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I N F O R M . C O N N E C T . M O T I VAT E . I N S P I R E



CAPTAIN LAURA ILUNGA An Oryx helicopter pilot, Captain Ilunga currrently flies with 15 Squadron at Air Force Base Durban which includes missions for the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces. Photograph: SAAF

CAPTAIN LAURA ILUNGA SOUTH AFRICAN AIR FORCE HELICOPTER PILOT Laura was born in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo; however South Africa has been her home since she was a child. She matriculated from Pretoria High School for Girls in 2003 and attended the University of Pretoria in early 2004 to study toward a BCOM in Accounting Sciences. Laura began her aviation career in the South AFrican Air Force in late 2004 as a student pilot and received her military pilot wings in July 2007 on the PC7MkII Astra. She then studied towards a rotor wing license and is currently flying the Oryx helicopter as a member of 15 Squadron Air Force Base in Durban. Laura also holds a multi-engine Helicopter Commercial Pilot license.

MEET OUR VERY OWN ORYX TOP GUNS UPLIFTING Women’s Day today are four women demonstrating the equal competence of their sex in defence and the ministry. Yesterday, three women of the South African Air Force made history when they became the first women-only crew of a helicopter flight. The flight by pilot Captain Tarryn Bind, co-pilot Captain Laura Ilunga and flight engineer Lieutenant Olwethu Soga, of 15 Squadron, was a first in the 91-year history of the secondoldest air force in the world. The trio were proud and particularly pleased the event had taken place in time for Women’s Day and in Women’s Month. The Oryx flight took off from Durban’s air force base, near the old Durban International airport, and made a 30-minute circuit of Durban. The air force’s theme for yesterday was: “Strong women building a strong SAAF in defence and service of the nation”.


Bind, 27, originally from Joburg, is the first woman to qualify as an Oryx commander at 15 Squadron; she is only the second woman to achieve this in SAAF history. “We are all professionals and we were excited. It was really quite nice having ladies only in the helicopter,” she said of yesterday’s flight. It’s a far cry from her childhood ABOVE: Lieutenant Olwethu Soga, left, Captain Tarryn Bind dream of being a flight attendant and and Captain Laura Ilunga stand proudly in front of an Oryx at another step towards her dream of beDurban s air force base. The trio made history by becoming the coming an astronaut. first all-female crew on an air force helicopter flight when they made a 30-minute circuit of Durban yesterday. Ilunga, 26, described being part of Photograph: Gcina Ndwalane history as “overdue but great”.

She joined the SAAF in 2004 as a pupil pilot and completed the gruelling basic training and officer courses. She then studied at the military academy and got her BMil: Defence and Technology Management through Stellenbosch University, majoring in aeronautical science. She got her wings at the central flying school, Langebaanweg, in 2007. She said: “We need more women in the air force,” adding that she was part of an NGO, Southern Africa Women in Aviation and Aerospace Industry, which aimed to get bursaries for young women who wanted to be in the force. Soga, 28, of Butterworth, in the Eastern Cape, qualified in 2008 as the first and only woman flight engineer in the SAAF. Last year she qualified to take leadership as 16 Squadron technical officer – the person in charge of all technical aspects of running the squadron. Her flying tasks have included night flying, mountain flying, formation flying, night specialist operations, sea rescues, mountain rescues, casualty evacuation, gunnery war simulation exercises, and firefighting and cargo-slinging. Also reaching great heights in her career is Methodist minister Lauren Matthew. Now 33, she became a minister at the age of 28. Now she has been elected to the World Methodist Council steering committee for the youth. Speaking on her thoughts for this Women’s Day, Matthew said: “I think young women have to work really hard to create employment opportunities and a vibrant economy for themselves.” She grew up in Durban North, determined to “be a part of something good” in the world. Today she leads the KwaMashu parish. She says she has had to be a beacon of hope to women and to a community struggling with social problems and the residual effects of apartheid. “But the people are beautiful, strong and courageous. My Zulu is terrible, but they are teaching me and they laugh when I mispronounce things.” As a career, however, she initially had agricultural engineering in mind. “In the end the urge to tell God’s story was bigger than the urge to build bridges or irrigation systems,” she laughed. By Lungelo Mkamba, Bronwyn Fourie




They have what it takes “I have always wanted to be a pilot, not necessarily an air force pilot specifically, but a career in aviation. I heard that the Air Force provides training for free and that is how I got to become an air force pilot. The whole (helicopter training) programme is free but you pay it back with your years of service,” says Ilunga. She adds that the Air Force offers the best training, hence many Air Force pilots are hired easily in the private or commercial sector. According to Ilunga, it takes about three years to be a pilot in the SAAF. Trainee pilots have to undergo basic military training followed by a four-month officer course within the Air Force since one has to be an officer before qualifying as a pilot. This is followed by a one-year course in Aeronautical Science at the Defence Force’s Military Academy. This certificate course is accredited by the University of Stellenbosch. Thereafter, trainee pilots have to do a one-year flying course at the SAAF’s School Lt. Laura Ilunga

In what can be described as an exception to the norm, a group of young women are making a name for themselves in the South African Air Force (SAAF), writes Mbulelo Baloyi.

of Flying in the Western Cape. She says on completion of the one-year course at the School of Flying, the trainee pilots follow their career paths in terms of wanting to pursue a career as a combat fighter-jet pilot, a fixed-wing plane pilot or a helicopter pilot. Those who want to be helicopter pilots then do a three-month training programme at flight schools approved by the Air Force


before doing the rest of their practical training at the SAAF 87

espected worldwide as one of the oldest air forces in the world, the SAAF is widely acclaimed for

the rescue missions it conducted during the massive

Helicopter Flying School in Bloemfontein. Ilunga says being a woman in the Air Force requires females to work twice as hard as their male counterparts.

“As a woman, you have to prove yourself since this is a maleflooding in neighbouring Mozambique in 2000. dominated sector. We do acknowledge that we will never be one At its Durban 15 Squadron Air Force Base, there is an all-female helicopter crew of three pilots and a flight engineer – the only of the guys but yet we have to put in more work as women to female flight engineer in the SAAF. show the men that we can do it. We know Between the four, they have been as women that physically we are involved in search-and-rescue not as strong as men. You missions as well as other have to put in much day-to-day duties. more work, as men Some of these expect more from duties include flying you,” says Ilunga members of the Exassertively. ecutive, including the Although she exPresident and Deputy pects to complete President. her contract in the Among the three female From Left to Right SAAF, Ilunga sees herself pilots who operate the Oryx Lt. Laura IIunga, Lt. Zanele Shabangu , in future working in the comutility medium-transport heliLt. Olwetu Soga. copter is 26-year-old Lieutenant Laura mercial aviation sector piloting longIlunga, originally from Waterkloof in Pretoria. haul commercial aircraft such as the Airbus.


Public Sector Manager • August 2011

SOURCE: Public Sector magazine August 2011.pdf


THE UNITED NATIONS PEACEKEEPING FORCES The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces are employed by the World Organizaton to maintain or re-establish peace in an area of armed conflict. The UN may engage in conflicts between states as well as in struggles within states. The UN acts as an impartial third party in order to prepare the ground for a settlement of the issues that have provoked armed conflict. If it proves impossible to achieve a peaceful settlement, the presence of UN forces may contribute to reducing the level of conflict. The UN Peacekeeping Forces may only be employed when both parties to a conflict accept their presence. Accordingly, they may also be used by the warring parties to avoid having a conflict escalate and, in the event, also to have a struggle called off. The Peacekeeping Forces are subordinate to the leadership of the United Nations. They are normally deployed as a consequence of a Security Council decision. However, on occasion, the initiative has been taken by the General Assembly. Operational control belongs to the Secretary-General and his secretariat. We distinguish between two kinds of peacekeeping operations - unarmed observer groups and lightly-armed military forces. The latter are only allowed to employ their weapons for self-defence. Altogether, 14 UN operations have been carried out. They are evenly divided between observer groups and military forces. The observer groups are concerned with gathering information for the UN about actual conditions prevailing in an area, e.g., as to whether both parties adhere to an armistice agreement. The military forces are entrusted with more extended tasks, such as keeping the parties to a conflict apart and maintaining order in an area.


Photograph: Christo Crous

UN interventions have been in particular demand in the Middle East, both as regards observer groups and military forces. The UN first took on the task of sending observers to monitor the armistice between Israel and the Arab states in 1948. Observer group activity was resumed after the wars of 1956, 1967, and 1973. After the 1956 war, the first armed UN force was established to create a buffer between Israeli and Egyptian forces in the Sinai. Ten nations contributed soldiers. Another force was established after the war between Egypt and Israel in 1967 to monitor the armistice agreement between the parties. This took place during a period of extremely high tension both locally and between the great powers. In 1974, a smaller UN force was set up on the Golan Heights to maintain the boundary line between Syrian and Israeli forces. The most extensive UN operation in the Middle East is represented by the formation of UNIFIL, subsequent upon the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1978. Its tasks included watching over the Israeli withdrawal, maintaining conditions of peace and security, and helping the Lebanese government reestablish its authority. Such tasks have taxed the capabilities of UNIFIL to the utmost, but the UN forces have made an important contribution by reducing the level of conflict in the area. However, this achievement has not come without significant cost. UN casualities now amount to more than 200. The UN played an important role during the struggles that erupted when the Belgian colony of the Congo achieved independence in 1960. As anarchy and chaos reigned in the area, a UN force numbering almost 20,000 was set up to help the Congolese government maintain peace and order. It ended up being, above all, engaged in bringing a raging civil war to an end and preventing the province of Katanga from seceding. It was while carrying out the UN mission in the Congo that Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold was killed in an air crash. Among other important tasks may be mentioned monitoring the border between India and Pakistan, and maintaining the peacekeeping force that was established on Cyprus on account of the civil war that broke out between the Greek and Turkish populations of the island. The UN force has succeeded in creating a buffer zone between the two ethnic groups. The UN has, in these and other areas, played a significant role in reducing the level of conflict even though the fundamental causes of the struggles frequently remain. SOURCE:


SAAF ORYX HOT-EXTRACTION OF SA TROOPS IN DRC It is still amazing how the intricacies of communication, combined with technology, can impact on international peace keeping missions. At dusk, on the first day of September 2010, 14 SANDF Infantry Troops were transported by one of the international members of the UN to an operational area in the DRC in fulfilment of South Africa’s peace keeping commitment to the continent. There was just one little glitch in the GPRS instruction - a matter of “e” and “o”. GPRS will get you there. Just be sure of the spelling of your destination…The difference between “Kalembe” and “Kalembo” on the GPRS resulted in dire straits for South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Infantry troops when they were mistakenly dropped in the stronghold of a rebel group. Some of our Infantry soldiers were able to communicate with the rebels. When the rebels realised that the soldiers were South African, our people were allowed to initiate evacuation procedures. According to United Nation’s (UN) policy, night flying during peace keeping operations in Africa is not permitted. The initial UN crew, who dropped the SANDF troops in the wrong destination, could not obtain UN authority to turn around and extract our people, as by that time it was already dark.

In Goma, an expert South African Air Force (SAAF) Oryx helicopter crew was available to extract our forces to safer ground. With Night Vision Goggles (NVG) the SAAF Oryx crew departed from Goma with special UN permission from New York. Maj Pietersen, commander of the SAAF Oryx helicopter, is familiar with the area where the SANDF troops were. It is a mountainous terrain and the crude gravel landing strip is situated in a narrow valley with no infrastructure. Night extraction in such conditions is only for the brave of heart. With the troops only half an hour’s flight away from Goma, Maj Pietersen departed under emergency conditions with only an hour’s fuel capacity in the Oryx’s tanks. At that time, the information given to the crew was that there were 17 SANDF Infantry troops with baggage to be extracted. During that first flight, Maj Pietersen realised that according to flight safety regulations, there was not enough fuel for the mission, and when they approached the landing zone, he also identified the lack of lighting as a danger to the mission. Visibility at dusk was also very poor due to the hazy condition of the African sky prior to the first rains in September. Subsequently, Maj Pietersen decided to return to Gomato re-strategize the extraction mission of the SANDF Infantry soldiers. Back at Goma, it was full dark and the air finally became less hazy. Maj Pietersenthen dispatched asecond fully refuelled Oryx helicopter under command of Maj Stefan King, copiloted by Lt Uri Badenhorst with FSgt Sarel Beukes as flight engineer, to extract our soldiers. On board were also a translator, as well as the commander of the SANDF Infantry troops stationed at Goma. This time, communication was more accurate. There were only 14 soldiers with baggage, not 17, and the landing strip was lighted by wooden fires. Through their expertise, skill and aided by Night Vision Goggles, the Oryx crew performed a hot-extraction night mission. Two days after the incident, the SANDF Infantry troops were deployed to the proper destination to continue with peace keeping roles. By Ms Hanrie Greebe, Directorate Corporate Communication Services, SAAF SOURCE: news/2010 /011_2010.htm

LEFT: UN helicopter delivers voter registration materials to Torit, in southern Sudan, in advance of the referendum. UN Photograph: Tim McKulka

LEADING SPEAKERS INSPIRE AT WOMEN’S BREAKFAST OVER 150 women from Pietermaritzburg attended an inspirational Women’s Month breakfast at the Sinodale Centre yesterday. The collaboration between The Witness, uMgungundlovu District Municipality and Ukhozi FM brought leading women speakers to inspire their peers. Laura Ilunga, one of a few women South African Air Force helicopter pilots, spoke of how it has always been difficult for women to succeed in a male-dominated field like aviation. However, she said, technological advances are leaning towards technology that needs less physical power and greater mental capability. She also spoke of the wives of apartheid veterans who have been forgotten after the death of their husbands. “These women were the backbone of the homes and the strength of the fighters,” said Ilunga. Iris Francis spoke of the importance of humility, leadership and servitude. Francis, who is the daughter of apartheid stalwart Morris Flynn, spoke about moral and “servant” leadership and how women can be leaders in any environment. “Put yourself first to be effective as a friend, wife and daughter,” said Francis. Keynote speaker Dorah Sitole spoke of how she has balanced her career advancement in a competitive industry with her simple love of cooking. Sitole worked for True Love magazine for 23 years and was voted one of the top 10 most influential people in print media in 2009/2010. In her address she quoted Bryan Dyson, CEO of Coca Cola, saying that life is a juggling act of work, family, health, friends and spirit. Work is a rubber ball that, when dropped, will bounce back but the rest are glass. After a question-and-answer session with the speakers, the guests left the breakfast with gifts, smiles on their faces and uplifted spirits. SOURCE: YOUTUBE SOURCE:


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SAWIA_Womens Month_2012_7 August_SAAF_Captain Laura Ilunga  

CAPTAIN LAURA ILUNGA SOUTH AFRICAN AIR FORCE HELICOPTER PILOT Laura was born in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo; however Sout...

SAWIA_Womens Month_2012_7 August_SAAF_Captain Laura Ilunga  

CAPTAIN LAURA ILUNGA SOUTH AFRICAN AIR FORCE HELICOPTER PILOT Laura was born in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo; however Sout...