Transformation of vitally important Reserves continues


The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) continues to transform and revitalise the Reserves as they contribute significantly to the military’s landward capability – of the 12 400 who were planned to be used in the last financial year, 14 600 were actually called up.

According to the Department of Defence (DoD) Annual Report for the 2013/14 financial year, the Reserves “will continue to be transformed and revitalised to fulfil their primary role of providing a large component of the conventional landward capability of the SANDF whilst at the same time supplementing peace support missions conducted by the Regulars.”

However, the report noted that, the “Revitalisation and Transformation Plans as prepared by the DOD and coordinated by the Defence Reserves are being implemented although the unavailability of funding is posing a challenge.”

The DOD said it will continue to focus on the recruitment and training of university students through the University Reserve Training Programme (URTP). However it noted that “The reduction of the financial resource allocation for the Military Skills Development System (MSDS), as a feeder system for the Reserves may have a negative impact on the numbers of available Reserves and the ability of the SANDF to rejuvenate forces.”

The total strength of the Reserves at the end of the FY2013/14 year was 21 764, of which a total of 14 668 were called up, against the planned 12 400. These Reserves worked 2.67 million man-days during multiple call-ups.

Of the 14 668 members called up last year, 10 616 served in the SA Army, 1 529 in the SA Military Health Services, the Divisions accounted for 1 409, the Navy another 619 and 495 served in the Air Force. These Reserves Force members served an average of 183 days per person during the year.

Total Reserve strength increased by 2000 over the last couple of years, as the total strength of the Reserves at the end of the 2012/13 financial year was 19 812, of which 14 285 were called up, against a planned target of 12 400 active Reserves.

As far a transformation and representation is concerned, the white component of the Reserve Force has declined from 100% in 1994 to less than 15% of its current total strength with women making up 23%.

The Reserves have contributed significantly to all SANDF deployments externally and internally, notably contributing to the manpower required for continental peacekeeping operations, such as the 1 000 South African soldiers serving in the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The percentage of Reserve Force members on foreign deployment is believed to be 25% of each battalion, i.e., 1 of 4 companies.

For the first time in the history of the SANDF Reserves, a full battalion with troops and leader group was deployed on border safeguarding. Of the 13 landward sub-units deployed on border safeguarding duties in the last financial year, seven of these were made up of Reserve Force members.

As noted above, during the last financial year the majority of Reserves were employed by the Army, which called up a total of 10 616 members to supplement the Regulars, assist with pre-deployment training, mission readiness training and continuation training and to attend formal courses, execute guard duties, participate in the University Reserve Training Programme (URTP), contribute to internal and external deployments and execute administration duties. These included 2002 former MSDS members that were transferred to the Reserves. In total, the Reserves deployed 12 Infantry companies to supplement the Regulars for both internal and external operations.

The SA Army Reserve actively participated in military skills events inside and outside the country. A Reserve team was crowned the overall team championship winner in the 21st Netherlands International Shooting Competition and a team of five members (four males and one female) were selected by the Reserve Council to attend a military skills competition on behalf of the Chief of Defence Reserves (C Def Res) in the United Kingdom in 2013.

Another highlight was the SA Army Reserve for the first time deploying a complete Reserve Infantry Battalion, in Grahamstown. This achievement was the culmination of Project Phoenix that began to rejuvenate the Reserves in 2003.