Colonel Lennon Atchanna:
|Real Name:||Colonel Lennon Atchanna|
|Birth Place:||Tongaat (Zulu: oThongathi)|
Who Is Colonel Lennon Atchanna:
From a young boy, Colonel Lennon Marcus Atchanna dreamed of becoming a helicopter pilot in uniform.
Today, after forging forward with hard work and determination, Colonel Atchanna at 39-years-old has not only made this dream come true but has risen through the ranks to become the new commanding officer at the Air Force Base in Durban.
He was officially handed the baton of command by outgoing commander Colonel Barend Johannes Jurie Fourie, at a Change of Command parade on Thursday.
Colonel Atchanna was born and raised in Tongaat and later relocated to Phoenix. He was 16 when he first applied to the air force.
At the time he was being raised by his mom, a single mother who worked as a factory worker to support Atchanna and his four sisters. His dad had passed on from an illness when he was 2.
Brief Bio Of Colonel Lennon Atchanna:
Colonel Atchanna is a 39-years-old air force officer who has not only made this dream come true but has risen through the ranks to become the new commanding officer at the Air Force Base in Durban.
After joining, Lennon wasted no time in gaining the experience he needed and successfully completed his Basic Military Training and Officer-Forming course in the same year.
He attended the Military Academy in Saldanha Bay in the Western Cape where he completed his Pilot Wings Course in December 2002.
He went on to serve as an operational pilot at the Air Force Base in Waterkloof in Pretoria.
By July 2005, after completing his Rotary Wing Conversion Course he qualified as an Oryx co-pilot.
Later that year, he began his operational helicopter tour at the Air Force Base Durban.
In the next 12 years, Colonel Atchanna completed several courses and served at a number of air force bases.
During a tour in 2018, his unit received the Royal Air Force Training award in silver and then took gold the following year.
From October 2020 to August 2021, Colonel Atchanna served at Air Command Pretoria.
For Colonel Atchanna, one of the highlights of his career was rescuing 132 people who were stranded in severe snowstorms in Underberg in August 2021.
An Interview With Colonel Lennon Atchanna
“Initially I took a liking to the police services but when I was 11 or 12 years old I saw the army’s armed forces in Phoenix. About two weeks later, there was a helicopter that pitched up to help break up camp and it was love at first sight.
“I did research and learnt that there was an air force in South Africa. I learnt about the types of helicopters and that is when my passion grew. I was still in school when I applied to join the air force and was told I was too young and that I had to wait until I completed matric.”
After matriculating from Greenbury Secondary in 1999, Atchanna joined the South African Air Force in May 2000.
“Just after my matric exams were completed, I filled in an application form and sent it through. My mom, who was reluctant to lose me to the military, still signed as my guardian.”
“In that week, there was a massive cold front that hit KZN. Snow had started in Underberg. The initial message we got was that there’s a bus that’s stuck on the road that the police services were trying to reach because a lady was pregnant on the bus.
“They were scared she was going to go into labour without medical assistance. Rescue workers who were trying to reach the bus got stuck in the snow so they called the air force for assistance.”
Colonel Atchanna said it wasn’t his turn to fly that day but he was called by the co-pilot to say they were going to cancel the rescue because of the weather.
“I told him I knew of a route to possibly avert the bad weather, up the Umkomaas river. I had spoken to the unit commander at the time and he told me if I’m comfortable, even though he had advised me against it initially, he said go for it. So I took my co-pilot with me and we went out.”
He said they eventually found the bus and conducted the rescue. He also rescued people from cars trapped in the snow.
He said it was a surreal moment to take the position of the new officer commanding.
“I first walked in on this base on the first of September 2005. I parked my car in the visitors parking. I was a young lieutenant at the time. I looked around the base and thought, would I ever one day become base commander out here. I thought, impossible but I’ll try.
“On the first of September 2021 was when I officially started my duties here. It was a surreal feeling for me and it’s good for me to be back home. The people at Air Force Base Durban I consider as family. My intention is to motivate them into becoming a confident air fighting force and together we will take this air force forward.”
He will oversee 330 permanent air force, base members. His message to young boys who grew up like him was that anything was possible if you just believe in yourself.
“I grew up for a long time thinking that what I saw in my community was what a man was supposed to look like.
“This was until I met an air force soldier, someone who was able to reach higher levels. It was when I realised that anything is possible and that as a man, I have a duty to sustain society, the community and my family and I can become something greater.”
He said never allow situations to get you down.
“You can do great things. The world is your platform. Don’t allow your background, how you were brought up to limit you. Anything is possible.“
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