History was made in the South African Police Service on Friday when five women became the first females to become fully fledged members of the Special Task Force.

The women, along with 14 male colleagues, received their golden Task Force parachute wings during a parade ceremony in Pretoria.

The five women were part of a group of 34 who had volunteered for the Task Force, along with 86 men.

The 19 new Task Force members, to be stationed in Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban, will form part of the new rapid response team within the Task Force.

Current members of the Task Force will be formed into special hostage release teams.

To move from the rapid response team to the hostage release team, a candidate will have to complete all the advance training courses in three years.

The advance courses include parachuting, specialised weapons training, rural and urban phase training as well as diving and sniper techniques.

This was announced by Divisional Commissioner Arno Lamoer at the awarding of the new recruits' parachute wings.

Speaking at the end of the new recruits' 28-week training course, Lamoer said he was extremely proud of what the successful recruits had achieved.

For the past 28 weeks the recruits, who will begin working at their new units on Monday, have been forced to endure night marches, sleep deprivation, intense rural and urban attack techniques and basic weapons and parachute training.

"These new members," Lamoer said, "will prove to be extremely valuable and will make a big difference to the already existing units."

Speaking on the addition of the women into the Task Force, the first time in the unit's 28-year history, Lamoer said it was vital that this was done.

There were many roles in the Task Force which women could excel in and these "positions have been found and the women will be used to their full advantage", he said.

He praised the new female recruits for the guts and determination they had shown in becoming Task Force members, saying that they had broken down many barriers to take their rightful place alongside their male counterparts.

"Both the men and women receiving their wings deserve them, and nobody can say otherwise," he said.

Lamoer said although there had been problems in the beginning with the women, these had been identified and they, along with all other Task Force members, would receive ongoing training.

Deputy National Safety and Security Minister Susan Shabangu said as a woman she was extremely proud of what had been achieved for the first time in the Task Force's history.

Addressing the successful recruits, Shabangu said they had a long road ahead of them which would be filled with difficulties, "but remember your country and its people depend on you and I know that you can achieve whatever you set out to do".

Two new female Task Force members, who are to be stationed in Pretoria, said they were proud of what they achieved - especially for women in the SAPS.

"It was extremely difficult, but we were able to do it with the help of our male colleagues and the trainers," they said.

None of the Task Force members can be identified because of the work they do.