Commandant Johan Dippenaar
WO1 MC Barnard

Composition of 61 Mechanised Battalion Group

Overview by the Commander

Established foundation from which to operate in 1980

The year 1980 started for 61 Mech on a much more structured way than 1979 because of all the goals that were achieved during the previous year, which caused the unit to be fully functional.

The leaders and key personnel, who were involved with the establishment of 61 Mech from its inception, were still part of the unit and this ensured that the experienced gained during the challenging first year of the unit, was retained and put to good use.

Goals and Priorities

In my capacity as commander of 61 Mech I identified the following goals and priorities for 1980:

  • 61 Mech had to be ready at all times to go into battle. This included the training and battle preparation of the soldiers as well as the maintenance and upgrading of the equipment.
  • The safety of the farmers in the farming area had to be secured with no SWAPO intruders crossing the cutline. In addition to this, the morale of the farming community had to be kept positive and the co-operation of the farmers efficient.
  • The morale and spirit of the soldiers of 61 Mech and their families had to be kept high and all of them motivated.
  • The facilities, procedures, tactics and drills for 61 Mech had to be reviewed in order to ensure that it fit the specific circumstances and battlefields.

High level visit to 61 Mech

The year started with a high level visit to 61 Mech by the Prime Minister, Mr PW Botha, the Administrator-General, Dr Gerrit Viljoen, the Deputy Minister of Defense Mr Kowie Coetzee, Chief of the Defence Force, General Magnus Malan, Chief of the Army, General Constant Viljoen and the Officer Commanding of South West Africa General Jannie Geldenhuys.

Image and Morale of the Unit

In September 1980 a mechanized parade was conducted through the streets of Tsumeb and on 24 September 1980 a goodwill tea was presented in honour of Ms Ristie Viljoen, wife of the Chief of Army.

Training for farmers from South Africa

The leader group of 61 Mech played an important role in facilitating the training of South African farmers by local farmers from the Tsumeb district, teaching them house and heart protection and immediate action drills in case of emergencies on the farms.

Commando recruits were also trained and staff from 61 Mech assisted where possible with this training.

Development of recreational facilities for the soldiers

The high temperatures in the operational area made the construction of swimming pools a priority. One big swimming pool was built at Omuthiya base and pools were also provided at Tsintsabis and Casmania bases.

At Tsumeb and Omuthiya coffee bars with good reading material were opened for use by the soldiers.

61 Mech also became involved with sports competitions and the unit won the Northern Region cup rugby competition.

The permanent staff used the time from 25 to 30 September to visit Sesfontein, Rocky point, Torra bay, Terrace bay, Khorixas and Kamanjab.

The Christmas function was a very special occasion and a great event, as it always was in the operational area.


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