Approximately 600 000 young men were drafted into the SADF between 1967 and 1994, when military conscription was compulsory for all white males in South Africa over the age of sixteen.
My story is not about those who belonged to elite units or served with distinction, but rather about the average South African boy entering manhood and a new phase in his life. These average conscripts served ably – sometimes not so ably – and maybe on occasion even tried their utmost to serve as little as possible. Those who were neither at the front nor at the back, but steadfastly in the middle of the pack.
Whether loved or hated by the corporals and sergeant major’s for their perceived lack of patriotism and spirit, this echelon of young men formed an integral part of the defence force, supporting and enabled the fighting units to perform with distinction, efficiency and pride.
I was a humble truck driver in a transport company, not fully comprehending our role in that political climate. No doubt I was probably undertrained and demotivated, but I was still expected to provide transport in a variety of roles and environments.
This story covers my experiences from the initial introduction to the rigours of basic training, the longing for home, the mixed emotions of excitement, skepticism and apprehension before border duty, the reality of war, and the subsequent growth in confidence from a roofie to an ou man. Then the story tells of my readjustment to civilian life and the inevitable camps that followed National Service.
I have endeavoured to share the moments of trepidation, fear, friendships, laughs and ultimately what became lifetime memories.
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