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Joining the South African National Defence Force

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has four arms of service, namely the SA Army, SA Air Force, SA Navy and SA Military Health Service and offers young, fit and mentally strong citizens the chance to follow a military career by joining the Military Skills Development System (MSDS).

If you are looking for a career in either one of the SANDF arms of service, means of recruitment, according to the Department of Defence (DOD), is through either direct recruitment (direct recruitment is only applicable to people with special skills such as engineers, IT specialists, diesel mechanics etc.) or most commonly through the MSDS. Careers in the DOD and civilian careers can be seen on their website here.

The MSDS is a Department of Defence programme that serves as the entry-level platform for young South Africans who want to follow a career in the South African National Defence Force.

If you are selected to join the South African National Defence Force through the MSDS, you will undergo an initial period of two years voluntary service. In the first year, you will receive military training and further functional training. In the second year, you will be deployed where needed. During the deployment, you will get an opportunity to apply your knowledge and develop your skills. After the two years, you will either continue as part of the Reserve Force or receive a contract offer to join the Regular Force.

Selected members with the required academic qualifications are also sent to universities or the Military Academy.

To qualify for the MSDS programme, you should:

  • Be a South African citizen.
  • Be aged between 18 and 22 years (Graduates up to the age of 26 years).
  • Be currently busy with the National Senior Certificate (Grade 12) or have completed it.
  • Not be area bound.
  • Have no record of a criminal offence.
  • Be preferably single.
  • Comply with medical fitness requirements for appointment in the South African National Defence Force.
  • Be prepared to do Basic Military Training, Functional Training and to serve in uniform.

Requirements to join the South African Air Force (SAAF), Navy (SAN) and the Military Health Service (SAMHS) may differ to that of the SA Army, please contact the SANDF to at 021 787 1144 to find out more. According to the SAAF recruitment website, specialization within the SANDF takes place in the MSDS after basic training.

Candidates who apply for the MSDS in whichever arm of service of the SANDF go through a selection process including psychometric evaluation, selection board (interview), medical evaluation and criminal record evaluation.

There are a number of careers in the SAAF, being aircrew – pilot, navigator or other, command and control, aviation maintenance, engineering/apprenticeship, general maintenance, support and reserve squadrons. For more information on careers in the SAAF and applying through the MSDS, click here or contact the SAAF recruitment office at 012 312 2148 / 2609.

Joining the SAN is also done through the MSDS and features careers in the protection force, engine room attendants, public relations, human resources, physical training, hospitality, fire-fighting, logistics, communication, maritime reaction squadron, SA Navy divers, combat officer, student engineer and student naval technical officer. A few of these opportunities require mathematics and physical science at level 4. A brochure for these SAN opportunities can be seen here, or one can contact the SAN recruitment centre at 012 339 4252/4421.

In the first two years of voluntary service, you can expect to receive the following training.

First Year of Military Skills Development Service:

  • Basic military training and functional training.
  • Corps specific training.
  • Participation in practical military exercises.
  • Combat ready training exercises.
  • Selection of junior leaders.

Second Year of Military Skills Development Service:

  • Junior leaders (Officers) receive leader group corps training.
  • Undergo Young Officers Formative training.
  • Selection of Officers to study at the Military Academy.
  • Focus on utilisation and deployment of Military Skills Development System troops.
  • Military Skills Development System members will receive wages for the duration of their two-year full-time training and utilisation.

If you are interested in joining the Military Skills Development System, you can contact the SANDF’s Western Cape recruitment offices at 021 787 1144, or you can contact SANDF’s head office at (012) 355 6999 or via email at


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