My one week ARMY TRAINING with the South African National Defence Force

Yes, I handled a rifle, wore the whole khaki outfit and crawled through mud….You may be thinking Why In The World would anyone sign up to join the army. 

At the age of 16 I was quite the adrenaline seeker, so hiking, abseiling, netball, high jump, sprints and cycling activities was all good with me. High School was a reflection of who I became, As President of the Interact club, Director of the Drama Club, Vice President of TADA, Fundraiser of the Muslim Society, on the debate team, organiser of school events, it is no wonder my life today is as busy and lively as it is.  Always involved and active in many societies, sports and what have you.  When the opportunity to experience the army came up – I guess it was my curiosity that got hold of me.

Let me take you down memory lane. Through aches, laughter, team work and perseverance come life lessons.

Since most of my pics were taken before I donned the head covering, I unfortunately am unable to show you most of them —- that and I also cannot find the rest of the pics.  In this post about my “One Week Army Training” I’ve noted a few of the take-away lessons I learned on this amazing and once in a lifetime experience. Enjoy..


What do you wear in the army?

That khaki jumpsuit which we marched in, jogged in, hiked in, and did our obstacles courses in.. and also got dragged through mud in.

my take-away: In life you’re bound to get dirt on you from head to toe – growing is about being fully involved and not doing anything halfway. In this case I had mud soaked all the way into my socks !

No Outside contact 🙁

No phones, no phonecalls, no going home, no crying for your mommy, no crying for you daddy, no crying for your cuddly bear, no crying at all, you’re stuck here.

my take-away: You need to deal with your own emotions without relying on someone to always pick up the pieces.  Maturity starts with dealing with your emotions and learning how to best deal with different situations or environments.

Army Crockery, Cutlery & Cleaning Up

A varkpan (pig pan) was our plate and a spoeg bakkie (spit bowl) is what we drank out of.

Of course none of these were what they sound like.  But boy oh boy if they weren’t clean they would be thrown on the ground and you’d need to fetch and make sure that it wasn’t greasy – it had to be squeeky clean.

Cleaning up involved wrapping your bed so tightly, that when you sat on it, it would not look like, or fold into a kanoe (sink in the middle). I say kanoe because if the Bombardier or Lieutenant came to check your beds and the slightest thing was out of place, you get to jump on your bed, in front of everyone and make like a kanoe….. ummmmm yes I had to make like a kanoe. The floor was cement, so if we swept it, you would never get all the dust out- NEVER.  The Sergeant would do their tent inspection every morning and take the entrance mat, lift it up and drop it. If you saw a splatter of dust, our syndicate loses points 🙁  The other syndicates would always find away to either prank or sabotage your syndicate so that you’d lose points.

Lets talk about wash time, water was limited.  We had 30″ to undress, wash (body, face, hair, teeth..) and dress and get out of there. If you weren’t out in 30″ YOU WILL BE COLLECTED, ‘dressed or not’ ( no one got to find out if this would have happened)

my take-away: Put your pride in your pocket as you may need to sit on it from time to time.  No matter how much of a good job you do, your efforts will sometimes go unnoticed, take it with a pinch of salt – don’t live your life trying to please others or you’ll be endlessly disappointed.  And no matter how many times you aim to clean your slate, someone will remind you of your dirt – SMILE – Your imperfections, is what makes YOU UNIQUELY YOU !

Army Accomodation & War Cry

Far from 5 star – not even close.  It was a tent, which housed x8 people, who became my team mates – the BAD GIRLZ . Who would have thought I’d be a Bad Girl, but there I was singing our war cry, encouraging our team mates and trying our best not to get pranked by the other syndicates.  Our war cry was taken from the song below with the words changed to, BAD BAD GIRLS and the rest with more encouraging words.

I can’t believe this video though- Listening and watching this had my eyes pop at the fashion and videography back then.

What happens at night 

Let’s just say if you heard a loud bang, you better be lying on the ground immediately, or you’re dead.  We probably died the first two nights, until we eventually got it right. If you’re afraid of the unknown lurking about, then this is not for you.  Night walks were conducted in the dark and smoky night. We had to hold on to each other, so as not to fall into something or get lost. Identifying sights and sounds, ranging from a grenade being unclipped to a coke tin being unclipped, a cigarette being lit to a flair or dynamite being lit and a branch cracking to a gun being loaded….

Then there were the fire drills at 2am in the morning, when your body has just about reached deep sleep.

You literally “skrik wakker” and get yourself and your team mates to base camp. If any of your team mates are missing, this showed BAD TEAMWORK, as each syndicate is to never leave a team member behind.  After doing a head count, someone was left sleeping. (but not from our syndicate, thank goodness).

my take-away: Protect, Support and never leave someone behind. Look after each member of your team, be it colleagues, family or friends. Help and assist them when needed. Remember it is a reflection on your group when someone is left lagging behind. Bring them up to speed, push, pull and encourage them to reach their very best – NOTE not your best, their best 😉


Every morning we had to greet the sun, which required taking a walk up to a spot where we would wait for the sun to say “HELLO – Welcome to another day of torture”

Army TrainingPhysical activities included:

  • marching
  • running merrily downhill and than uphill (almost crawling)
  • press ups, push ups,
  • 100 yard outdoor shooting range with a R15 rifle which hit back into your shoulder
  • ensuring beds were made army style
  • tents were cleaned
  • outside buckets had water and the other sand, in case of fire
  • obstacle courses

Oooh I have to share the story of the obstacle course which required us to be fully camouflaged, including our face.  We were given a tube of  ‘stuff’. I don’t know what this was. It was mud green in colour, and required someone to use their saliva to mix, and place on the others face….. YUCK ….. this could be the reason I have such good skin heehee.

Our final activity before camp was over, was a hike up the mountain with our army jumpsuit, camouflaged overnight bags and map. We had to find our own way to a different campsite. We climbed and climbed and just when you think you’ve reached the top, there’s another hill to climb. This occurred about 4 or 5 times.

my take-away: there’s no downhill in life keep moving forward and upward – the climb is worth the knowledge, relationships and memories gained. There’s no excuses, no one falls behind, the only way to grow is to move forward and upward.

Through pain and hardwork come memories and laughter.  I’d like to share with you our camp song : Love changes everything. Its’ a really old song but the words are so beautiful and has so much hope for building peace, love and unity, between people and countries.

On my return home, I think I slept for 2 straight days.  I’ve left some of my army camp memories out, as this is as much as I can fit into one post.  Do share with me any memory you recall that has taught you life lessons ….leave your answer in the comments below 🙂

*Perhaps next time I’ll share with you my story of how I became a peace agent


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