Another step taken in reactivation of SAAF Reserve squadrons
Efforts to reactivate and resuscitate the role of squadrons in the Air Force Reserve Service (AFRS) gained impetus during a special Air Force Reserve Force Squadron workshop. The meeting noted the AFRS is an “invaluable extension and acts as a force multiplier for the capabilities of the SA Air Force (SAAF)” according to the Reserve Force Volunteer. The meeting at the SAAF College in Thaba Tshwane comes almost two years after SAAF Chief, Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang, told the Reserve Force publication he was “addressing the multiple and unforeseen challenges” that, at that time, had seen the SAAF Reserve which once numbered nine squadrons, grounded. “I am confident the Reserve squadrons will soon take to the air again,” he stated, adding the airborne service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) was doing “everything possible, within its limited resources, to achieve the Ministerial priority of rejuvenating the Reserves”. In addition to the workshop, the SAAF Reserve rejuvenation has also seen the appointment of Colonel George Ramaremisa as Acting Director: Air Force Reserves, last year. In June 2002 he was called up by the SAAF Reserves and served in the Air Force Reserves as national co-ordinator for the SAAF’s Siyandiza aviation awareness programme. Ten years later he was appointed Senior Staff Officer Air Force Reserves and in March last year he was named acting director. In this position he serves as a bridge between the defence force and the community as well as managing the SAAF Reserve, according to the Reserve Force Volunteer.
Ramaremisa is also a member of the Air Force Reserve Council, the Air Force Budget Control Committee and the Defence Reserve Board. The SAAF College workshop noted the extra air capabilities provided by the AFRS enable the SAAF to execute it mandate more effectively, efficiently and economically. Msimang told the workshop the Air Force Reserves were important and played “a significant role” supporting the SA Police Service particularly in times of crisis and distress. He also said the current under-funding of the airborne arm of the SANDF has led to a loss of capabilities, capacity and increased maintenance backlogs “placing constraints on SAAF development and transformation goals”. Issues discussed during the workshop included the importance of career planning, pilot remuneration, transformation and AFRS becoming an integral part of the SAAF. “The meeting also resolved to start AFRS operational camps for ground and air training and get squadrons operational again. Squadrons will be reactivated once all shortfalls have been addressed,” according to the Reserve Force Volunteer. The SAAF Reserve which two years ago marked its 50th anniversary at one stage boasted nine squadrons at air force bases Bloemspruit (two), Durban, Hoedspruit, Makhado, Port Elizabeth, Waterkloof (two) and Ysterplaat.