Defence minister Charles Nqakula says his department is in talks with other government departments to utilise Military Skills Development Programme (MSDS) recruits after their period of service.
Paying a visit to the naval gymnasium at SAS Saldanha yesterday to address the Navy`s latest batch of aspirant sailors, Nqakula – formerly safety & security minister – said one post-military career for divers could be with the police`s water wing.
The 403 young sailors in the two-year voluntary programme commenced training on 12 January. The young men and women are part of the cadre of 5452 new recruits that joined the South African National Defence Force last month. They are all currently undergoing five months of Basic Military Training (BMT) at various institutions of the four Services – the SA Army, SA Air Force, SA Navy and SA Military Health Service.
The MSD programme is one of the Department of Defence`s initiatives to rejuvenate the military and “feed” the SANDF Reserve Force. Following BMT recruits will receive functional training in various musterings. In the Navy these include engineering, radar, weapons and communications operators, the submarine service and many others.
SAS Saldanha is situated along the waters of the Saldanha Bay Lagoon on the West Coast. It is the largest training unit in the SA Navy and the location for all seaward BMT.
Nqakula was accompanied by the Chief of the Navy, Vice Admiral Johannes Mudimu and Rear Admiral RW “Rusty” Higgs, the Flag Officer Fleet. They were escorted around the unit by commanding officer Captain V. Pillay.
In his address to the new intake, Nqakula said that “in terms of the MSD, they were trying to develop young people in South Africa along military lines, but in such a way that they can contribute to life in the civilian sector”.
Nqakula called the recruits courageous, as they were the future of South Africa. ”You must rise to the challenges and face the unknown”.
Nqakula and Mudimu also addressed the uniformed and civilian staff of the stone frigate, thanking them for moulding the students and “being part of the whole”.
Of interest is that of the current intake, only 35% can swim. All will, however, receive swimming instruction as part of the BMT curriculum.
Subject to their performance and behaviour, deserving students are given contracts to pursue a military career in the SANDF. The Navy is expected to retain 50% to 80% of the recruits after the two-year MSDS period, depending on the needs of the Navy at the time.
Those not selected will have gained skills and work experience and will thus be able to obtain employment in the civil sector more easily.
The Department of Defence is encouraging the youth of the country, especially those from white, Coloured and Indian communities, to participate in the MSDS.
MSDS intakes have grown year on year, the 2008 MSDS intake was 4280, which increased to about 5 452 in 2009, and it is expected that this figure will grow to about 10 000 recruits next year. As a result, the Navy will, for the first time, run a second MSDS intake of recruits in July.