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December 1979 Ruacana town base.
3 SAI, Delta Company, Platoon 1 - our first border tour.

Our platoon was in base taking it easy one morning after having completed another foot patrol when word came that we must tree aan in our cleanest set of browns, boots to be polished and to make sure that we had washed behind our ears. We were about to receive a visit from someone of importance.  An hour later after a quick inspection we climbed aboard our vehicles and headed out in convoy to the Ruacana airbase, still in the dark as to who we were going to meet.  On arrival we kicked our heels in the hot sun with a bunch of others from different units all wondering what was on the go when a camou dirt brown DC4 appeared low on the horizon and landed while being covered by a number of gunships.  We were brought to attention while the entourage comprising various uniforms of high rank and a sprinkling of ladies in big hats stepped onto the apron and made their way quickly out of the blistering sun into one of the hangars. Of these dignatories, one stood out from all the others. A General. Our General.

We were then told that the General was here specifically to visit his troops and that in a minute we were going to be allowed into the hangar, that we should be on our best behaviour and not to scoff all the tea and eats like starving animals.  We got the uit tree and slowly made our way inside. The place was decked out with groaning tables struggling to hold up steaming urns, cooldrinks on ice and trays of sandwiches and cakes. On the other side stood the General, cap off and relaxed among his peers. We stood this side wondering exactly what we were supposed to be doing.  A few words were said then we were invited to partake of the big table. We moved forward in a movement resembling vuur en beweging and approached the target.  With a coke in hand and attention focused on demolishing a cream bun, our Loot came over and suggested that we approach the General for a chat. The guys looked at him like he had been at the giggly twig.  After awhile with nothing happening, myself and a few others decided to break the ice for what it was worth and moved forward with some trepidation. 

The General couldn't have been more welcoming and friendly and it wasn't long before he was surrounded, everyone wanting to meet him and hear what he had to say. His easy manner and ice blue smiling eyes put everyone at ease. "Hoe gaan dit manne?" "Van vaaraf kom julle?" "Is julle reg?" "Kry julle jou briewe en pakkies?" Simple conversation that lifted morale.  Tea with our General, the soldiers soldier. Who would have thought.

Salute General Constand Viljoen wherever you are, from one of your Soutie troops.

Dave Hartmann Facebook