A South African junior infantry officer has the distinction of being the first to attend – and complete – an officer advanced commando course in Pakistan.
Infantry School junior officer Captain Caven Khoshi Matsho was the selected officer of two prepared to attend the course. Both who put up their hands were stationed at the SA Army Infantry Formation’s leading training facility – Infantry School in Oudtshoorn, Western Cape.
The aim of the officer advanced commando course is to recruit, train and empower young Pakistani officers and equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to serve, protect and defend Pakistan against terrorists and any kind of national threat, according to Lieutenant Colonel Therese Marie Doman, SO1 Corporate Communication SA Army Infantry Formation.
Modules those on the course underwent and were successful in included improvised explosive devices (IEDs); anti-terrorist training and mountain craft; advanced navigation; minor tactics and survival; watermanship; mountain and snow warfare; parachute training; desert warfare and a combined exercise.
Providing feedback to the Infantry School Command Council, Matsho said the course was both strenuous and informative and he acquired new skills. The course was presented in Urdu with no interpreters which saw those on course assisting each other in understanding lectures, practical training and other course components.
On arrival in Pakistan one of Matsho’s first observations regarded the South African uniform and boots as being unsuitable for terrain, weather and training.
The snow warfare module was of particular interest to the lone South African, whose home base in the Karoo vastness does not often have this meteorological event. Snow warfare was combined with mountain warfare, and learners were equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to operate and survive in snow. Snow operations including survival and safety measures were part of this module.
South Africa and Pakistan enjoy close defence ties, having signed a government-to-government defence co-operation agreement which includes industrial co-operation in March 2017. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in Pakistan on the first official visit by a South African Minister of Defence and Military Veterans in democratic South Africa. She was preceded by General Solly Shoke, Chief of the South African National Defence Force, who visited various Pakistani military headquarters and facilities.
South African delegations visited Pakistan on numerous occasions and Pakistani delegations have come to South Africa – Pakistani naval vessels also visited. In 2019, as one example, the Chief of the Pakistan Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Kha and Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa paid friendly visits to South Africa.
The Pakistani military sent students to the Army College in South Africa while Pakistan accepted South African officers for staff college training. Pakistan also trained South African personnel in special forces roles. Last year the SANDF said around 40 South African commanders were trained in Pakistan. This included counter-terrorism training.
Pakistan has shown interest in South African military hardware, including Umkhonto surface-to-air missiles and 155 mm self-propelled artillery.