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SA Army Military Skills Development System

SA Army Basic Military Training

Back to Basics ...... Boots and Overalls!!!!

Article and Photographs by: Major Thérèse Bester, South African Army Corporate Communication

The South African Army is offering young South African citizens between the ages of 18 and 22 (the maximum entry requirement for graduates is 26 years) an opportunity to serve in uniform over a two year period through the Military Skills Development System.

During the January 2010 South African Army intake, 2 804 newly selected Military Skills Development System members reported for Basic Military Training at the various South African Army training centres of excellence. 860 Members reported at 3 South African Army Infantry Battalion.

During the intake week, the recruits go through a Current Health Assessment and medical confirmation. Recruits may proceed with Basic Military Training after successfully passing the medical evaluation.

The South African Army consists out of a combat, technical as well as a support mustering.

  • The combat mustering includes the Infantry, Engineers, Armour, Artillery, Air Defence Artillery and Intelligence.
  • The technical mustering includes Technical Service, Signals and Ammunition Corps.
  • The support mustering includes Personnel, Logistics, Catering and Signals.

At 3 South African Army Infantry Battalion, Basic Military Training is presented to recruits who will further their training in the support- and technical mustering after successfully completing Basic Military Training. During this training, the recruits are exposed to new knowledge and skills in a very well structured and controlled manner to ensure that the purpose of Basic Military Training is achieved. The recruits at 3 South African Army Infantry Battalion have been allocated to five different companies that are involved in Basic Military Training (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Echo and Foxtrot Companies).

The new recruits selected for the Military Skills Development System have no previous military experience and come from different backgrounds and cultures. Training objectives are therefore focussed on instilling basic military skills and fostering a common military culture in which team work is of utmost importance.

The foundation of military discipline, critical soldier skills and competencies are laid during Basic Military Training. Discipline is enforced by the instructors. This contributes to effective teamwork and ensures that training objectives are met.

Basic Military Training forms an important building block in training a soldier. It is high intensity training spanning after hours during the week and weekends. Physical fitness forms an integral and important part of this training with fitness standards being raised incrementally.

During the visit to 3 South African Army Infantry Battalion over the period 21 to 25 February 2010, the recruits were busy with training in field craft, musketry , buddy aid, daily preparations for inspections, drilling as well as water safety.

Recruits busy with theoretical fieldcraft summative evaluation










A female recruit from Foxtrot Company leopard crawling as part of Field craft practical evaluation









One of the recruits of Foxtrot Company, Recruit V.V. Khoza said that he has learnt a lot about field craft; now he knows to use an R4 rifle, to give directions to do leopard crawl and to utilise the terrain to his advantage without being observed by the enemy.

An interesting observation was that Foxtrot Company had identical triplets. Their life long dream of joining the South African Army came true. They studied at the Centurion College and completed their N6 and N5 as Mechanical Engineers. They thoroughly enjoy Basic Military Training, did not mind being split up and would like to become officers one day. To them getting up early in the morning was a challenge at first and ironing was something new too. They see discipline as an important factor in the life of a soldier. (It is important to note that, twins, triplets, brothers or sisters may never be operationally deployed at the same time.)

Triplets from Foxtrot Company fltr Recruit D. van Zyl (Platoon 3), Recruit T. van Zyl (Platoon 2) and Recruit H.van Zyl (Platoon 1)










Musketry training is an important subject during Basic Military Training. Safety is crucial, safety precautions and safe handling rules are conveyed to the recruits. Instruction was given by WO W.F. Beukes, the musketry branch Warrant Officer (WO) and S Sgt H.C. Louw, the musketry branch instructor.

Before recruits are given the opportunity to shoot with live rounds, musketry training is presented to them on the Fixed Installation Rifle Training System. The recruits have to obtain a 60% pass mark on the Fixed Installation Rifle Training System before moving through to the indoor shooting range.

Fixed Installation Rifle Training System training is presented to the recruits to give them confidence with the R4 rifle as it simulates real shooting conditions. The purpose of Fixed Installation Rifle Training System training is to give the recruits the opportunity to get accustomed to the weapon, to shoot groupings and to practise their firing positions.

A recruit from Charlie Company at the Fixed Installation Rifle Training System under instruction of Warrant Officer Class 2 W.F. Beukes










During this training, recruits must demonstrate that they are comfortable with the natural alignment of the body and rifle, holding the rifle correctly, aiming, breathing, squeezing the trigger, following through and declaring the shot. Once the recruits have shown competency on the Fixed Installation Rifle Training System, they may proceed to the indoor shooting range.

The indoor shooting range is reinforced with armoured steel walls and roof and at the shooting point a vulcanized rubber block helps to stop the projectiles. This makes the indoor shooting range safe for live firing. The recruits receive 5 rounds each and fire live ammunition for the first time. This helps them to overcome their initial fear and it familiarises them with shooting with live ammunition, before they proceed to the shooting range.

A recruit from Charlie Company shooting at the indoor shooting range











Staff Sergeant H.C. Louw giving instruction to the recruits while Warrant Officer Class 2 W.F. Beukes is demonstrating how to shoot with live ammunition










On the Wednesday, 24 February 2010, Echo Company was deployed at Vooruitzicht Shooting Range, busy with a live firing shooting exercise. Whilst two platoons were busy with shooting, the other two platoons were receiving lectures on Buddy Aid.

During the musketry training, a competition is held within the different platoons of each company to establish who can strip and assemble the rifle in the shortest time. These types of competitions ensure that the recruits become familiar with the working parts of the rifle. It also assists the recruits to assemble and strip the rifle with confidence when cleaning the weapon, or whilst shooting to clear a stoppage.

A sergeant from Echo Company inspecting the R4 Rifle after the recruit finished shooting










One of the females of Platoon 4, Recruit G.N. de Vos completed her N6 in Business Management at the College of Cape Town prior to her Military Skills Development System training. She sees discipline as a very important attribute. It was the first time that she had fired a rifle in the field, but was confident because of the Fixed Installation Rifle Training System and indoor musketry training she had received.

Whilst platoon 3 and 4 of Echo Company were busy with the shooting exercise, platoon 1 and 2 of the same Company received lectures in respect of buddy aid. The main purpose of buddy aid is to be able to give life-saving treatment with limited medical knowledge, with a lot of common sense, with little or no aids and to get your buddy to specialised medical aid while he/she is still alive.

The recruits from Echo Company receiving lectures about Buddy Aid




















During the week it was Bravo Company’s turn to complete water orientation training. On the morning of 23 Feb 10, Platoon 1 of Bravo Company started with water safety training presented in the swimming pool at the unit. One of the instructors, S Sgt H Schutte explained that the recruits received instruction on the physics of swimming such as water buoyancy, water resistance and propulsion.

Staff Sergeant H. Schutte giving instruction to the recruits from Bravo Company at the swimming pool










Combat water safety teaches to the recruits how to survive in life-threatening situations, such as exposure to deep water or falling into a river, dam or a lake whilst busy with operational exercises or deployment.

A Female recruit from Bravo Company swimming










Staff Sergeant J.J. Kaekae giving instruction to the recruits from Alpha Company on the required standard for inspection










According to Major M.B. Fillis, the Company Commander the recruits were initially disorientated in respect of their preparations for inspection, held daily for the duration of the Basic Military Training. The instructors, platoon sergeants and platoon commanders set the standard of the inspection and demonstrated to the recruits what is expected of them. During the preparation for inspection, there are both individual and group preparations that have to be attended to.

Looking at individual preparation, recruits are responsible for washing and ironing their own clothes, polishing their boots, preparing their cupboard, making up their own beds and preparing their trunks.

A recruit from Alpha Company busy with individual preparation for inspection




















With group preparation, the recruits that stay in the same bungalow must clean the showers, toilets, the floors, windows, basins, storeroom and the area around the bungalows in small organised teams. This forces the recruits to work together as a team.

Recruits from Alpha Company busy with group preparation for the inspection










After preparing for the inspection for the next day they must manage their own time for study and at 20:45 roll call is held. At 22:00 they have quiet time for their various religions and at 22:15 lights are turned off.

A Recruit from Alpha Company busy with Bible study in quiet time










In the morning they rise at 04:45. They have breakfast from 06:00 to 06:30 then it is time for inspection. In accompanying the Platoon Commander during the inspection the pride amongst the recruits after a long night’s hard work preparing for it could be sensed.

Recruits waiting in a squad before entering the mess










Recruits busy being served with their meals










Recruits enjoying their meals










A proud recruit from Alpha Company during inspection




















The instructors play a major role when guiding the recruits to practically execute the theory of the various modules. The quality of instruction will in the end determine the degree of confidence the recruits have in demonstrating acquired skills and knowledge. Parade ground drill is one way to develop the individual soldier and instilling a sense of instinctive obedience. This will result in the future soldiers executing orders diligently and in a professional manner.

Various platoons drilling towards their bungalows










Recruits busy drilling










The end result of Basic Military Training is to produce a well disciplined and well trained professional soldier by 13 May 2010 to be ready for subsequent corps functional training.

This is how most, if not all, military careers started - in boots and overalls. It is a critical phase in which a firm foundation is laid for a future military career – the career of a soldier. This career is a calling requiring commitment, discipline and hard training. And it all starts with basics!