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Welcome to Elite Combat Units | Veteran Owned
Welcome to Elite Combat Units | Veteran Owned

South African Special Forces (RECCE)

With the paratroops moving toward a more conventional airborne-forces role, the SADF felt a distinct need for an SAS or Fernspaher type of unit. This need was met by the establishment of a small specialist unit in Durban (1 October 1972) called 1 Reconnaissance Commando. Since then, a number of additional Recce Commandos have been established, in-including a CF element and 4 Recce, based at Langebaan in the Cape and trained for amphibious operations. All have amply proved their worth on operations, and the 'Recces' have earned the admiring respect even of the tough 'parabats' and the bush war experts of 32 Bn.

One of the tasks of the Recce Commandos is that of gathering intelligence on activity in enemy rear areas. The execution of special operations in the enemy rear also falls within their ambit. In general, they could be described as specialists in strategic intelligence, although the war against PLAN insurgents has seen them carry out tactical intelligence-gathering missions. On occasion, they have also been used as an elite combat element, as was the case in operations during 1982 which were aimed at the elimination of two PLAN front headquarters. Normally, however, the superbly trained Recces are too valuable to risk in a combat role despite their undoubted efficiency. As is the case with their equivalents in other countries, they are best employed in a covert observation role. Little has been released about how Recces are organized or how they operate. It has been said, however, that the basic element is the five- or six-man team wherein each member is a specialist some kind. A typical team might include tracker, a navigator, a medic, an explosives expert and a signaler. On the other hand, there have also been occasion references to reconnaissance teams; small as two men operating well inside Angola, which can safely be taken to mean the Recces.

Operational and tactical details are non-existent, which is only natural considering that the Recces must rely always on stealth for the success of their missions and often for their very survival. Broadcasting these methods would be one way of committing suicide. The only information available this regard is that they are trained in the use of boats, and that they do have some armed and modified vehicles among the equipment. Given the thinly populated nature of much of southern Africa, it does not take too much imagination to see them sometimes operating in a style not dissimilar to that of the British Special Air Service (SAS) of World War II.

Both the selection procedure and the actual training of the Recces are very stiff indeed, putting even the Paras and Battalion in the shade. Above all, every effort is made to avoid roughnecks and 'muscle-bound morons.' While the Recce must be very fit indeed, they also need more than an average intellect to carry c their mission. Strong character and a considerate nature are additional requirements for their role: any weakness of character or inability to get along with other team members could all too easily spell the failure of a given operation. The toughness of the selection process is demonstrated by the fact that a typical year may see up to 700 applicants - in themselves a select group - of whom perhaps 45 make the grade. It is also interesting that more than 5 percent of the Recces have their matric, and not a few hold university qualifications in very diverse subjects.

Two selection courses are held each year, prior to which recruiters visit various units to outline the nature and role of the unit and its training programme. They also show films of the process to ensure that there are no false impressions among potential applicants. Potential candidates then undergo thorough medical and psychological examinations and are quizzed about their reasons for wanting to join and what they think they can contribute to the unit. Even prior to this very searching interview, they must pass a PT test which includes:

  • 30 km with normal kit and rifle and a 30-kg sand bag in 6 hours;
  • 8 km in long trousers and boots, with rifle, in 45 minutes:
  • 40 push-ups, 8 chin pulls and 68 sh-ups within a specified time;
  • 40 shuttle runs of 7m each in 90 seconds;
  • Swim 45m freestyle.

Those who pass this PT test, plus the medical and psychological examinations, and convince the selection board that they have something to offer the unit, can then enter the three-week pre-selection programme course! This kicks off with two weeks of strenuous PT for eight hours a day to prepare aspirants for the rigours of the selection programme proper. Some lectures on relevant subjects are thrown in with the same purpose. Usually some 20 percent of the applicants drop out during this phase - eloquent testimony to its harshness, given the standard of fitness required even for entry. This is followed by a one-week water orientation programme in Zululand. This tests the candidates' adaptability to water and their adeptness in small boats. Instruction is given in the use of kayaks, two-seater canoes and motor boats. Navigation exercises take candidates many kilometers through swamps, and there is an 8-km race with poles over the dunes --one four-man pole per two men. Candidates are allowed to form up into teams of their choice during this phase and are watched closely for teamwork and leadership; a buddy rating is called for toward the end of the phase. Rations are gradually reduced during the week. Candidates are rated for adaptability, swimming and other water skills, ability to work under difficult circumstances and stress, resistance to cold, claustrophobia, co-ordintion and fitness. At this point another ??'percent drop out.

The remaining candidates are then flown to the Operational Area for the final phase of the selection programme. The first week here takes the form of a bush orientation/survival course during which they are taught which plants are edible, which give water, how to get a fire going without matches and how to cope with lions and elephants. The first day of this course sees the candidates stripped and searched for cigarettes, tobacco, sweets and toiletries - only kit and medical items are left to them. They are then given time to build a shelter with their ground sheet; which must be dug in 45 cm and are marked on its neatness, practicality and originality. Rations are further reduced and water is limited to five liters a day per man.

Apart from the survival training, PT stays with them throughout: a typical day might include an hour of PT before a breakfast consisting largely of water; observation tests wherein candidates are given a fixed route to follow on which they must identify and note down ten different objects; three runs over an assault course -- the last with a 35-kg pack, including a mortar-bomb container filled with cement; a five-km run along an gully without their kit, followed by loading up again and carrying a tree trunk back to their camp. During this phase the candidates are evaluated for adaptability; water discipline; bush navigation; fear of the dark, animals and heights; ability to do without food; care of weapons and equipment; memory; powers of observation; leadership; and the ease with which they move in bush. Particular emphasis is placed on the ability to get on with others while under stress. A second buddy rating is called for.

This phase ends in a spate of automatic rifle fire that heralds the next stage which is intended to try the candidates psycho logically to the uttermost - and succeeds Then comes the 'crunch' phase. One morning the men are told that, 'The courseis 51 degrees magnetic. You walk 38 km and your RV is l900 hours this evening at a dirt landing strip. If you make it, you may get some food.' Twenty km along they are met by some of the instructors and allowed to fill their water bottles - while the instructors drink and spill ice-cold soft drinks. On arrival at the RV, each man is given eight biscuits - only to discover that they are contaminated with petrol and totally inedible. Meanwhile, the instructors have a happy barbecue picnic which any candidate can join - if he is only willing to drop out.

Finally, the candidates are put into the bush for five days with a tin of condensed milk, half a 24-hour ration pack and twelve biscuits, eight of which are soaked in petrol. Elephant, lion, and bush fires are among the problems of this final stretch. When they finally get to their last rendezvous, the men are given a new bearing and told there are another 30 kilometers to go. Those who go on find the instructors around the next corner. Seventeen percent make it.

Those who survive the selection programme must then complete and pass the parachute course before being accepted into the Recces. The actual Recce training lasts some 42 weeks and includes tracking, survival, weapons handling, explosives, unconventional warfare, unarmed combat, mountaineering, guerrilla tactics, bush- and field craft, map reading, day and night navigation and signalling. Throughout this training they are also taught how to handle enemy equipment in each of the categories. Physical training naturally also stays with them and, in fact, reaches new peaks in what is demanded and achieved. The final test is a night or two in lion country with rifle, ammunition and a box of matches. The new Recce is now posted to a team in one of the existing Recce Commandos specializing in whatever he proved best suited to during his training. After serving in such a team for a while, members can choose to specialize further in this direction or in other areas like military free-fall parachuting or sea training. The latter includes combat diving, kayak work, small boat handling, coastal and deep-sea navigation and sailing. Given the demands of their selection and training, the Recces will always be a very small group of men, a group that others look up to as examples of the ultimate individual soldier. Envy plays no part in this, for their work is easily as demanding and often as unpleasant as their training. Only a special sort of man would seriously want to join.

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Embroidered Polo Shirt

    Combine style and class with this 100% cotton polo shirt! The detailed embroidery is a great conversation starter, and thanks to the pre-shrunk fab...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Embroidered Muscle Shirt

    This soft, sleeveless tank is so comfy you're going to want to wear it everywhere, be it on your couch, out on a walk, or during a yoga class. The ...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Embroidered Men's fleece shorts

    The men’s fleece shorts are soft, comfy, and great for lounging indoors or going out. The shorts have 1 back pocket, 2 jersey-lined hand pockets, a...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Embroidered Champion fanny pack

    This Champion fanny pack is the ultimate accessory for people with an active lifestyle. The fanny pack features two zippered compartments for conve...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Tote bag

    A spacious and trendy tote bag to help you carry around everything that matters. • 100% spun polyester fabric • Bag size: 15″ × 15″ (38.1 × 38....

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Stainless Steel Water Bottle

    This 17-ounce, double-walled stainless steel water bottle is perfect for your daily outings. It will keep your drink of choice hot or cold for hour...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Standard Postcard

    These postcards are made from thick high-quality matte paper, so they serve as a great addition to a gift or just a thoughtful written note to a fr...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Throw Blanket

    Do you feel that your home is missing an eye-catching, yet practical design element? Solve this problem with a soft silk touch throw blanket that's...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Laptop Sleeve

    Protect your laptop in style—get this snug, lightweight laptop sleeve! To prevent any scratch marks, it contains an internal padded zipper and its ...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Flip-Flops

    Prepare for an adventurous and carefree summer with a pair of colorful slippers that are created just for you! The rubber sole is lined with a soft...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Bubble-free stickers

    These stickers are printed on durable, high opacity adhesive vinyl which makes them perfect for regular use, as well as for covering other stickers...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Drawstring bag

    Combine your love for vibrant prints and a sporty style with a cool drawstring bag. It's a must-have gym essential that can be worn as a backpack w...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Towel

    Give your bathroom a vibrant look and wrap yourself up with this super soft and cozy all-over sublimation towel. • 52% cotton, 48% polyester • ...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Canvas

    Looking to add a little flair to your room or office? Look no further - this canvas print has a vivid, fade-resistant print that you're bound to fa...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Spiral notebook

    A good notebook can help you with motivation to take more notes, write down ideas, or list future dreams. This custom wire-bound notebook will be a...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) White glossy mug

    Whether you're drinking your morning coffee, evening tea, or something in between – this mug's for you! It's sturdy and glossy with a vivid print t...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Poster

    Museum-quality posters made on thick and durable matte paper. Add a wonderful accent to your room and office with these posters that are sure to br...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Embroidered Champion Backpack

    This small size Champion backpack is the perfect choice for running all sorts of daily errands or doing sports! There’s plenty of space for all you...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Embroidered Unisex Joggers

    Get ready for that 10K run or take it slow in your backyard—these joggers are sure to make you feel comfortable either way. • 60% cotton, 40% po...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Embroidered Bomber Jacket

    Combining durability and style, this bomber jacket is a great addition to any wardrobe. It’s a real statement piece that makes even the simplest ou...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Embroidered Champion Packable Jacket

    Protect yourself from the elements with this Champion packable jacket. This wind and rain resistant polyester jacket with a detailed embroidery des...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Embroidered Cuffed Beanie

    A snug, form-fitting beanie. It's not only a great head-warming piece but a staple accessory in anyone's wardrobe. • 100% Turbo Acrylic • 12″ (...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Embroidered Snapback Hat

    This hat is structured with a classic fit, flat brim, and full buckram. The adjustable snap closure makes it a comfortable, one-size-fits-most hat....

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Unisex Sweatshirt

    A sturdy and warm sweatshirt bound to keep you warm in the colder months. A pre-shrunk, classic fit sweater that's made with air-jet spun yarn for ...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Unisex Hoodie

    Everyone needs a cozy go-to hoodie to curl up in, so go for one that's soft, smooth, and stylish. It's the perfect choice for cooler evenings! •...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Short-Sleeve Unisex T-Shirt

    This t-shirt is everything you've dreamed of and more. It feels soft and lightweight, with the right amount of stretch. It's comfortable and flatte...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Embroidered Unisex Sweatshirt

    A sturdy and warm sweatshirt bound to keep you warm in the colder months. A pre-shrunk, classic fit sweater that's made with air-jet spun yarn for ...

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    South African Special Forces (RECCE) Embroidered Short-Sleeve Unisex T-Shirt

    This t-shirt is everything you've dreamed of and more. It feels soft and lightweight, with the right amount of stretch. It's comfortable and flatte...

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    Original price $21.00 - Original price $27.00
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