Steve Joubert had always wanted to be a pilot and the only way he could afford to do so, was to join the South African Air Force in the late 1970s.
As an adventurous young man with a wicked sense of humour, he tells of the many amusing escapades he had as a trainee pilot. But soon he is sent to fight in the Border War in northern Namibia (then South West Africa) where he is exposed to the carnage of war. The pilots of the Alouette helicopters were witness to some of the worst scenes of the Border War. Often, they were the first to arrive after a deadly landmine accident.
In the fiercest battles their gunships regularly supplied life-saving air cover to troops on the ground.
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Fri, 10 May 2019 | Review by: Breakaway R
I laughed, lots! I cried, often! A truly memorable story.
Steve Joubert wanted to be a pilot. The easiest way was joining the SAAF (South African Air Force) via his compulsory National Service. When asked by General Bob Rogers, a decorated veteran of both the Second World War and the Korean War when he decided that he wanted to be a pilot, he replied, “An ice-cream seller.” Gen. Rogers, somewhat taken aback was then told, “Well sir, when I was very little, I thought the greatest job in the world was that of the guy driving the bicycle with the bin of Dairy Maid ice creams through the neighbourhood. Since that dream faded, I wanted to be a pilot.”
The training to make the grade and join the elite was intensive, long hours spent in “classrooms”, exams demanding very few errors and hours flying under all sorts of conditions until Steve Joubert was able to finally fly solo.
Shortly after graduation, he was set to be trained on the Impala, a jet used by the South African Defence Force during the years of the Border War. However, Steve found this type of flying restrictive and difficult and asked to be transferred to the helicopter unit. Here he was trained to fly the single-turbine Alouette helicopter.
Steve Joubert was no sooner fully trained to fly one of these helicopters when he was shipped off to the border, (between Namibia and Angola) or to use the proper name, the Border War between the South African Defence Force and the Namibian and Angolan resistance armies.
He describes in detail some of the flights that he and his engineer undertook. The carnage they witnessed. The skirmishes they were involved in. The missiles that only just missed his helicopter. His fellow pilots who were not so lucky and were shot to pieces.
Fortunately, a lot of the horror is overlapped by wonderful humour. There are some very funny stories of generals behaving badly. The military police trying to beat him up after his very drunk engineer had challenged six-hundred of them to a fight. (Yes, two against six-hundred). Their farewell to the SAP the following morning had me laughing until tears rolled down my face.
The best thing about the book is Steve Joubert acknowledging that this career as a pilot caused huge trauma in his life and that he would not have been able to cope without intensive psychological counselling for his severe PTSD. He is also able to describe at length the abhorrence he felt about the war.
Thank you, Steve Joubert for writing this funny, brilliant memoir. I sincerely hope that others, pilots like you, or conscripted or even volunteers who joined the South African Defence Force, find courage from your writing to tell their own story. To realise that they are not alone with their memories and nightmares from the border and that it’s time for all in the country to let go of their horrors and finally confide how the war affected their mental health.
Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review.
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Wed, 8 Jul 2020 | Review by: willem r
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