14 SAI training for DRC deployment

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Umtata-based 14 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion has been hard at work in Limpopo, honing military skills essential for a successful operational deployment.

The unit came into being in January 1994 as part of force integration to create the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), taking into its ranks former Transkei Defence Force (TDF) soldiers and officers.

14 SAI is next up as the South African component of the MONUSO Force Intervention brigade (FIB) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

A major part of training ahead of deployment, said by SA Army Corporate Communication to be the 31st Operation Mistral one, is a just completed field training exercise at the Ben Viljoen training area, midway between Phalaborwa and Tzaneen, that ran from 18 to 23 June. A command post exercise (CPX) ran simultaneously at the same venue from 11 to 17 June to prepare unit command for operational requirements and priorities in the DRC.

The CPX, with Headquarters 43 SA Brigade in the lead as well as relevant SANDF services and divisions, trained 14 SAI staff officers and their support elements in in and out of area of responsibility operations. This included successful planning, co-ordinating, synchronising and exercising operational command and control during mission execution.

The field training exercise put 14 SAI’s men and women through tough tests, including live fire compliments of 4 Artillery Regiment’s 120 mm mortar battery. This, Army Corporate Communication reports, was followed by a two hour firefight. Weaponry utilised was platoon support in the form of 7.62 mm light machine guns (LMGs), 40mm multiple grenade launchers, and 60 mm long range and conventional mortars.

The defensive fire plan concluded both the CPX and field training exercise under the guidance of Headquarters 43 SA Brigade. The headquarters unit’s aim is to train and confirm combat readiness of forces for the Chief of the SA Army (Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha) for projection of forces to missions as mandated by SANDF Chief, General Rudzani Maphwanya, according to Army Corporate Communications.

10 SAI from Mafikeng is the current South African battalion component of the MONUSCO FIB. The battalion has been in DRC since November with the Umtata unit probably set to rotate with its North West sister SA Army Infantry Formation unit in November.

The present make-up of the South African military presence in the DRC comprises 10 SA Infantry Battalion with the MONUSCO FIB, an SA Army tactical intelligence unit, a SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) air medical evacuation team, an infantry quick reaction force (QRF) attached to the FIB and a SA Air Force (SAAF) composite helicopter unit (CHU).

The SANDF deployment to DRC, under Operation Mistral, will use an estimated R1.035 billion between 1 April 2023 and 31 March 2024. Earlier this year President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised employment of 1 198 SANDF personnel to serve with MONUSCO to disarm, neutralise and prevent expansion of armed groups.