SA Army Air Defence Artillery School Inaugurates its 6th Officer Commanding, 9 March 2017, Kimberley

Article by Lieutenant Marumo Machete, SA Army Corporate Communication
Photographs by Candidate Officer Dave Moreroa, Air Defence Artillery School

As the early sun rays shone on the grounds of Air Defence Artillery School in Kimberley on the morning of 9 March 2017, it became apparent that the winds of change were once again blowing at this premier Air Defence Artillery Centre of Training Excellence with gunners finalizing preparations for the change of command parade.
Situated in the Northern Cape’s Diamond City of Kimberley, Air Defence Artillery School is tasked with force preparation of a ground-based air defence capability in the SA Army and is thus an apex corps training institution of the SA Army Air Defence Artillery formation.
Air Defence Artillery School and the neighbouring 10 Anti-Aircraft Regiment were a hive of activity as gunners eagerly put the last touches to what was to become a memorable Change of Command Parade that would give the ADA Corps an opportunity to showcase its unity of action and a commitment to the gunners’ time honoured tradition of honouring their own in pursuit of a collective future steeply grounded on a rich history and allegiance to the Corps.
This was of course going to be the sixth Handing and Taking Over Parade at Air Defence Artillery School following the unit’s establishment in 2000 as an entity on its own, separate entirely from 10 Anti-Aircraft Regiment and it was Colonel Lufuno Mafune’s turn to take over the reins of command from his predecessor Colonel Leon Puckree, who has been at the helm since his ascension taking over from Brigadier Generals Sandile Hlongwa, now General Officer Commanding the Formation in 2015.
Colonell Mafune becomes the sixth Commanding Officer of ADA School since 2000.
An hour before midday, a 10 Anti-Aircraft Battery in Review garbed in full ceremonial patties and cravat and preceded by men and women from Army Band Kroonstad marched onto the Air Defence Artillery School parade ground signaling the beginning of the day’s official festivities. Commanded by the all-female team of Major Nicolene Oosthuizen and her parade Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer 2 Kelebogile Motsamai, the gunners of Kimberley proudly strode their sharp drills to honour the outgoing Officer Commanding while welcoming the incoming.
Addressing the parade as main functionary, Colonel Puckree thanked the General Officer Commanding Air Defence Artillery Formation, Brigadier General Hlongwa for having confidence and entrusting him with the mammoth responsibility of leading the unit.
He also poured his heart out to ordinary members of his unit and those from sister unit, 10 Anti-Aircraft Regiment for their support throughout his stewardship.
Colonel Puckree highlighted the importance of unity of action focused on attaining the unit’s force preparation objective, a phenomenon he witnessed while Officer Commanding.
“The bloodline of any military unit is embedded in the actions of the unit’s junior leaders, the management of its middle managers and the precise and correct directions and support from its top structure,” Colonel Puckree said.
He added that under his command, with the tireless contribution of all members of both Air Defence Artillery School, the contribution of 10 Anti-Aircraft Regiment gunners and guidance of Air Defence Artillery Formation, the unit managed to “effectively conduct major Army events with seamless success.” The events included the 2015 SA Army Fittest Soldier Competition and the Extended Army Command Cadre Conference in 2016.
Col Puckree urged Air Defence Artillery School members to rally behind the incoming Officer Commanding, Colonel Mafune in making the finalization of the unit’s relocation to Ermelo, Mpumalanga, a success.
Plans to relocate Air Defence Artillery School have been set in motion a few years ago and the unit is now in the final stages of the movement process, a phase expected to be completed under Colonel Mafune.
Delivering his welcoming address at a function following the parade, Colonel Mafune commended his predecessor for the manner in which he handled the change of command transition.
Colonel Mafune, a former Umkhonto we Sizwe cadre, seasoned gunner, trainer and commander who went through the ranks as an Air Defence Artillery officer, went on to point out the seriousness and importance with which he considers his appointment as Officer Commanding saying: “As I accept this mammoth responsibility, I do so with a great sense of humility and commitment to serve. I recognise that my appointment here is not meant for personal gratification, but for the sole purpose of serving the best interests of my corps, the mighty SA Army Air Defence Artillery.”
The incoming Officer Commanding Air Defence Artillery School reiterated Colonel Puckree’s confidence in the commitment of his unit’s members and that of other Air Defence Artillery units and Formation’s Headquarters to rally around the same goals.
“As I ascend the highest position of authority here at Air Defence Artillery School, I am well aware that I stand on the shoulders of giants who came before me and served in this capacity with aplomb. I stand firm knowing that I have the support of a great team of soldiers; gunners with the attitude, skill and determination to strive for success and excellence no matter the challenges that lie ahead,” Air Defence Artillery Mafune said.
The Officer Commanding Air Defence Artillery School challenged all gunners to put their shoulders to the wheel and maintain the unit as a premier provider of top notch ground-based Air Defence Artillery training.
“As we commit to take Air Defence Artillery School to greater heights, I cannot overemphasise the importance of integrity, unquestionable military discipline, patriotism, a commitment to serve and respect for fellow soldiers regardless of rank. These are the values that will propel us towards realising our vision of being an SA Army Air Defence Artillery Centre of Excellence,” Colonel Mafune concluded.
The pomp and ceremony was followed at the after-parade function by the Tswelopele Correctional Services entertainment band that belted covers of contemporary local hits as well as taking guests through the memory lane with offerings from their wide music catalogue.
Among those in attendance were 5 Army General Officers, the host and General Officer Commanding Air Defence Artillery Formation, Brigadier General Sandile Hlongwa, former Air Defence Artillery Formation General Officer Commanding and now Chief Director Defence Material Acquisition Management and soon to be Chief Logistics, Major General Jabu Mbuli, General Officer Commanding SA Army Infantry Formation, Major General Rudzani Maphwanya, Chief Director Human Resources Management, Major General Catherine Motlhabane.
Air Defence Artillery School conducts 25 to 26 accredited learning programmes as part of its mandate to train a credible, cohesive joint air defence artillery capability for the SA Army.