5 SA Infantry Battalion is currently honing its jungle warfare skills ahead of deploying to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB).
The Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, headquartered unit has been at the SA Army’s jungle training base outside Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape since the beginning of April. When this section of training is completed the unit will move to the SANDF mobilisation unit in Bloemfontein for final mission readiness training and mobilisation before moving out to the eastern DRC in June. The deployment is a 12 month one and will be 5 SAI’s third to the central African country.
South Africa, through its national defence force must, in accordance with a UN memorandum of understanding, supply forces for deployment in the DRC under the UN flag. Once deployed 5 SAI soldiers exchange their green berets for the blue helmets which identify UN peacekeepers worldwide.
To better equip deploying forces, soldiers are prepared in a forest environment where current battle tactics are adapted to suit circumstances and conditions in the DRC. The only area in South Africa that allows the SANDF to achieve this objective is the Port St Johns area, said Joint Operations Division spokesman, Captain (SAN) Jaco Theunissen.
Utilising the SANDF approach of “we train as we fight and we fight as we train”, deploying soldiers will focus on patrols in jungle areas, house and building clearance, fighting in built-up areas (FIBA), river crossings and fire and movement in dense terrain. The emphasis will at all times be on command and control. While at Port St Johns soldiers will also undergo helicopter operations training and controlling aerial fire on ground targets from combat support helicopters, including 16 Squadron Rooivalks.
Theunissen said the jungle training put soldiers into “another bracket as all training at Port St Johns to date has surpassed expectations”.
South Africa’s troop contribution to the MONUSCO mission has not been downsized with the country’s total contribution to the UN peacekeeping and peace building effort in the DRC remaining at the 1 300 mark.