Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Best Combat Unit

Yup.. We’ve done it again.. and for the 22nd time. Hope the new intakes and batches continue to uphold the tradition.. =)

Chanced upon a few articles and thought they were quite apt and befitting for this post.. Well, I was surfing the net some time ago and came across this ‘account’ of one of the troopers.. I think he wrote it some time in 2004.. accounted for his airborne experience.. as I read the article, it totally reminded me of days gone by.. somehow, he managed to capture the very essence of how I/we all felt.. as the tension built up towards our very first jump.. the more I read it, the more nostalgic it got, a nice walk down memory lane.. the countless times when we’d make fruitless trips to the airbase, all geared up and dying from the anticipation.. only to return back to camp empty-handed cos the ‘weather got bad’.. really cute article.. so thought I’d share it..

From SingaporeArmyStories.blogspot.com, authored by ‘Lance’:

Stand Up, Hook Up, Shuffle to the Door!

finally jumped yesterday! the past two tasks had been cancelled because the rsaf's pilots are humji ( too much wind! too much rain! i just painted my nails! )

i was in the second sortie and as we waddled out to the plane - the 'chute's harness straps are awfully tight around the crotch - we passed some of the first sortie's jumpers on their way back to the admin area and they were looking pretty chuffed. everyone was in good spirits - finally we're jumping! - and my main concern at the point was to make the jump before the wind picked up and get this bloody 'chute off my back - the damn capewells are breaking my shoulders!

everyone cheers as the plane takes off - then the jump door opens - the wind rushes in - awfully strong and frighteningly loud - we're going to jump out into that? and suddenly silence as everyone looks at each other with "oh shit!" expressions.

but it doesn't take long before the enthusiasm returns - we've done the tower jump and everyone says that's more scary than the real thing, don't they? just the same there isn't quite so much chatter - the roar of the wind doesn't help - any more as people start to worry. jumping out into thin air when all your instincts for self-preservation are screaming no? uh-oh.

then the command from the jumpmaster comes - "sortie! prepare for action!" - this is it - and we fumble for our static lines - we've done this a thousand times before on the ground but suddenly i can't for the life of me remember which hand i should be holding the line in.

i'm in the 4th pass and we watch the first 3 passes go out - the jumpmasters push them out, no pause, straight after each other - and i remember thinking, "so much for a positive punch out" because there just isn't time for you to shuffle into position at the door and take the leap before the jumpmasters frantically shove you out. the wind slaps and sucks each jumper backwards, almost horizontally, so strong is the slipstream, as he topples out.

then suddenly its our turn next - it sure as hell didn't seem so fast when we were on the ground watching the first sortie!

"stand up!" - legs a little wobbly as we adopt good-shuffle-step position, chest firmly against the 'chute of the jumper in front.

"hook up!" - fingers have turned to wood and i desperately fumble with the safety pin - damnit, why won't the bloody thing go in?

"check static line!" - yank yank - these are the things which are going to open our 'chutes - they had better work!

"check equipment!" - what the hell is this thing called again? everyone touches each bit of gear in sequence but nobody is calling out the parts as we're supposed to - my mouth is dry and damn i should have gone to pee just now!

"sound off for equipment check!" - the count goes down the line: "6 ok! 5 ok!...1 ok, stick ok!" and i mumble my "3 ok!" while trying my best to ignore my brain screaming "no, goddamnit, not ok!"

then soon we're good to go, just waiting for the green light - i see hdb flats, a bus terminal, the tpe through the port jump door - i'm on the starboard - as the plane banks. the green light comes on - the port side jumpers go, right-left right-left right-left, one by one they shuffle inexorably forward, and soon they're done - this is it - starboard side, my side - the doc goes out, then its alex and oh shit my turn right-toss static line to the side-left then i'm at the door, left foot in front on the sill of the door, right foot behind - then the shout "go!" - the jumpmaster must've pushed me out - i don't feel a thing - and i'm out.

i remember to tuck my chin in - the instructors've regaled us with plenty of horror stories of what happens to jumpers who forget to tuck their chins in, or keep their feet locked tight on landing - whatever it is, they've got a horror story about it. the damn helmet slips down and knocks my goggles down and i automatically reach up to adjust them - so much for hands by the side protecting my reserve. then the sensation of being pulled upwards as my canopy deploys at the end of the static line and for a moment i'm a little stunned. then after a second or two my brain starts working again and i distinctly remember thinking, "right, now i'm supposed to look around" and i do - i'm alone in the sky - no other jumpers anywhere near - total silence and a feeling of total...solitude, for lack of a better word. like you're the only person in the world.

"an amazing sensation. perfect stillness, perfect silence. a fantastic and absolutely magnificent feeling. right out of this world."

then i look to the ground and shit, the wind is blowing me towards the runway - a tarmac landing is bad news and i reach up for the toggles and pull. the instructor on the ground with a loudhailer is yelling "jumper over the runway! pull your right toggle! pull the right!" - that must be me - so i pull my right and the 'chute turns. i later find out he wasn't addressing me - it was chew, behind me, but what the hell, just as long as i land on the grass.

then i'm in position in the middle of the grass - face the wind - the ground is suddenly approaching awfully fast - head down, legs locked tight, toes pointed up, knees slightly bent, elbows in - this is ankle breaking time! hold it there wait for the crunch - and with a sack of potatoes crash i hit the deck and fall backwards in a butt-landing - so much for pushturnrollover like we've practiced millions of times. for a second or two i lie there wondering if i'm ok - the canopy floats down on top of me - i am and i'm feeling great!


..I couldn’t have written it better myself.. *smile*

Here’s the second article that brought a BIG BIG BIG smile onto my face early in the morning as I prepared to go for class yesterday.. taken from this Straits Times website.

Red Berets win Best Combat Unit once more
1st Commando Battalion clinches award for 22nd time
By Jermyn Chow

THE afternoon calm of the jungle was shattered as some 12 commandos moved in to wrest control of the enemy's fortified territory.

Within five minutes, the men from the 1st Commando Battalion overran the enemy, pummelling them with heavy machine-gun fire.

This may have just been a test scenario, but the commandos have proved yet again why they are the elite fighting unit in the military. The 1st Commandos Battalion was crowned the Singapore Armed Forces' Best Combat Unit for the fifth consecutive year.

The commandos, who don the distinctive red berets, outjumped, outscored and outperformed other army units to win the trophy - for a record 22nd time since the award started in 1969.

But defending the coveted title is not the be-all and end-all for his men, said the battalion's commanding officer, Major Edwin Goh.

'We don't wake up every morning thinking of how to win best combat unit. Instead, we think of how to outpace ourselves...how we can do better at every mission and do it safely,' said the 34-year-old, who has won eight Best Combat Unit titles since joining the commandos in 1994.

The annual assessment grades units on their combat proficiency, physical fitness, marksmanship, training safety, security and logistic readiness.

But the format has evolved to become more realistic. For instance, a 'reaction shoot' assessment was included last year to test how nimble the men are when facing moving targets.

So the Red Berets cannot just mug model exam questions like a '10-year-series' to snag top honours.

Major Goh said: 'We ensure we think out of the box and we come up with new ideas to do things...that's a core value of the commandos.'

Often described as the 'silent warriors', they are trained to operate behind enemy lines.

Their skills include parachuting, demolition and jungle survival.

The battalion, based in Hendon Camp in Changi, is made up mainly of full-time national servicemen.

Besides the fighting spirit, key to the commandos' success is also the strong bond forged among the men.

'It's the very special bond that we share, the esprit de corp among everyone to meet higher expectations,' said Corporal Joshua William, who will complete his tour of duty in November.

As Major Goh puts it, such a spirit shines through most during tough training: 'It is when you know that when you fall, you are sure there would be someone behind you to hold on to you.'

--Picture inset courtesy of ST Photo: Desmond Lim

6 comments:

lance said...

alright this is very random and a long story, but i somehow chanced upon this post of yours mentioning how you chanced upon that article describing a first jump.

well, that 'lance' is me. =p when were you in the unit?

patched-up said...

hi there! wow.. talk abt the world being a small place.. =) thanks for dropping by!

well, I enlisted in June 04, Swift & Deadly..

how abt you?

lance said...

hmm i've forgotten all the mottos; which coy is that?

i was in 5th, enlisted in jan 03. it's good to know that all the new batches are keeping up the side and continuing to win the BCU, eh.

patched-up said...

oh definitely.. warms the heart each time i see it pasted all over the news. Like they used to say, it's not just abt the NSFs going thru it, but everyone else outside would be looking out for the results.

4th coy.. =) and by any chance, would u happen to know Guo LiRen, Arthur, Guo Kanghui, Nicholas..?

come to think of it, that would put u and me probably around the same batch. i went thru poly.. so ended up in the following year's June intake..

lance said...

hmm...they definitely aren't from my coy but they might sound just a little familiar. are any of those guys you mention from 2coy? i did my bct and bot with them.

ah, yeah, then you must be an '84 kid like me?

patched-up said...

hmm.. i'm not sure. i honestly remember them to be from 5th coy.. maybe i should check with them.. =) how come you ended up doing bct with 2nd coy? deferred?

oh, and i've wanting to ask you, now that i know who wrote the article.. what made u write it in the first place? very well written.. =)

yepyep.. '84 kid..