SASFA GALA EVENING SPEECH

by Major-General Les Rudman (ret)

05 SEPTEMBER 2015

      

“The men of the SAS and the South African Special Forces have much in common.

·       Neither minds the sight of blood, and both are prepared to die to achieve their goals.  Both love the adrenalin flow, weapons, the ‘macho’ image that they believe is theirs by right, and the dress style and way of life that they want to be identified by.

·       Both believe, in an almost arrogant manner, that they are superior and tougher than others, both physically and mentally, and they believe passionately in whatever task they are embarked upon.

·       From life, both seek something entirely different from that which seems to satisfy the majority of other men who are prepared to follow the traditional ways of life, to accept the norms that society imposes upon them, to conform and not be radical, to do what is anticipated of them, and then, eventually, to die in a humdrum, acceptable manner. This is not the way of the SAS and the South African Special Forces.”

End Quote:

 

The adapted quotation I have just read, from a British SAS booklet reminds us that we are all members of a very small elite international family where the words of King Henry the 5th on the eve of the battle of Agincourt to his small band of demoralised soldiers are appropriate: I quote:

 

“God’s will!!  I pray thee, wish not one man more;

If we are marked to die, we are enough

To do our country loss; and if to live,

THE FEWER THE MEN, THE GREATER THE SHARE OF HONOUR”



Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a distinct honour and a privilege for me, to on behalf of our SASFA welcome and address you during this very special occasion.

Please allow me to acknowledge and welcome the following together with their partners:

 

·       The Special Advisor to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans – Mr Tsepe Motumi 

·       Representatives of the various Military Veterans Organisations

        ·       Serving General Officers

·       Retired Brig Gen Jakes Swart our SASFA National President 

        ·       Callie Roos the Chairperson of the SASFA

·       Serving and Former Special Forces General Officers and Brigade Sergeants Major 

        ·       Special Forces Founder Members present tonight

o  Col Jan Breytenbach

o  Maj Gen Dan Lampbrecht

o  Brig Gen John More

o  Warrant Officer Trevor Floydd

o  Warrant Officer Dewald De Beer

        ·       SASFA Fort Chairpersons

        ·       Former Special Forces Regimental OCs and RSMs

        ·       Officers

        ·       Warrant Officers

        ·       Serving and former members of the SA Special Forces
      
·       Ladies and Gentlemen

I stand in awe in the presence of so many of you who have been instrumental in putting and keeping the South African Special Forces up there with the best on the list of professional special forces organisations in the world.

 

Two years ago my father passed away leaving me without any blood parents anymore. Tonight however, I feel comfortable and at home in the presence of so many of you who continue to be parents to us as individuals and to us as a Special Forces family.



Tonight I have thought it prudent to talk about the theme of “Family”.


·       Allow me to place my choice of theme tonight in perspective

·       Soon after my arrival at SF Bde in 1999, Elsje and I attended a function at a foreign embassy in Pretoria and I am reminded of Alett Nel, the wife of Krubert Nel my Chief of Staff, saying to us that we were now members of a very close knit family and that we would experience the loyalty and professionalism of this family.

·       Her words have regularly resounded in my mind since then, when as outsiders Elsje and I were taken up into this very unique, professional and close-knit family - Where we gained new parents, brothers and sisters!

 

WHAT IS A FAMILY?

 

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

– Jane Howard


NOW WHAT VALUE DOES BELONGING TO A FAMILY ADD TO OUR LIVES


  • Firstly, being part of a family is one among the greatest gifts that we get in life. In fact it constitutes the first gift that we get from God.


  • Family provides a bond, a long lasting relationship that holds a bond with each other.


  • Bonding does not happen overnight. It forms with every second, every minute that you spend with your family. The understanding, the acceptance, the belonging and the security all enclosed together is how a family bond is formed.


  • This bonding helps to build a trust and hope that, no matter what, we have people to be with us in our toughest times. It is through a family that we learn the values of love, trust, hope, belief, cultures, morals, traditions and every little matter that concerns us.


Over and above the well known concepts of ‘Immediate’ family and ‘Extended’ family, the term is also used metaphorically to create more inclusive categories such as community, nationhood, globalvillage, etc.

 

A family can thus not survive in isolation from the society it forms part of!

Let me remind you of what our SASFA Constitution says about Family

 

-      In the “Vision”: it refers to the “Ultimate Special Forces Brotherhood”

-      In the “Mission”: it uses terms like – connect, protect and care 

-      Our “Values” refer to: foster a spirit of community; comradeship; mutual respect; integrity

-      The “Ethos” refers to: respecting the worth and dignity of all its members


-      Many of these aspects are also taken up within the ‘Objectives’ of SASFA


LET US BRIEFLY REFLECT ON THE FUNCTIONS AND CHARACTERISTICS OF A FAMILY

 

·         The family is viewed as the main source of honour and the community highly values the relationship between honour and the family. 

·        The conduct of family members reflects upon family honour, its reputation and the way the family perceives itself, and is perceived by others.

 

·       Strong families make strong communities

·       A family takes care of its own and honours their legacy.

 

o  In this regard I would like to implore SASFA to pledge to within our family to cultivate and religiously maintain the “Cult of Remembrance and Caring.”

 

·       If you ask me why? My response is that it is a very easy and selfish thing to do. 

o  It is easy, because we have so much respect for those who have gone before us and we miss their comradeship. It is also easy because showing our respect to those who are battling to survive, as well as the next of kin comes easily because they are also part of our family.

o  It is selfish, because if we who are alive diligently remember and care for our Special Forces family members, we know that one day when we are experiencing difficult times or have passed on, the tradition will remain and we will not be forgotten 

Within any family, as is the case in our SASFA family, we need to accept the following realities:

·       You do not have the luxury of choosing your family

·       Personalities differ

·       Conflict is an inherent part of family functioning

·       We find different strengths in different family members

·       Our time spent soldiering has taught us some relevant  lessons to tonights topic that I would like to briefly relate to fellow SASFA Family Members and our guests:

 

Ø Firstly - The organisation is much bigger than the individual. Should you be privileged to be placed in a position of authority in our family– you need to realise that it comes with a huge responsibility and that you in the end remain accountable to the family.

Ø Soldiering  is all about family – Looking at your own family you may well know that all your family members are different and need to be treated differently. You have a responsibility to your family (own and SASFA) to be loyal to them, to trust them, to discipline them if necessary and to get to know each one of them regardless of background. If you are not consistent in doing this your family will disown you! 

Ø People say that Wisdom is usually coupled to age – This is true but, there is also  evidence to the contrary that our older and younger family members need to embrace


§  Wisdom implies a maturity that acknowledges that others, including juniors may know more about a topic than yourself 

§  Wisdom implies the ability to apologise to others when you have been in the wrong

§  Wisdom implies visibly placing others first 

§  Wisdom implies the ability to learn to listen and deliberate before responding

 

MY MESSAGE TONIGHT TO OUR SPECIAL FORCES FAMILY IS THIS:

 

·       The Parents in our SASFA family have a role and responsibility to educate and guide their children. You may not sit back and allow us to stray from the right path!

 

·       The Children in our SASFA family need to respect their elders and maintain contact with them to be able to learn from them and receive guidance from them

 

·       Both parents and children need to respect one another


·       You Should Not Always Agree About Everything; You Should Continuously Question The Status Quo – But, You Should Be Loyal To One Another And Trust One Another. You Should Guard Our Membership Of This Family Jealously!

Then – and only then – will you have a functioning family system!!

 

WHERE IS OUR SASFA FAMILY HEADED?


·       Our SASFA has embarked on a journey to improve our capability in order to become an organisation and a family that will be able to address the challenges that the future poses. 

 

·       Our SASFA provides the appropriate vehicle to move our organisation into the future in a well structured and appreciated way ensuring that we remain relevant to our special forces family but also to our bigger South African family and those who will follow us

 

Allow me to wrap up!

 

It is said that: "An organization succeeds, not because it is long-established, but because there are people in it who live it, sleep it, dream it, and build future plans for it." 1 Evan Carmichael.


Please allow me to pay tribute to the following:

·       Our VIP Guests for their attendance and ongoing support to SASFA. 

·       I would also on behalf of SASFA members like to extend our gratitude to our Founder Members present here tonight as well as those who could not join us. You are responsible for having created this very unique family. You have guided us and disciplined us when necessary. As a family we salute you. Our Special Forces family owes you a large debt of gratitude. Please join me in requesting them to stand and to receive our applause.

·       In the same vein we need to express our gratitude to all of the spouses and partners who have loyally supported all of us throughout the years and who in most instances have born the brunt of bringing up our individual families without the support of the husband. Every medal, decoration and accolade achieved by the special forces members can and must be directly attributed to your unselfish and dedicated support through the years.

·       Let us not forget to pay tribute to General Jakes Swart, Callie Roos and his team for taking our Special Forces Family into the future and for accepting the huge responsibility that goes with it. - 

·       SASFA as an organisation did not just fall out of the sky. We need to pay tribute to those among us who in the past and present took the leadership in the Special Forces League as well as in the Forts.

·       I know that you will agree with me that we also owe a large debt of gratitude to the Organisers of the Gala Evening and all the other activities of the week-end.

·       Thanks to our table sponsors. 

·       Finally we need to thank all those who behind the scenes were responsible for making available the venue, our security as well as the catering:


I started this talk with an adapted quotation from the SAS Booklet. I would like to conclude with another


I Quote:

“The members of the SAS brotherhood are not the sort of people who would fit easily or unobtrusively into your living room.  By their very presence they can seem out of place.

·       They move differently from other men and reek of energy and the urge to seek out and experience danger and excitement wherever these can be found. 

·       These radical men question everything, trust nobody, and believe only in themselves. 

·       Always looking ahead, and anticipating as a way of life, they seek to overthrow and replace the old by the newer, better, more efficient, more lethal and more exciting things of tomorrow, often the results of their own imaginations, fertile brains, and questing ingenuity.  Don’t stand still:  move and innovate, or die.”

 

THIS IS THE CHALLENGE TO SASFA!

“Don’t stand still:  move and innovate, or die.”

 

PLEASE ALLOW ME TO GREET YOU WITH AN ADAPTED APACHE BLESSING.   

 

       YOU WILL FEEL NO RAIN

FOR EACH OF YOU WILL BE SHELTER TO THE OTHER 

       YOU WILL FEEL NO COLD

FOR EACH OF YOU WILL BE WARMTH TO THE OTHER

       THERE IS NO LONELINESS FOR YOU

FOR EACH OF YOU WILL BE COMPANION TO THE OTHER 

       YOU ARE MANY BODIES

        BUT THERE IS ONLY ONE LIFE BEFORE YOU

 

       GO NOW TO YOUR DWELLING PLACE

TO CONTINUE WITH THE DAYS OF YOUR TOGETHERNESS

AND MAY YOUR DAYS BE GOOD, AND LONG UPON THE EARTH

 

I THANK YOU


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