Decorations For Bravery Under Fire
Within the South African Special Forces, the receipt of medals is not a high priority amongst Operators.
Special Forces has always been held to a higher standard than the rest of the Defense Force in respect of the awarding of medals, as the activities for which other military personnel were awarded medals were considered by Special Forces – and the Operators – to merely be a normal part of their jobs.
Other than this, the highest award for any Operator is just the fact that he has Qualified as an Operator, and is counted amongst the very few people who have achieved this.
Special Forces Operators do not attach great importance to medals. They attach far greater importance to how they are regarded amongst their fellow Operators – especially insofar as their professionalism, consistency and behaviour under trying circumstances is concerned. The highest compliment or award for a Special Forces Operator is to have said about him by his colleagues - “I’ll go into operations with him anytime”.
Other than this, due to the average Operator’s natural reticence towards self-aggrandisement, (a cardinal sin amongst Operators), they do not generally discuss their medals. In a recent professional survey done on retired Operators, although all those interviewed gave great details insofar as operational issues were concerned, a great deal of them refused to answer questions relating to their medals – and many did not even know the names of the medals which they had been awarded.
This being said, the South African Special Forces are still the most highly decorated military entity in South Africa since the Second World War in terms of bravery medals, and such medals have been awarded for extremely courageous acts.
Special Forces Operators do not receive their medals on parades. They receive them in closed private ceremonies, where only a few key personnel, or the Regiments, are present. This practice continues to this day.
Although some Operators have in the past been interviewed for – and appeared in – a book on this subject, they had to be instructed to do so by their higher command.
The bravery medals have several categories and some of the other Merit
Medals (Decorations), such as the Van Riebeeck Medal (silver) and Decoration, have also been awarded to SA Special Forces members for distinguished services against an enemy in the field.
list on the next three pages only the most senior of these medals, the Honorus Crux range,
as awarded to Special Forces Operators.