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22 August 2012, 08:43

   40 DAYS (AND THE REST)The article:  MILITARY TYRAINING SHOULD BE COMPULSORY AGAIN arrested my attention and the average between good times and bad times during my stint in the army.

This imprisonment lasted 9 months to the day. I embarked upon the army train as it was called then in Walvis bay and even before I was actually on the train I was referred to as a good-fer-nutting slapgat.and had to ride with that tag to Windhoek where the rest of the troepies-to-be filled the train with themselves and the bottle store. Others had a cache of pot, dagga, boom, zolle and other related nomenclature for recreation purposes as the larnies call it. This was June/July 1970. Intake.  

 It was noticed even then that booze and pot never mixed. Two gerooktes got into a fight and one broke a bottle and tried to amputate his own hand. The hand remained but the floor was a sea of blood. It sure was a job to staunch that river.    We, mostly tiffies, were sent to Pretoria and then to Voortrekker Hoogte to the TDK camp. (Technical Services corps). That is where the action began. First day we were allocated an empty belly which felt like an eternity.

Through all the medicals and fitting oversized boots we were allocated a tent for 16 and sandwiches plus tea. Things were getting brighter. The army is a great place to make friends and enemies other than the ters as they were called then.  We went through the usual boot camp rigmarole and there after allocated to the workshops where I done zilch for several weeks other than sitting around drinking tea. The staff sergeant was less interested. Most of the troepies were allocated to their home town after the basic training was completed.  That parting was perhaps the most emotional and hardest in the army. Tears were surreptitiously wiped away because soldiers did not cry.

They knew they would never see their pals again but at least closer to home. I was returned to Walvis Bay and fortunately lived about 3km from the military camp. Weekend were usually a booze orgy at my home while my parents looked the other way.      

I became a one-liner which suited me well because it was now easier to get weekend passes and a bit more money. 2 liners and up were expected to work harder.     One Friday evening a troepie friend and myself decided to paint the town red but our plans were nipped in the bud when we were discovered by the Mps. (It is difficult to hide an army haircut when wearing civvies.) After a sever dressing down we presented our weekend passes much to the chagrin of the MP.s  Boozing continued in a private bar.    

The army is a curious place: Yes, it did instil a sense of belonging. A feeling of camaraderie, personal fitness and a trust for your mates. And Yes one would jump into the river to save one of your mates. One lived in an atmosphere devoid of  politics and  other social evils.     At times you did miss your parents and the old home town remains standing.  You knew and understood why you were in the army despite the sergeants bombast during info. periods. You were taught to kill your enemy efficiently and doing so long enough made you more useful to the country.

OK well tiffies were mainly zat-gepla. As long as the beer lasted longer and Meadowlands was played on the ancient tape recorder. All was ok
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