SAS Saldanha, situated alongside Saldanha Bay Lagoon on the Cape west coast, is the largest training unit in the South African Navy. Its core business is to conduct basic, intermediate and senior military courses for non-commissioned officers. The basic course is the Military Training for Ratings Part 1 (MSDS), which saw 470 members join the January 2012 intake. Many of those were released from service after the two-week induction or later for other reasons, whilst others were selected for officer training.
At the graduation parade, presided over by Deputy Chief of the SA Navy, Rear Admiral Mosuwa Hlongwane, the young sailors showcased their newly acquired skills which they have learned over six months of basic military training that ended Wednesday. This included a choir performance, mast and gun run displays, precision squad drill to the beat of a drum and a Retreat ceremony. A fast-rope display by members of the Maritime Reaction Force rappelling out of a 22 Squadron Oryx concluded the ceremony.
According to the Navy, the aim of the two-year MSDS programme, “is not to provide the youth of the country with military skills, but rather to teach them basic life skills that are required in a work environment, the military environment are just used as a platform to instil discipline, routine and work ethic. The Naval Youth Development Programme provides a sound foundation of learning with practical application to several skills.”
Skills provided to the recruits ranging from precision drill, seamanship, environmental awareness, musketry, computer skills, basic financial management skills, hygiene and discipline to work ethics. The members are then trained in the skills to follow a wide range of careers in the Navy.
After their period of two years’ service, suitable MSD members are recruited into the regular service, providing there are suitable vacancies. The remainder are transferred to the Reserve Force and encouraged to use their skills and experience to find work in the private sector.
SAS Saldanha has recently undergone an extensive upgrade, receiving modern new accommodation, mess and classroom facilities. The mess deck can accommodate over 800 students, whilst a new computer centre with 300 workstations is currently under construction and should be completed towards the end of the year. Other facilities include an Olympic size swimming pool in which all students are taught to swim, a shooting range, sport facilities for 25 different sporting disciplines and a 900ha Nature Reserve for practical training in the veld.
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