The senior officer currently heading up the Joint Operations Division of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) as acting chief following the death of Lieutenant General Duma Mdutyana is a SA Navy flag officer with more than 40 years of service.
Rear Admiral Derek Christian assumed the post of Deputy Chief of Joint Operations in April this year and was made acting chief four months later.
He joined the maritime arm of the then SA Defence Force in 1975 and joined what was the strikecraft flotilla at Naval Base Durban two years later after successfully completing a B.Mil (B.Sc.) at the Military Academy, Saldanha. He qualified as a bridge watchkeeping officer while serving with the strikecraft flotilla and in 1980 volunteered for the submarine service, at that time employing the French-made Daphne underwater craft. He served in a number of billets, obtaining extensive seagoing and shore-based experience.
After leaving the submarine flotilla, Christian served in a number of posts before being appointed as Senior Staff Officer Maritime Strategy at Navy headquarters in 1996. During this period he was one of the Navy representatives who provided inputs for the 1996/1998 Defence White Paper and subsequent Defence Review.
He was posted to Washington, DC in 2001 as South Africa’s naval and assistance defence attaché. While in the United States he was elected chair of the Naval Attaches Association.
On his return to South Africa in 2003 Christian served as directing staff member at the National Defence College in Thaba Tshwane before his promotion to rear admiral (junior grade) and appointment as the 17th Commandant of the Military Academy. Other appointments during his period of service as a junior grade admiral include director: special projects at Navy headquarters and director: naval logistics.
Apart from functional and military courses, his qualifications include an MBA from the Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, and an MA (International Relations) from Salve Regina University, Newport, Rhode Island. He is also a graduate of the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
He has been awarded the Military Merit Medal, the Legion of Merit Medal (US Navy) and the Tamandare Medal of Merit (Brazilian Navy), among others.
At the time of publication there has been no indication of who will be named as the next Joint Operations Chief and when he or she will move into the hot seat at Zwartkop Park.
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