International participants take part in South African Army combat shooting competition

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The Regular and Reserves of the South African Army have been joined by several foreign militaries in the Army’s annual combat rifle shooting competition, which is underway at the General De Wet Classification Shooting Range at De Brug outside Bloemfontein.

Captain Jacques de Vries, reporting for SA Army Corporate Communication, said the SA Army members have been joined by their counterparts from the Botswana Defence Force, Lesotho Defence Force and Zimbabwe Defence Forces in a programme that runs from 14 to 20 May.

The Chief Director: South African Army Force Preparation, Major General Patrick Dube was on hand on 15 May to represent the Chief of the South African Army, Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha, who is currently on a bilateral visit to Russia. Dube on Monday declared the competition open at the range.

Dube stated during the morning briefing that “we South Africans and continental comrades are seen here to be in action”. He emphasised that “while soldiers were here to do what they do best – shooting” the lively competition between peers from home and abroad was “commensurate with going all out in the Army’s resolve to restore its dignity to its rightful glory.”

The Combat Rifle Shooting Evaluation, comparable with the Military Skills Competition, is an extension of musketry training, requiring progressive effort to maintain high standards to the benefit of the organisation and the country as a whole, de Vries reported. “The 245 men and women participating on behalf of their respective units, stand to benefit massively from what each one brings to the rifle range as they constantly strive to be the best of the best.”

Dube said that “The bottom line is that we are all soldiers. We are gathered here as members of SADC [Southern African Development Community], in the spirit of the multilateralism approach of the South African government at home, on the continent and the world. We believe that we cannot do things alone, and we must move forward with our friends. We have trained, and will now shoot and see who is the best.”

In thanking the men and women who had come to compete, he wished each one the very best of luck, and reminded them that the event “… teaches us not only to strive to win, but also to endure if necessary, that feeling of losing.”

After declaring the competition open, Dube took the opportunity to interact not only with South African team captains but also with those from Botswana, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe, and also recognised especially the female shottists from the Botswana Defence Force.

The last edition of the shooting evaluation was held at the same venue in June/July 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic. That 12 combat shooting competition saw 339 shottists from the SA Army, United States, Zambia, Botswana and Lesotho competing in 11 categories. In 2018, teams from Lesotho, Malawi and Belgium took part.

International participants also took part in the Military Skills Development Competition in October 2022 in Potchefstroom, including from Botswana, Germany, the United States of America, and Zimbabwe. Military Skills Competition elements included shooting, crossing water obstacles, throwing hand grenades, and navigating land obstacles.

In the past, a large number of countries have taken part in the SANDF’s Military Skills Competition – the 2019 edition included members from Angola, Botswana, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, eSwantini, Germany, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, United Kingdom, United States of America, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The event was last held in 2019 and cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.