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SANDF brings out the big guns

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Spectators were entertained by members of the SANDF, including the SA Navy, SA Air Force and the military police

File photo: INLSA

NORTHERN Cape and Kimberley residents are in for a treat over the next few days with spectacular military displays and demonstrations on offer at the Armed Forces Fan Park, which was officially opened at the AR Abass Stadium in the city yesterday.

The fan park was developed as part of the 2018 Armed Forces Day celebrations, which will take place in Kimberley from February 15 until February 21.

The park was yesterday packed with pupils from across the Province, who were able to witness first-hand the capabilities of the men and women of the SANDF.

Spectators were entertained by members of the SANDF, including the SA Navy, SA Air Force and the military police.

Attendees were left in awe following an air show by the air force’s Silver Falcons, a gun run by the SANDF, a hostage demonstration by the military police and a parachute demonstration.

Other items on the programme, which is open to all members of the public from 10am until around 3pm, includes a free-fall demonstration by the special forces, drill artillery by the army, a bridge-laying demonstration, precision drill by navy officers, a gun run, a mock attack, aerobatic and formation flying, as well as fast roping, rappelling and extraction, also by the special forces.

The co-ordinator of the event, General Kobus Butler, said that residents can look forward to a packed variety of events that will take place over the next week.

“The activities started on Monday already when we dispatched bands from the armed forces to various surrounding towns to entertain community members. Ten music events have already been held at various schools in the Kimberley area, as well as at shopping complexes and other centres,” said Butler.

“We will accommodate 12 000 children a day in the fan park. The aim of the fan park is not only to showcase the capabilities of the armed forces but also to educate the children on how they can become members of the force.”

An estimated 1 200 pupils per day will also take part in sporting activities/clinics to be held at several locations in and around the city from today until Tuesday.

“The main event on Wednesday will be the wreath-laying ceremony and parade at the World War I Memorial in Du Toitspan Road, where we will pay respect and homage to the members we lost in the SS Mendi that sank. That was the biggest sea disaster we have ever encountered.

“The ceremony will be followed by a parade through the streets of Kimberley, comprising a flag company, a gun carriage, marching columns, military bands, mechanised columns with hundreds of vehicles and a fly-past by the SA Air Force.” said Butler.

A total of 6 525 SANDF members will participate along with 41 aircraft from SA Air Force, 222 specialised vehicles, 374 operational vehicles, 66 buses and 60 motorcycles.

Butler said that a military capability demonstration would also be held at De Brug Training Area in Bloemfontein, which will include a static firepower exhibition and mechanised attack with air support, which would be open, free of charge, to the public.

According to Butler, this event was moved to Bloemfontein as they could not find a suitable area in the Northern Cape to host it.

“We searched for a venue to host this demonstration but could not find one. We were first thinking of Lohatla but we realised that it will not be big enough to host all the guests who will attend. However, the majority of the events will be in the Northern Cape,” he said.

SA Air Force aircraft that will be participating in Armed Forces Day include Hawk and Gripen, C-130, CASA 212, King Air transports and Rooivalk, Agusta A109 and BK117 helicopters, Pilatus PC-7 trainers, SAAF Museum aircraft as well as a performance by the Silver Falcons Aerobatic display team.

The Chief of Staff of the SANDF, General Vusi Masondo, who opened the fan park yesterday, urged youngsters to get educated and involved in the armed forces.

“The first Armed Forces Day was held five years ago. The first event was held in Pretoria. We realised that this event cannot be held in one day but rather over a week-long period, not only to afford the armed forces time to showcase their abilities but also to spark an interest in the youth,” said Masondo.

“The event has three objectives – to commemorate those we lost in the SS Mendi, to pay homage to our members in uniform and to display our capabilities as armed forces.

“The youth are the future of the country and future members of the armed forces.We want to generate an interest in our activities and attract the best amongst you to join the armed forces,” Masondo told the hundreds of pupils who attended yesterday’s event.

According to the Northern Cape Department of Education, more than 18 000 pupils from across the Province will attend the event over the week-long period.

Premier Sylvia Lucas said that she was honoured that the Northern Cape could play host to the hundreds of men and women in uniform.

“We are extremely excited to host this spectacular display of what is possible in the armed forces. This is also to highlight the available opportunities and career avenues in the armed forces. Joining the armed forces is another way for our youth to get educated and skilled.” She added that local communities have received the event with open arms.