The Nightmare (1)
They knew how, the powers that be. The programing had been going on for decades and we happily went, no questions asked. The propaganda machine had been churning out the fear stories for as long as I can remember and they were true, all of them.
Violence was a thing we grew up with, it was a means to an end it was just a consequence.
We happily went, my father went we knew we were going to go, in one form or another we knew, we would all give two years to the protection of our way of life. We knew in one form or another we would be going to war. It was going to be the adventure of our lives and we were ready and eager.
We first started wearing military uniforms when we were 13 years old at school, every Friday we went to school in our cadet uniforms and were trained by real soldiers for an hour every week for 5 years. We were ready by the time we received our call up papers in the post. Most of us were just 17.
It was luck of the draw, you went where you were told. Some destinations were better than others no one wanted to get an Infantry call up, no one wanted to be foot soldier in the SADF (South African Defence Force) anything else except being sent to a SAI division (South African Infantry).
The day I went in August 1984, I was excited, I was ready and I absolutely wanted to go. It was going to be an adventure of a lifetime.
It was also the last time I saw most of my lifetime school friends.
When I took off my uniform in June 1986, life had forever changed. Things could never ever be the same again. I had hoped, things could go back to how they were, but I had brought home a new friend and he was here to stay and he has never ever gone away.
In terms of the Defence Amendment Act (Act 103 of 1982) all white male citizens are liable to military service at the age of 18, and they remain liable for service until age 55. There are two intakes every year, one in February and one in August, and the majority of these new conscripts are allocated to the SA Army, the largest of the four arms of the service.
They are allocated to various bases and installations with their first ten weeks being devoted to basic training. This is followed by specialist instruction appropriate to the trainees' particular corps or unit.
After six to eleven months training they are posted to operational and other units and headquarters for the rest of their initial service of two years.
These conscript soldiers undergoing their initial two years military service are known as national servicemen, and counted as part of the Army's Full-time Force.
Success in battle is dependent on well trained leaders and soldiers.
National servicemen receive their basic, individual and collective training at their respective units. In the Part-time Force training is done on a continuous or non-continuous basis with an annual maximum of twelve days in the Commandos and thirty days in the Citizen Force. Members in the Counter-insurgency Force do their training in their respective commands whereas those in the Conventional Force are trained by their formation headquarters, normally at the Army Battle School at Lohatlha in the North Western Cape. This school with its huge training area and excellent facilities is ideal for all types of conventional exercises. Leaders and specialists of all ranks are trained at the respective corps schools. The SA Army College at Voortrekkerhoogte provides command and staff training for officers of the Permanent Force, Citizen Force and Commandos as well as qualifying courses for senior NCOs and warrant officers.