Honours and AwardsMembers of the SA Special Forces have distinguished themselves on various levels during their military careers and thereafter.
In the following pages we focus on those Honours and Awards that warrant a recipient the right to a title behind his name and then we place special focus on bravery, the universally admired trait defined as the quality that allows someone to do things that are dangerous or frightening and in this context usually with total disregard for their own safety whilst ensuring that of fellow soldiers in the heat of battle.
Meritorious Service Awards
Awards based on merit are awarded officers and other ranks for outstanding services or leadership of the highest order and utmost devotion to duty. These Meritorious Service Awards listed below have all been awarded to SA Special Forces personnel and Operators:
Rhodesian Honours and Awards
In our pages on the history of the SA Special Forces, it will be clear that many operators from elite Rhodesian military units joined the SA Special Forces after their units were disbanded at the end of the Rhodesian war. We mention these awards below and how many of them were made to those who became SA Special Forces personnel members, as they contribute to show the caliber of these men.
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 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 are 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. In very recent times members of the SA Special Forces distinguished themselves in battle and were awarded the current medals for bravery that has since replaced the Honoris Crux family.
On the next pages we list these decorations as awarded to Special Forces Operators.