The United States has a storied military history: our Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard defend against all enemies foreign and domestic.
And the best of the best are our Special Forces, those groups called upon when stealth and speed are of the essence. When conventional forces are just too big and cumbersome for quick strikes of rapid reconnaissance.
South Africa, though now far ahead of America on the Marxist road, once had a proud military: South African Defence Force (SADF) from 1957 – 1994. In 1994 SADF became the South African National Defence Force.
And like America, the SADF also had special forces.
The first elite special forces unit was the little known Hunter Group, a counter-insurgency unit formed in May 1968 by Commandant G. van Kerckhoven of the South African Irish Regiment (SAIR). SAIR was a reserve unit, comparable to the US National Guard.
Aided by weapons and unarmed combat expert, Mr. Grant-Grierson, training standards were created for Hunter Group, and the scorpion chosen as the SF emblem.
Cdt. van Kerckhoven reasoned:
“The danger from the scorpion lies in the sting at the tip of its tail, not in the big pincers near its head where it is expected. Hunters operate the same way— our attack is never expected.”
Initially, members of Hunter Group were selected from the Irish Regiment, but as word spread of the unit, other volunteers showed up in Johannesburg.
The volunteers receiving training, but no extra pay. Training encompassed 240 hours over the course of a year at Doornkop Military Base.
The training was conducted during the week at night, and on weekends, and though there was no extra pay, the regimen counted toward promotion.
Hunter Group training included:
- Unorthodox methods of tactics and patrolling
- Close combat training, parachute training
- First aid, survival skills and bushcraft
- Vehicle driving and navigation
- Stress and shock training
- Working with tracker dogs, informers and the local population
- Aspects of guerrilla warfare, riot control, mines and demolitions
- Extensive weapons drill with the R1 7.62mm rifle.
As Robert Pitta details in his book South African Special Forces (Elite):
The weapons drill included a novel system of quickly positioning the weapon in order to fire instinctively at any target, from any position.
Similar to the ‘Quick Kill’ system used by the US Army a few years later in the Vietnam War and eventually adopted by the South African Defence Force.
This drill trained men to unsling their rifles, turn, fall to the ground, find the target, and fire within two seconds.
Hunter Group members were counted as the best riflemen in South Africa.
In an uncanny and virtually prescient move, experts who had fought in Rhodesia, Angola and the Congo were brought in to teach the special forces terrorist tactics and theory.
As Pitta mentions:
A special pattern of camouflage uniform was adopted: privately purchased ‘splotch’ pattern camouflage uniforms in a base colour of tan or green with various large splotches of green, dark brown, and black or mustard.
These uniforms immediately identified the wearer as a member of the Hunter Group, since no other SADF unit wore camouflage uniforms at that time.
In 1976 Hunter Group was reorganized into Reconnaissance Commando (Reserve) and the 2nd Airborne Reconnaissance Company.
Though Hunter Group, as envisioned by Commandant G. van Kerckhoven, was originally merely a trial program in stealth and counterinsurgency warfare, it proved successful and demonstrated the great need for specialized training.
And like special forces in America, Hunter Group members trained not for remuneration, but to serve and protect their country.
The warrior ethos that lives in America’s military and Special Forces, was evident in Hunter Group members.
And in these dangerous times, we need these warriors more than ever.