The Reserve component of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is increasingly being called on to supplement the regular force, particularly regarding border protection, with Reserve Force units also contributing more manpower for continental peacekeeping operations.
“External deployments by the Reserves in peace support operations continued and Reserve were also successfully employed on border safeguarding duties,” the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV) said in its annual report for April 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013.
The total strength of the Reserve Force was 19 812 with more than 70% – 14 285 – called up for varying periods of time in the previous financial year.
An update to this comes from Major General Roy Andersen, Chief Reserves, who recently told defenceWeb this calendar year to date has seen more than 13 000 Reserve Force soldiers called up as part of the border safeguarding Operation Corona, comprising a major component of the SANDF’s internal duties.
As far as the policy, strategy and planning objectives for the Reserve Force in 2012/13 are concerned, all were over-achieved, according to the DoDMV report. This was 80% more than targeted in call-up terms and utilisation of active reserves. This, the report notes, was due to “internal and external operations causing over-achievement of Reserve utilisation”.
This increasing use of part-time soldiers, acknowledged by former Defence Minister Joe Modise as being “an indispensable element of a country’s defence” is also being hampered by a lack of funding. The plan to revitalise and transform the Reserves has been approved by the Military Command Council “subject to the availability of funds,” according to the annual report.
As far as attracting more members, particularly those who can fill the “scarce skills” identified by the SANDF, the Reserve Force has rolled out its University Reserve Training Programme (URTP) to 11 institutions of higher learning since 2011. URTP operates across all four arms of service has the past financial year saw 54 members complete their basic military training (BMT) in the Free State. In the Western Cape 105 members, made up of 74 SA Army, 11 SA Navy, 13 SA Military Health Services and 13 from the Logistics Division, also completed BMT and are undergoing office training.
Just before the financial year-end a URTP recruitment campaign in Gauteng and North West drew 925 applications.
On challenges facing the Reserves the report notes: “The feeder system to provide the required number of new Reserve members is inadequate and is further affected by limited continuation training funds”.