Case for one month National Service refresher!!!

Ngoso Mchila

Aug 25, 2008
JKT haikuwa na lengo la kuwafanya watu wasipiganie haki zao!!! Hivi wale jamaa (Makamanda) wamebadilika au wako vile vile? Nina wasi wasi kama wakiendelea kama enzi zile watayaoga makonde. Tutawavimbia kweli kweli!!!!!

Date: 8/23/2008
Case for one month National Service refresher!!!
By Tony Zakaria
Daily News

Dressed in full combat gear, guns forward, your platoon is ordered to advance on an unseen enemy. You take cover under camouflage in the bushes then slowly inch forward to an open field. In the distance you can see a settlement. In between is a valley dissected by a seasonal tributary. The platoon commander signals your section to move down quickly in single file. From a distance the sounds of guns, albeit blank fired for the military exercises.

As you reach the shallow river the commander shouts, 'section down!' down here in the mud? He must be kidding. But he is not. And in the army you follow orders, period. There is no time to question your superiors. It could be a life or death situation and the chain of command must be followed. You quickly drop down into the mud. You all become soaked by mud from head to bottom. After what seems like eternity the shooting stops, the commander gives the all clear and you resume your patrol to the top of the hill.

You reach John's corner, a village of a few inhabitants. The year is 1976 and this is a platoon from Coy C of Mafinga JKT. The lesson of the day was that when en enemy attacks you, he does not wait for you to be standing on tarmac with a woollen carpet. You have to be prepared to take cover, fight, advance or retreat in order to battle for another day. A very important lesson in life's daily struggles, not just war situations. In those years the JKT camp was barely nine years old. The dormitories for recruits and graduates were of corrugated iron from top to bottom. It was so cold from June to August the 'afandes' had to drag us to the river once a week to bath.

The first day we arrived at the national service camp I was smartly dressed in sky blue safari suit. A busload of us were immediately herded into loose lines, which we agreed to follow reluctantly. The instructors said they would turn us from civilian lazybones into smart soldiers in no time and immediately ordered us to sit down. Sit down? The ground was wet and I wasn't about to get myself dirty. But the soldiers 'invaded' the lines and shouted to us to obey. I sat on my hands.

For the next hour they proceeded to systematically break down our 'civilian' resistance by ordering us to run, sit, stand and mark time. Then it was chow time. The food was ugali with beef stew. We could only find the beef with a microscope and the stew was thin and tasteless. We ate little of it. After chow, it was show time. They said we did not know how to walk. Earlier in my life I already walked from Mweka to Lyamungo and Tosamaganga to Tanangozi. I sure knew how to walk! In those years there were no daladalas so we walked most of the time. Now it was either marching or 'marking-time'.

For the next three months we did everything from crawling like cobras to jumping like frogs. In the process we learned how to assemble and clean guns, how to shoot, fight with bayonets and behave like soldiers. We became fearless. We learned a few tricks that were not taught in military classes. The only two activities we looked forward to doing were eating and sleeping. I saw a colleague fall asleep while standing with a hoe in his hand in the middle of the noon sun. Sleep was so precious we would buy it if it was on sale.

Food was something else. Soldiers learn to survive in the bush by eating from the land. Except the land was the army camp. There was the trainee clergyman who was caught in the 'smart area'carrying meat under his hat. When the instructor asked him why he was sweating blood, he had no answer. The 'afande' looked under the recruit's hat and there it was. A slice of fresh meat 'borrowed' from the kitchen. So he told him, "march on soldier."

The things male and female recruits did to get food and what they did with the food can fill up a brochure for survival skills. A few man-cobras could swallow raw eggs as fast as they were laid. It was all in the name of field craft or survival for the fittest. In the process we made great friendships that have endured decades. Army recruits fast learnt to adapt and adopt according to one's circumstances.

later, when some of us joined colleges and universities, we did not go on strike and break furniture and equipment just because the food was less than what mama prepares at home. The 'mchaka-mchaka' that we used to have every morning at unholy hours and the root marches at times up to 30 kilometres long taught us practically how the early bird gets the worm or how perseverance pays off in life. As recruits we hated all the endurance activities. However, at the end of training we had grown to like the life of last orders, including the physical exercises such as running, marching or marking time. At the end of it we became soldiers and we were proud of the uniforms.

The comradeship built up during the many years of national service among the tens of thousands of graduates from the JKT camps has contributed to national unity. In the army, we were just a bunch of recruits contributing to nation building. It did not matter that we came from different educational, spiritual, tribal or racial backgrounds. I remember how a Tanzanian of Asian origin inspired me to endure the frequent mark-times and hip-hop, hiya-het marching. When I asked him if the training was too tough for him, he told me that he was as tough as any of us. I said to myself, if he can do it, I can do it.

The old JKT has lessons for the youth of today, lessons that can prevent the epidemic of strikes in universities and colleges caused by petty issues like food, delayed allowances, etc. Such attitude to hardships ends up spilling over into the work ethic. Doctors laying down tools at hospitals and teachers boycotting classes. What would happen if every profession went on strike? Which enemy are they fighting? When we are at war with poverty of the masses, we cannot afford to ask for carpets and champagne in the battlefield. These strikers risk winning the salary battle but may end up making Tanzanians lose the war on poverty, disease and illiteracy.

I recently went back to Mafinga JKT camp. On my way I asked a couple of friends and colleagues, all ex-army service from the 70s and 80s if they would like to go back for a refresher. The answer was a resounding yes. None of us has the physical fitness of the good old days. Some have a few love handles and plenty of extra pounds. But the spirit of nation building and unity lingers on. We need to recapture that spirit of sacrifice, endurance and nation building before it is too late.

Last edited:
0 Reactions
Top Bottom