OPS Medic. A National Serviceman’s Border War, by Steven Webb
In 1984 Steven Webb volunteered for the South African Medical Service and experienced the Border War as National Serviceman and OPS Medic.
The first South African military units were deployed into South West Africa in 1974 as a result of an increase in guerrilla activity directed at military and police installations. These attacks were instigated by the South West Africa Peoples Organisation (SWAPO) and its military wing the Peoples Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN). Throughout my national service I never even once heard anything about an organisation called PLAN - which goes to show that most of us didn't even know who our enemy was. To us the enemy was simply SWAPO. In Angola, the situation was even more confusing, what with the Movemento Popular de Libertagdo de Angola (MPLA), the Frente Nacional de Libertaga de Angola (FNLA), the Unio Nacional para a Independencia Total de Angola (UNITA), the Cubans, the Soviets, the East Germans and God knows who else. The initial role of the South African Defence Force (SADF) in South West Africa was of a humanitarian nature. The first National Servicemen to 'serve' on what was to become commonly known as The Border' were teachers. Their job was to win the hearts and minds of the local population. They didn't succeed. In 1975 South African forces crossed the border into Angola and fought alongside UNITA and the FNLA and scored major victories against 'the enemy' - the MPLA supported by the Cubans and Soviets - with one battle in particular being lodged in my memory ever since ... the Battle for Bridge 14. It was only in 1979 that the South African Medical Service (SAMS) became a separate arm of the SADF and became the supplier of medical services to the Army, Navy and Air Force. It was organised into regional commands corresponding to the army's commands. SAMS was divided into a Medical Logistics Command and a Medical Training Command. The SAMS training centre was just outside Potchefstroom in the now North-West Province, at Klipdrift. Until I joined the service I had never even heard of Klipdrift (except for Klipdrift Brandy), but it was a place that was destined to play an important part in my life. The incidents related in this book are based mostly on my own experiences. The story revolves around members of the South African Medical Services - or to be more specific, the SAMS Operations Combat Medic Company. Other members of the South African Defence Force also provided some useful input fort which I am grateful. Thousands of young men were conscripted into the SADF to fight in the Border War, but others - like myself - who were exempt felt honour bound to volunteer their services. Some performed their National Service from a sense of duty, some refused to do it at all, but most did it to defend their nation against what was perceived to be the 'communist threat'. I have endeavoured to describe events and circumstances accurately. However, during the heat of battle, perceptions of what actually happened at specific moments frequently differ vastly from one man to the next. The chronology may not be perfect either, but this is not a history of the war - it is my own reminiscences and the reminiscences of a few other individuals who were caught up in the conflict. Compared to other branches of the South African Defence Force, the South African Medical Service had a relatively small number of personnel, but despite this 37 Ops Medics sacrificed their lives whilst engaged in saving the lives of others. Fifteen were awarded the Honoris Crux (two of the silver grade) for bravery. Four were awarded posthumously. Names of many of the characters in this book have been changed.
This is an excerpt from the book: OPS Medic - A National Serviceman’s Border War, by Steven Webb.
Title: OPS Medic. A National Serviceman’s Border War
Author: Steven Webb
Cape Town, South Africa 2008
ISBN 9781919854298 / SBN 978-1-91985-429-8
Softcover, 17x24 cm, 296 pages, numerous photos, English
Webb, Steven im Namibiana-Buchangebot
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