International participants show their mettle at SANDF’s Military Skills Competition

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At the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF’s) Military Skills Competition (MILCOMP) 2023, competitors from South Africa, Botswana, Germany, Tanzania, and the United States of America have gathered to participate in a variety of soldiering disciplines. 

The competition began on 11 September at South African Army Support Base Potchefstroom. Participants gathered on 14 September to first battle it out on the Dirkie Uys Shooting Range with pistols and rifles, and thereafter returned to Potchefstroom for the hand grenade throwing category, reports Captain Jacques de Vries for the Directorate SA Army Reserve.

Despite the difficulties presented by the shifting wind directions in the pistol and rifle shooting categories, participants gave it their all to score as many points as possible. The 9 mm Z88 pistol engagements were at a range of 25 metres, while the 5.56 mm R4 rifle firing took place from a prone position at a distance of 200 metres. 

Following a break for lunch, participants proceeded to the grenade throwing course, where they used M26 fragmentation grenades from the South African National Defence Force. Simulated trenches, foxholes, windows, and entrances were their main targets. The tournament served as a visual reminder of the value of hand grenades in urban warfare and trench clearing operations, with colleagues and onlookers frequently cheering successful throws, de Vries reported.

The Military Skills Competition 2023 continued with the Land Obstacle Course on Friday, 15 September, and the 8 km Combat Run on Saturday 16 September.

When opening MILCOMP 2023, Chief SA Army Force Preparation, Major General Patrick Dube, said the competition “strives to ensure that all members of the armed forces are provided with an opportunity for a strengthened fundamental, solid understanding of basic soldiering skills. These characteristics are vital for survival when deployed on service in times of war and peace – relevant now more than ever when considering where the armed forces are being deployed in military operations other than war.”

Dube said the skills participants practice during the competition will be taken back to their units and from there to the Army’s divisional level combat readiness exercise Vuk’uhlome in November. “In a similar way, this competition is not only a proving ground but also a space to learn from our African continental and international partners, and to teach them a thing or two!”