Article and photo by Petty Officer Sthembiso Makuleni and Able Seaman Judy Baatjes

Passing the coast of Namibia on 18 January 2017 the SAS AMATOLA’s programme changed from Operation CORONA (intelligence gathering operation) to SAGA (Schadeusabwehr-gejechtsusildung) which included Damage Control (DC) and Medical and Boarding Training. SAGA training was scheduled to take place between the border of South Africa and Namibia to Rota, Spain which is approximately 3900 nautical miles. The ship is scheduled to arrive in Spain on 02 February 2017 for rest and recuperation.

Able Seaman Nyawo conducting medical evacuation with Sergeant Dumisani Nzimeni

SAGA is the National German Training facility for DC training for ships and crews of the German Navy and foreign Navies. It focuses on the various disciplines of the internal warfare. These disciplines are DC, Marine Engineering, Weapon Engineering and Medical. Other areas of the external warfare are also being covered include Navigation, Seamanship and Air and Surface Warfare. SAGA’s main aim is to assist SAS AMATOLA for the more demanding Operational Sea Training called Basic Operational Sea Training (BOST) at Flag Officer Sea Training Royal Navy.

In order to be prepared, SAGA aims to assist the ship to take ownership of the training problem and solution, focus on enabling activity to facilitate training during BOST, use a consensual approach to training, train out common weaknesses early and facilitate ship’s staff training requirements.

Able Seaman Gouws evacuating a patient that needs urgent medical assistance.

Lynx helicopter removing cargo from SAS AMATOLA.

SAGA and BOST are very relevant and important to assist navies all over the world to reach North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) standards. It is the most applicable factor to be able to train naval personnel to the highest standards and as real as possible in order to operate any naval ship safely and efficiently.

SAS AMATOLA ships company was joined by the SAGA team, consisting of a specialist trained in DC and Chemical Biological Radiation and Nuclear Damage Control (CBRNDC) management, a specialist in intensive care and emergency medicine and a specialist in force protection and boarding to assist the ship’s company the reach its damage control objectives.

Commander Witt said, “In my opinion, training personnel is as important as the equipment. You can have the best and state of the art equipment, however you need well trained people to use this equipment to deliver sustainable and forceful fighting capability to the command”.

Captain Terblance and stretcher team, being assessed by one of the German SAGA assessors.

Maritime Reaction Squadron training for boarding exercise as part of SAGA training.


SAS Amatola ships company conducting fire exercises in preparation for BOST Training.

The 12.7mm Rogue gun being fired from the bridge.

Some of the aspects the SAGA team focused on were basic and advanced skills in fire fighting, shoring, first aid and damage repair. Furthermore the team will focus on battle organisation which analyses DC training, as well as information flow between the different command levels. Another focus is the picture building and decision-making process in a combat situation.
Initially SAGA was meant to be a pure DC training facility. In the evolution, it changed its focus also to other disciplines of the internal and external warfare, similar to the FOST organisation. In comparison, the SAGA organisation is more focused on the basics of the internal battle. BOST is more focused on the fighting functions of the ship, however there is also internal battle training at BOST.

Firing of the 76mm gun in preparation of BOST.

Firing of the Chaff which is used as counter measure during a missile attack.

Commander Witt also mentioned that so far he had a very good experience and has never been on a South African ship before. He continued to mention that procedures are very similar to NATO procedures and therefore he had no trouble to settle in. Commander Witt said he really enjoyed the hospitality and the friendliness of the South African sailors.

Firing of the 20mm as part of SAGA training