South African Army recruits will from next year undergo 22 week of basic military training (BMT), up from 14 weeks this year and 10 weeks in 2005.
The Chief of Army Force Preparation, Maj Gen Vuzi Masondo says this will allow more time to be spent mastering drills and skills.
“What is now a week will become two or three weeks,” he says. “It is important that our troops master their skills now that we deploy much more on the continent.
“We are very happy with the youngsters we are attracting through the military skills development system (MSDS) and they are very enthusiastic.
“[But] we have had some challenges with BMT and a decision was taken that this be extended to 22 weeks to ensure they are competent enough to be able to carry out their tasks as required,” Masondo said at a press conference at this year`s Exercise Young Eagle open day.
“After their training we picked up that some of soldiers are not competent enough because [for example] they don`t get sufficient time in terms of shooting exercises.”
Masondo says the extra effort will be time ad money well spent “because you don`t want a situation where your soldiers are not proficient and cannot fulfil their tasks.”
SA Army Master Paratrooper Brig Gen McGill Alexander (Ret) added that the additional training will not result in a substantial increase in expenditure.
“The fact that their training period is extended does not mean their total period of service is extended. They are still being paid a salary over two years. The instructors are still there during that period of time. There are no additional expenses from that point of view.”
Basic military training
BMT is the first of a series of career-long training periods all soldiers undergo and it is followed with continuous through-career training at various Service and defence institutions.
Initial training is undertaken at the SA Army Training Depot in Kimberley as ell as other centres and specialised training at the various corps schools, countrywide.
Leadership training is presented at the SA Army Gymnasium at Heidelberg, advanced leader training at the corps schools as well as the and at the SA Army College at Thaba Tshwane. Senior Army leaders receive training at the War and Defence Colleges. Conventional force training is conducted at the SA Army Combat Training Centre at Lohatlha in the Northern Cape and airborne force training at De Brug near Bloemfontein.
In 2006 a written answer to a Parliamentary question indicated that it then cost R48 000 to train one recruit for six month in addition to a R12 000 per person in salary.
At the time the 10 week BMT programme consisted of 600 40-minute instructional periods, allocated as follows:
· Motivation: 8%
· Knowledge: 9%
· Fitness: 16%
· Drill: 10%
· Combat skills: 57%
o Musketry 17%
o Shooting Exercises 14%
o Fieldcraft 23%
o Map Reading 15%
o Field Exercises 31%
· Command Information
o Political Science 11
o SANDF & SA Army organisation 8
o “Know your Enemy” 5
· Military Security 3
· Chaplain`s periods 11
· Regimental duties
o Military aspects 2
o Personal aspects 7
o Standing Orders 5
o Loss control 8
o Guards and sentries 10
· Military law 8
· Hygiene 4
· Buddy Aid 15
o Conditioning training and combat PT 48
o Recreational PT 48
· Parade drill 53
· Compliments and saluting 7
o Weapons drill 57
o Shooting exercises 48
o Practical lessons 80
o Field exercises and route marches 106
o Map reading and navigation 50
· Basic mine awareness 6
Field craft includes an emphasis on navigation (including maintaining direction in the bush) and map reading. Also focussed on is the use of a compass, orientating by using the sun and stars; camouflage and concealment – both of the individual and of fighting positions and bivouacs; stalking; observation and judging distance: all of this by day and night.
Musketry training includes work on the shooting range and along the “bush lane”, but is preceded by many hours mastering the maintenance and cleaning of the R4 service rifle.
By the end of basic training, a recruit is expected to be able to shoot a 200mm group at 100m in prone and kneeling positions and, in the standing position, from 50m.
The “bush lane” simulates conditions in the African Bushveld. A recruit is expected to walk up a specially laid-out path and identify and engage a variety of targets concealed along the way – using lessons drawn from fieldcraft. Instructors may also add tripwires, etc. to add to the realism and exercise knowledge acquired during the mine awareness lessons.
Fitness is a basic requirement for soldiering, which despite the advent of motorised transport and aviation still requires much use of the “Mark 1 Foot”. In addition to conditioning training and combat PT, usually conducted in uniform and boots, with an R4; recruits are also exposed to ever-longer route marches. By the end of basic training, the recruit should be able to complete a 25km route march, bearing a rifle and 25kg pack, in four-and-a-half hours.
They will also be able to do 50 push-ups in two minutes, 60 sit-ups and 10 pull-ups, sequentially, within the same time-frame. After this they should be able to run 2.4km, with rifle and “battle jacket” within 12 minutes – easy meat for a fit person in their late teens or early 20s.
Buddy aid concentrates on teaching each recruit the skills needed to render immediate first aid to a wounded or injured comrade. Problems covered include identifying and dealing with cardiac arrest, impeded breathing, snakebite, bleeding, burns, heat exhaustion, fractures and open wounds.
Specialised troop training
After graduating from BMT the new soldier undergoes “corps” or mustering training at the appropriate “centre of excellence”.
For the infantry, this normally means the Infantry School where training commences with two weeks familiarisation training on the weapons found in a rifle platoon other than the R4. This includes training on pyrotechnics and flares, shrapnel mines, hand and rifle grenades, the 60mm patrol mortar, the RPG7 recoilless rocket launcher, the general purpose machine gun (FN MAG or Denel SS77) and the multiple 40mm grenade launcher. This phase may also include familiarisation with night vision equipment.
Once mastered, the rifleman is next schooled on conventional operations, with an emphasis on section battle drills and trench routine. This entails spending many a night digging and occupying trench lines and posting sentries. Full defensive fire plans, including all platoon weapons, will also be executed.
Next, the rifleman is introduced to the art of patrolling and laying ambushes – skills equally useful on the conventional battlefield as during counterinsurgency campaigns and for peace support. Also practiced to perfection are vehicle movement, countermine and defile drills and procedures for occupying covert temporary bases.
Section leader training
Concurrent with specialised training, those willing, and fitting the profile, are selected and trained as section leaders. Those passing the six-week course are appointed lance corporals. Most will be promoted to substantive corporals after a successful trial period.