 18 years in his current field and still enjoys every minute of it.

17-year-old Siphesihle Ngubane, from Adams College in Amanzimtoti said, “I am grateful to be part of the few who gets to understand what exactly the military does. The information I got here has inspired me to do more and help change the narrative of what soldiering is about, in whatever small way I can. I have watched many movies where soldiers were all about guns and killing, today I learnt that they stay awake to keep us safe while we sleep, and help keep Africa safe.”

17 year-old Siphesihle Ngubane and Londeka Thabethe from Adams College in Amanzimtoti

While the learners were taking rounds at the stalls, someone whispered to the group that the SAAF will be giving flips around the area, they all ran out without even thinking twice. That’s when Astra Magazine caught up with the fittest girl who outran the rest to be the first one going to fly.

She hurriedly wipes the sweat on her face and introduces herself as Sphephelo Luthingo, 16-year-old matriculant doing Mathematics and Physical Science. Her face lights up and eyes sparkle as she huffs and puffs saying, “This is something that every young person in the rural areas dream of. Getting a variety of career paths under one roof, is special, especially if it means working for the country in uniform. For me, this is my special meeting with destiny, hopefully the military remembers me, I am an orphan and the fear of not realizing my dreams next year paralyses me. If they don’t remember me, I will remind them the day I knock at their Pretoria office.”

16 year-old matriculant Sphephelo Luthingo who aspires to be a member of the Air Force

Londeka Thabethe struggled to name just one highlight she will never forget about the Armed Forces in Durban, she says, “I am told that we are safe here, I was worried about the weapons that the soldiers are carrying, those guns scare me. Sgt Sewela Tsele, from Air Force Base (AFB) who is a Safety Officer told me that they have life support equipment so should anything happen, I will survive. I also appreciated the presentation that Sgt Malesela Mabitsela who is a fitter and turner. I wish I could take him home, so that my parents can understand that I am not just being naughty when I try out fixing my dad’s machines.”

Speaking to Sgt Mabitsela, he opined, “I am a servant leader entrusted with my passion to hone, I take pride in doing meaningful work for my community without expecting anything in return. I am amazed by how good doing good automatically attracts more good into ones’s life.”

Sgt Malesela Mothapo explaining a thing or two about 1ASU

As to what is going to transpire this week, one thing is clear, the SANDF has come out to showcase all its capabilities and the locals are yet to marvel at what they have in store for them.

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