QUEST FOR THE MAROON BERET

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1 Parachute Battalion is the sole military parachute training institution in South Africa, with its parachute School being responsible for all training. The school has had only four fatalities in its existence. 1 Parachute Battalion is a full-time unit which in addition to parachute training also conducts force training to recruits inducted into the unit and other units in the South African Army.

The average age ranges in the mid-twenties. The selection and training of paratroops is rigorous to ensure a standard of combat efficiency is retained at a high level.

Recruitment

Members of 1 Parachute Battalion visit the various battalions each year early in the training cycle to look for volunteers. These must then pass a physical test at their unit prior to appearing before a selection board, which examines their character and motivation.

Initial evaluation

To give would-be members the endurance and the fitness they will need for operations in the harsh African conditions, the instructors of 44 Parachute Brigade place particular emphasis on basic physical training. Soldiers volunteering for service with the parachute forces first undergo a battery of medical tests – similar to that for flying personnel – before setting off on a 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) timed run. Before they can recover their breath, they tackle the second test: 200 metres (0.12 mi) run in which each man carries a comrade on his back.

The applicants are then put through various psychological and physical tests – though these are usually well within the reach of anyone with sufficient motivation and willpower.

The real ordeal will then start: for four long months, the recruits Bats will endure forced marches, physical exercises, shooting sessions and inspections — all this barracked by the screams of their eagle-eyed instructors. The South African paratroop instructors, like their British counterparts, enforce strict discipline. For example, trainees always take their grooming kit along with them on 30 kilometres (19 mi) marches and at dawn, when back at the base with aching bones, devote whatever little time is left they have to rest to ‘spit and polish’.

Those who are accepted are then transferred to 1 Para, where they first complete the normal three-month basic training course, with some differences: PT three times a day, no walking in camp under any circumstances and a 10 to 15 kilometres (6.2 to 9.3 mi) run to end each day. 20 kilometres (12 mi) runs carrying tar poles; car tyres attached to the candidates by a long rope; or the dreaded 25 kilograms (55 lb) concrete slab that has to be carried everywhere the candidate goes. Some 10 to 20 percent drop out during this phase, returning to their original units. All this builds up to what is called the koeikamp (‘cow camp’). It is 3 days of the ultimate challenge of physical and psychological endurance.

The would-be paratroops get a 24-hour ration pack or “rat pack” for the duration of the selection. During these days, they are given several tasks to perform in an allocated time: Several 20 to 30 kilometres (12 to 19 mi) Night marches/runs with 25 kilograms (55 lb) bergens, boxing, 75 kilograms (165 lb) stretcher run over 20 kilometres (12 mi), digging trenches and the carrying of artillery canisters over 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) during a timed run are just a few of the tasks that has to be completed. On top of all this the candidates are out in the African bush with no showers, hot meals or beds after each gruelling day. Each year the sequence of what “tests” will be done to get the strongest out of the “wannabees” changes, so it comes as quite a surprise each year. Due to lack of sleep, hunger and extreme physical tasks many of the men give up. After all the above tests, the few remaining soldiers head back to camp where they have to complete an obstacle course called the “Elephant”. Some foreign Elite soldiers claimed this to be one of the hardest bone breaking obstacle courses ever. Again, this is a timed exercise, which has to be completed several times, it is also done with full battle kit. Again the instructors are looking for any hesitant students during the high obstacles and underwater swim through a narrow tunnel. At the end of the “Elephant” several more students drop out due to injury or not completing the course in the required time. At this point the course has been completed. However, there is always the ‘bad surprise” which has historically become part of the Selection Phase.

After a six-month ordeal, the selected few (about 40% of the original intake), make the 12 jumps required to obtain their wings. During this time, the chances of being disqualified are still very high. This phase is followed by some advanced individual training, during which such subjects as advanced driving, demolitions, tactics and patrolling, unarmed combat, survival skills, escape and evasion, aspects of guerrilla warfare, tracking, raiding, counter-insurgency operations, fast rope skills, ambush and anti-ambush techniques and foreign weapons and techniques are covered.

Their instructors, however, always find that something is left to be desired with the inspection which invariably follows. To harden their muscles, trainees are made to carry a telegraph pole for two days, at a rate of 20 kilometres (12 mi) daily. Back at base, the ‘marble’, a stone weighing about 25 kilograms (55 lb) which the soldier must carry wherever he goes, is used as a substitute for the same purpose. The detailed training programme is listed below:

Basic training – 10 weeks

  • Musketry
  • Field Craft
  • Drill
  • Map Reading
  • Buddy Aid
  • Physical Training – Very important

Parachute qualification training – 5 weeks

  • Parachute Selection – 2 Weeks (8 hours Physical Training every day for 2 weeks)
    • Running 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) and more with boots
    • Running up to 21 kilometres (13 mi) with logs
    • Battle PT with Logs, Concrete Blocks and Rifles
    • Route Marches of 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) with full kit
    • Boxing, Soccer, Wrestling, Rugby with Car Tyre as ball
    • Callisthenic Exercises
    • Qualification Tests (60% must be attained after the 2 weeks Parachute Selection)
      • 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) with full kit in 18 minutes
      • 40 Shuttle Runs in 90 seconds
      • 200 metres (0.12 mi) fireman’s lift with full kit
      • Climb a 6-metre rope
      • Climb over a 2-metre wall with full kit
      • 50 pushups without resting
      • 67 sit-ups in 2 minutes
      • 120 squat kicks without resting
  • Parachute training – 3 weeks following successful parachute selection
    • Ground training in hangar
    • Jumping from “aapkas” (Outdoor exit trainer)
    • Jumping from Dakota Aircraft
    • Jumping from C130 / C160 Transall Aircraft
    • Jumping includes day and night jumps, with and without kit using standard and steerable parachutes
    • A total of 8 jumps must be completed before the sought after paratrooper wings are awarded
      • Current Day Selection and Training for the Physical portion of the Parachute Course
      • Until 1991 the physical portion of the Parachute Qualifying course was 2 weeks, but due to national service being shortened to one year, the army had a need to change and make the training more compact and fast paced. However some of the ‘older’ paratroops still do physical training courses to ensure that standards do not drop.

Individual training – 8 weeks

  • Platoon Weapons
  • Battle Craft
  • Specialist Training (in one of the following mustering)
    • Section Leaders
    • Rifleman
    • Mortar man
    • Anti-Tank Gunner
    • Machine Gunner
    • Signaler
    • Intelligence NCO
    • Medical Orderly
    • Driver
    • Clerk
    • Parachute Packer
    • Store man

Conventional warfare training – 10 weeks

  • Advance
  • Defence
  • Withdrawal
  • Cooperation with Armoured, Artillery, Air Force etc.
  • Airborne Operations including Air Assault battle handling on sub-unit level

Counter-insurgency (COIN) training – 9 weeks

  • Bush Warfare Techniques
  • Reaction Force Operations
  • Specialized Air Operations
  • Airborne Raids

Other Training Once a paratroop is fully trained, he takes part in the normal operational and training activities of the unit.

  • Specialist Parachute and other Training Courses include:
    • Pathfinder Training
    • Basic fast-roping/rapelling skills
      PICTURE : Fast roping from a South African Air Force Atlas Oryx
    • Fast-roping/rapelling dispatchers
    • Fast-roping/rapelling instructors
    • Static Line dispatchers course
    • Basic Parachute instructors course
    • Advance static line jump course
    • Basic Free Fall Course
    • Free fall dispatchers course
    • Free fall instructors course
    • Advanced free fall course
    • Advanced free fall instructors course
    • Drop zone safety officers course
    • Parachute Packing and checking course
    • Tandem parachuting

Watch Video Below, A documentary on the SANDF para training and recruitment.

Source: Wiki Leaks / Youtube