The Aapkas (published in The Friend, 20 August 1975)
The first two weeks of the course are probably the most important in the aspirant paratroopers’ training. It is during this short period that they have to pass certain physical training tests. These tests include running 3.2km in 18 minutes, 1.6km cross-country, jumping over a 3m trench, climbing a 6m rope and scaling a 2m wall while dressed in their full marching order (full kit). Ground parachute training is the next phase and the men are taught all the different landing, flight aircraft and exit drills. This training is conducted in a hangar at the battalion before the men go out on to the WP Louw Outdoor Exit Trainer (OET), or the aapkas as it is generally known to paratroopers. Here they are also tested for aerophobia. If they refuse to jump from the OET, they are likely to be afraid of jumping from an aircraft. Then comes the day all of them have been “sweating” for. Their ground training is completed and they are taken up into the air for their first actual parachute jump – to be followed by another seven, including one at night, before they qualify for their paratroopers’ wings.