When it comes to fi repower, Lieutenant-Commander
Thandeka Motsene is the go-to person aboard the South African Navy’s frigate SAS Isandlwana.
The 33-year-old anti-air warfare officer, or weapons officer, is responsible for advising the captain of the vessel on how best to use weapons to defend the ship against attacks from the air.
For security reasons, she can’t go into the details of what this entails.
“When the ship is not in combat situations or advanced military operations, my job entails training gun operators to ensure that they know how to operate the weapons safely and accurately,” she explains.
Motsene’s typical day aboard the ship begins with her conducting system checks to ensure that they are all operating efficiently and effectively.
Once this has been done, she briefs warfare teams on the day’s programme and maintenance schedules.
“I am also expected to maintain a watch on the bridge to ensure that the ship is kept safe from collisions and groundings.
I also brief the captain about personnel training, ship status
and any matters related to the achievement of the ship’s objectives for the duration of the time spent at sea.”
On the path to success While Motsene’s life is now at sea, that is not how she once envisaged it.
She wanted to be a pilot with the South African Air Force.
However, she did not meet the weight and height requirements for the fi ghter aircraft’s ejector seat as she was too short and lightweight.
“The Navy was my second choice, mostly because it sounded interesting and I loved the uniform.”
Born in Tembisa, Motsene lived in Viljoenskroon in the Free State until she was 11 when she moved to Ennerdale, south of Johannesburg.
After completing matric in 2001, she joined the Department of Defence’s Youth Foundation Programme.
This is a skills development programme for previously disadvantaged students,
which allows participants to improve their matric results so that they can pursue tertiary studies or join
the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
Motsene has been in her current position for about a year and a half.
Before joining the SAS Isandlwana as its weapons offi cer she completed 10-month warfare course in preparation for the post.
Motsene previously served aboard the Inshore Patrol Vessel, SAS Tern as the Acting Commanding Offi cer,
where it was her responsibility to ensure the ship was maintained in order to meet the operational requirements of the Navy.
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