44 Parachute Brigade Parachute Company, South Africa Defence Forces
Formed by Col. Jan Breytenbach in November 1980, the Pathfinder Company was organised to to provide an independent unit capable of conducting covert unconventional warfare in the border areas of South-West Africa (modern day Namibia) and Angola.
With the reorganisation of the Rhodesian army into the Zimbabwean army in 1980 many of the units that had been successful in that war (the RLI, SAS and Selous Scouts for example) were disbanded. Many Rhodesian and foreign members of these units emigrated to South Africa. The Pathfinder Company was initially made up of these expatriate experienced bush soldiers. The SADF, recognising the worth of these soldiers, encouraged them with enlistment and completion bonuses for their year long contract.
The primary mission of the unit was the selection and operation of drop and landing zones for the remainder of the brigade, and to establish OP's (observation posts) along SWAPO infiltration routes. The information gathered from these activities would be relayed back to Section 10 headquarters who would deploy troops, such as 32 Battalion, to intercept and bring SWAPO into contact.
As the sometime larger than life antics of the Pathfinders made them possibly a little more visible than the SADF would like, so the charges of using foreign white mercenaries grew.
Many members of the Pathfinder Company took part in Operation Handsack, which was a seleciton exercise for entry into 32 Battalion. All non-South Africans who passed had to apply for South African citizenship to remain in the SADF.
The Pathfinder Company was disbanded in January 1982. The company never numbered more than 30 members, and given the short period of its existence, it created problems for SWAPO and its allies out of all proportion to its size.