The South African Army Armour Formation will be hosting the Military Skills Competition 2023 in Potchefstroom, with international military participants from Angola, Botswana, Germany, Tanzania and the United States.
The competition runs from 10 to 17 September. As of 8 September, 15 New York National Guard soldiers and airmen are in South Africa, fielding “an all-woman team of Army and Air National Guard members”, including against female teams from other countries, according to US Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF).
The event is sponsored by the South African military’s Reserve Forces Council. Those participating are being judged “on rifle and pistol marksmanship, an eight-kilometre run, a land obstacle course, a water obstacle course, and grenade throwing,” said SETAF.
“I did it last year and it was an amazing time,” said US Army Guard Sergeant 1st Class Andrew Guckian, a human resources specialist assigned to Camp Smith Training Site near Peekskill in the US, who said he jumped at the opportunity to be a participant.
Along with the all-woman, joint service team, the New York National Guard has sent “an Army National Guard and an Air National Guard team to compete. Each team consists of five personnel, a coach and four participants,” according to SETAF.
Previously, at least 21 countries sent their teams of reserve soldiers to the competition. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition could not take place for two years. Now, in 2023 at this weekend’s competition, it is “expected that the event will see more international competitors again,” said Air Guard Command Chief Master Sergeant Edward Stefik, who is serving as team leader and coach for the Army team. In a 2014 competition, Stefik, who is the senior enlisted leader for the 107th Attack Wing, took a second-place finish in the competition that year.
The New Yorkers will have had about three or four days before the competition to practice. This is very important, Guckian said, “because Potchefstroom is 4 396 feet above sea level. People who live in Buffalo, and New York City, need some time to acclimatize,” according to a SETAF publication. “It’s also a good chance to get uses to the South African R4 rifle and their issue pistol, Guckian said. “The swimming obstacle course is also very challenging. It’s fun, but it means going under and over water obstacles in a pool as fast as possible,” Guckian said.
The New York National Guard has been competing regularly in the South Africa event since signing a training partnership agreement with the South African National Defence Force in 2003 as part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Programme.
Last year competitors from Botswana, Germany, the United States, and Zimbabwe joined their South African counterparts for the 2022 Military Skills Competition.
Pearl Matibe is a Washington, DC-based foreign correspondent and media commentator with expertise on US foreign policy and international security. You may follow her on Twitter: @PearlMatibe