South Africa: The Chief of the South African National Defence Force Military Skills Competition (MILCOMP) 2023 got off to a sunny start in Potchefstroom on Monday 11 September, as the Chief SA Army Force Preparation, Major General P.N. Dube welcomed the South African and international teams.
The parade ground at 4 Artillery Regiment was set out with meticulous precision, complete with Infantry, Artillery and Armour Prime Mission Equipment arrayed all around for the occasion as the attending nations’ flags fluttered proudly in the breeze.
Major General Dube saluted participants at what is by reckoning the 16th edition of the competition since 2006, and emphasised the value derived from the event for both South African soldiers and their international counterparts. This, he said, was “… something the SA National Defence Force embraces more than anything… that being the building of strong ties between each other as soldiers, whether from at home or abroad.
This year, we extend our hospitality to teams from Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany, Tanzania, and the United States of America. You are here at the premiere event for promoting fighting fitness and combat readiness in the SA National Defence Force’s Regulars and Reserves. Please, feel at home.”
Chief of the SA National Defence Force, General R. Maphwanya directed the Chief of the South African Army, Lieutenant General L.K. Mbatha, who in turn tasked the South African Army Armour Formation with the responsibility for making the competition a reality. Much of what is made possible at the 4 Artillery Regiment opening parade and for the contest’s duration is due to the hard work and dedication of Armour Formation’s Army Reserve unit based in Potchefstroom – Molapo Armoured Regiment.
Army Support Base Potchefstroom plays a big role in providing logistical support, as well as the indispensable assistance rendered by the SA National Defence Force’s Defence Reserves Division, its Defence Provincial Liaison Office North West, and the Reserve Force Council.
At its core, Chief Army Force Preparation emphasised that Military Skills Competition “… strives to ensure that all members of the armed forces are provided with an opportunity for a strengthened fundamental, solid understanding of basic soldiering skills. These characteristics are vital for survival when deployed on service in times of war and peace – relevant now more than ever when considering where the armed forces are being deployed in military operations other than war.”
As the main executor of the competition, the South African Army is currently focusing its energy on holding its principal divisional-level combat readiness show of force, that being Exercise VUK’UHLOME, which is translated from the Zulu language means – “Rise up and arm yourself”. Lieutenant General Dube stated that “Many of the SA National Defence Force Regular and Reserve Force members participating in Military Skills Competition both last year and this year, have participated in last year’s edition of that exercise.
They each take their skill-at-arms experiences of Military Skills Competition back to their respective units, and from there on to VUK’UHLOME where these experiences are applied and shared with their comrades.” Placing emphasis on this, he said that “… in a similar way, this competition is not only a proving ground but also a space to learn from our African Continental and International partners, and to teach them a thing or two!”
Commenting on the weather and its fickle nature, the main functionary cited Carl von Clausewitz’ famous saying, quote “No carefully laid plan survives first contact with the enemy”… and mentioned that being held a month earlier than the 2022 edition, “the African sun is forecast to shine pleasantly upon the competition’s five challenging competition categories, namely – Rifle and Pistol Shooting; Land Obstacle Course; Water Obstacle Crossing; Hand Grenade Throwing; and the 8 km combat run.”
The overriding message of the day was that individual and collective preparation prior to the event was as important as the participant’s ability to adapt to changing conditions and situations.
Before concluding his address, Lieutenant General Dube reiterated that the participants were most welcome, and repeated a favourite sentiment related to him by a fellow general from an allied nation at a multinational exercise in years gone by, that “It is good that we are meeting in peaceful conditions, and I hope that in the future we will meet in similar peaceful conditions.”
With the esprit de corps high for what lies ahead, Military Skills Competition 2023 is declared open!