By Mikateko Ringane
We arrived at the base on 10 July 2022. We expected to only start our training on the 11th, but to our surprise, the corporal, Mr Mbuso Mhangani, welcomed us to the parade ground with the most difficult exercises we have ever done in our lives. They left us wondering if we were going to last the 6 weeks that we are supposed to be there. We went to sleep anticipating what tomorrow had in store for us. It was the first day of a life changing experience.
We started with physical training, which started at 5h00 every morning. First week it was not easy some of us got injured and sick but we motivated each other no one gave up. As time went on, we got used to waking up early and our bodies we getting used to the exercises. We also did a physical fitness, which pushed to exceed our own strength.
We were introduced to the drill, which was new to us. Corporal Mbuso did the drill with us every morning around 6h00. This is the drill that we will be performing on our passing out day. We struggled a lot with the steps and mixing the commands but finally we were on the right track.
The class was very informative and interesting. Mr K.B made learning easy for us. He is a very good instructor and makes sure that every learner understands the topic discussed since it will be used as part of training. The class was a wonderful experience. In addition, we were also taught about basic principles that we can apply on daily basis as field rangers. Mr K.B always made it easy with his style of presentation and practical examples. He always gave us a chance to ask questions for clarity before we could go on practical exercises.
Most learners had no experience in terms of firearm handling. Corporal Mbuso took us to our first shooting exercise and we were scared of the rifle. He helped us with the handling of firearm until all of us were comfortable with shooting. When Mr Zitha, the firearm instructor, arrived we were already familiar with handling the firearm. This was a life changing experience for all of us that made us realise that we were becoming real field rangers.
The bush phase was a great experience. The lessons we got there were very interesting. We were taught about most of the animal behaviours, tracking, trees and grasses. We would go on long patrols, which were very productive because of the knowledge we got when we were in the field. We were also taught how poachers operate and how to handle ourselves in nature.
Thank you to the catering team who made sure that we were well fed. Our meals were well balanced and they made sure that we ate on time. The kitchen staff was also very friendly.
We would like to thank the sponsors that funded the student’s for this course. It was very generous of them to help those of us who cannot afford to pay for this course. We would like to send out gratitude to all the sponsors; Conserv Earth, Friends of African Wildlife, Tracker Academy, Nkombe Rhino and many more.
Mr KB Mmoledi and Copral Mbuso, we would like to thank you for your patience and dedication to your work. We are definitely going to take all your teaching with us to our different working areas.
To Mr Gysman – Thank you for all the words of encouragement. You always reminded us to take the training not a a punishment but as a learning curve. We will definitely not go home and sit but venture into the nature conservation. You are a great leader!!