Airforce Base Swartkop was the host of the South African Airforce Prestige Awards Evening for the 2018 rotation period. While the guests were arriving the Silver Falcons entertained everyone with a magnificent display of formation aerobatics, while they were busy the weather deteriorated somewhat with a massive storm front moving in from the East.
Gen Glen Warden took to the air in the SAAF Museum Vampire with a very dark stormy backdrop. At that stage everyone was hoping that the storm would be blown to the south of Swartkops, unfortunately that was not to be and soon after the Oryx display by 17 Squadron the heavens opened up and forced everyone into 5 Hangar. A King Air from 41 Squadron did one flypast and then made haste back to Waterkloof to escape the torrential rain.
The function, that was planned to take place in a beautifully prepared area on the main apron, was moved indoors and as a result took on a very intimate feeling with people sitting together that would normally have been at separate tables. All formalities were suspended and members of the SAAF interacted on a very personal level.
While the sound system was set up all the guests were entertained by the SAAF choir, who were dressed in traditional African dress. Bishop Dr Zonas Mbambwa officially opened the evening with a scripture reading and prayer followed by an address by the Chief of the Airforce, LtGen. Zakes Msimang. Gen Msimang very proudly announced that the SAAF was celebrating its 99th birthday and also 25 years of Democracy in our country.
The aim of the Prestige Evening is to showcase the service excellence by bestowing honours and eminence to the sterling work the done by the different SAAF entities and individuals in their varied stations. Gen Msimang explained that the honours to be awarded were adjudicated by the SAAF inspector general through the 2018 rotation period.
Gen Msimang announced that two new categories had been introduced this year and they are:
The chief of the Airforce Award, presented to the service member or unit that rendered the most notable support or service to either the Chief of the SAAF or the image of the SAAF.
The Fledgling Award, presented to the most improved Crèche facility for the year.
After the formal proceedings were completed dinner was served while the SAAF Band entertained the guests. The SAAF band was joined by veteran Jazz musician Mr Jonas Gwangwa. Mr Gwangwa has enjoyed a sixty year musical career and became the first black South African to release an album.
Enjoying a formal military dinner on ones lap was quite a new experience, but it did make for a very informal and very cosy evening far more relaxed than the usual military rigidity. After dinner everyone made their way onto the apron for a fireworks display, unfortunately the planned Rooivalk and Gripen night displays were cancelled.