1992 and I was selected for the Junior Leader Course at Infantry School, South Africa. Only a small part was selected, and we were always reminded to be of the correct profile. Not all soldiers have the profile to become a leader in the Infantry Corps. This course was one hell of a course, that can best be described as a 6 month continuous selection process with very strict guidelines all the way up to the point of receiving your rank. Military National Service was still compulsory during those years and all white males was conscripted to report for duty the year after finishing high school. In this photo we are busy practicing Section Battle drills. The smallest grouping within the Infantry Platoon.
On the left is me and my wife. We met during a formative course for junior NCO's. We were both 21 years old.
The culmination of your training at Infantry School was the strenuous 3-day selection process known as “Vasbyt”. In English this means biting hard onto and long onto something of value. If you do not make this, you are out. The 3-day process consists mainly of a route march in full kit (60kg), over 120km. You navigate from control point to control point and must execute different tasks at each control point to test your leadership, skill, general knowledge, and all that you have learnt up to now. Many of the guys were evacuated by medical vehicles and helicopters and we never heard or seen one of them again. The completion of this selection gave you a lot of confidence in your own ability to become an effective leader of Infantry men. Physically, mentally, and psychologically and the knowledge that you have the skill required and more.
A group of soldiers posing for a dawn photo in Oudtshoorn, where the sun is at its most beautiful.
1992 Presenting my first LMG lectures to the students who only speak a little English. This is where your patience is tested, and you develop a unique love for the students in your hands.
My first unit after receiving my rank as Cpl was 7 South African Infantry Battalion, Phalaborwa. We received a new intake of voluntary service members from the local villages in and around Phalaborwa. This was still the old South Africa and these guys had it coming for them. Yet again, a selection of a different kind will take place in the coming 6 weeks for them. We selected them on the principles of who of them can speak, read, or write enough English. How many have the physical ability to fit into the profile of an Infantry soldier? What are their strong and weak points? In this photo I am standing at the back with my Platoon Commander and our troops in front. This was taken in Gravelot within a reserve bordering many private reserves.
Section battle drills was not easy. One tends to quickly learn that being in the fighting compartment of the army is hard and tough. The FN Mag or as we called it the LMG (Light machine Gun) was not light at all. With your first line of ammunition, it is quite a heavy load, suitable for the bigger guys in your section. The big guys need to rest at some stage as well, and then it was time to swop firearms. In this photo I am preparing for our next attack. We did about 10 attacks a day, continues for about 4 weeks non-stop. Each time we “bomb up” you discuss your strategy, and how to be better, faster, and more accurate and effective than the previous attack. Impressing the Company Sergeant Major (Denne Strydom also known as “Pyp”) was high on the priority list. At the end of the 6 weeks training, we were an extremely effective and dangerous group of guys that worked together like the 5 fingers on your hand. The worry of being fit enough and tough enough is something of the past. The Junior Leader Course started with about 3000 selected young men out of the complete intake in South Africa of about 60 000. Of those initial 3000 only 650 successfully completed the Junior Leader Course at Infantry School.
The FT5 was the replacement for the RPG 7 and the bazooka previously used by the Infantry.
The year is 1994 and I was transferred to Infantry School to become an instructor at the Corps school. In this photo we are preparing for a first light (just before sunrise) ambush training exercise.
My students, platoon commander and myself, posing for a photo just before we move out into formation.
1995 I was requested to be transferred to the Research and Development Wing within Infantry School Oudtshoorn. This was a very big surprise and blessing at the same time. As a junior I had the opportunity to learn form the senior guys and at the same time rub shoulders with senior high-ranking officers and engineers developing new systems for the infantry. R & D was conducted to better training solutions and systems that were successfully implemented into the SA Army. In this photo we test fire the newly developed 20mm NTW Anti-material rifle later issued to the Special Forces Snipers.
1995 The 106mm recoilless gun has a very prominent reputation as being the most physically demanding weapon system to operate on foot. You may say that the weapon is old and outdated, but honestly this is a very good training exercise to express and install aggression into any young infantryman. You have a four-man team that needs to carry the gun to the top of a hill to add a flanking ‘buffer’ for your anti-tank ability. The team will first secure the position, carry the equipment to the top, return with the ammunition. The man handling of this gun is not for the faint-hear ted. It hits hard and is very aggressive.
To increase mobility, we also trained by using other methods as well.
Still a junior NCO, I was placed in the “hot” seat to act as the Platoon Sergeant with the final practical course evaluation. You need to receive commands from the observers, calculate and give corrections through to the “blunt end” as we called the grouping where the mortars are positioned. This was a hair-raising experience as my skill and confidence was tested to the utmost. I still do not know why, I the most junior on this course, ended up in the specific seat. But hell, it was one hell of a fire mission.
1996 The 60mm defensive mortar and the 81mm mortar application was a specialized course we did to give the Infantry battalion a limited artillery capability.
1999 Water crossing and orientation during the Reconnaissance course was a function we need to master. You have the introduction phase and then at any stage during the course it can be requested to apply this in the execution of your mission. The Stompdrift dam was full on the day and it is wide and deep.
1999 Survival phase implicated you need to plan with scavenging your own food. Leaning the more effective detail regarding the application of long-term camouflage for concealment, is truly an art that you develop over years of experience. In these photos one can obviously identify the short comings in the ‘make-up’. Bush hat is to light and really look like a shiny object. The camouflage material is not weathered yet and still looks neat and clean. Many things hanging loosely may cause a trail left behind.
Foreign weapons training was a really great experience. We are so used to our own weapon systems that we sometimes forget to quickly that the enemy also have systems and sometimes more superior to your own.
1999 The honor of carrying the unit colors. The Infantry School is where everything started for thousands of young leaders.
2000 Explaining to the General, the Colonel and the Major from the HQ at Army Headquarters why the current equipment we use as the Reconnaissance Platoon is not sufficient for the operational application.
2000 CBD Instructors Course (Chemical and Biological Defence course done at 7 Medical Battalion)
Throughout my career I saw it as a privilege to train students - the future fighters of our nation. I always took it on myself to provide them with the best there is, and they were my priority. When it was time to be hard on them I was indeed, but when it was time to lead and be their leader, I was. Many years have passed and once every now and then I still walk into some of them in town. It is always a privilege and great honor.
Never viewed myself as a photographer but my "talents" with the camera came a long way...lol. Always had a very simple instamatic camera where ever I went. Many of the photos on this website was used by other individuals on their social media platforms giving a lot of different comments regarding "my" photos. I guess it is beautiful for others as well. This was one of my proud students on our way to an ambush location during training at InfantrySchool.
The years spent in the military led one to an astounding journey. You meet legends only heard of in books, and then the silent ones you will never hear of in books as the missions done by them is only in their head and memory and with the single ones who shared the experience with them. I was fortunate to walk the journey with many such soldiers. Even more during my last 3 years served in a Special Forces unit as I rubbed shoulders with legendary members of the military.