Dry warm wind in summer blew across the faces of some 1300 personnel from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Overcoming the harsh weather and unfamiliar terrain, these soldiers came together to participate in Exercise Trident (XTD), a signature bilateral exercise between both militaries which features a heli-insertion operation and ship-to-shore operation at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, Australia. The exercise involved a suite of air and naval assets such as the AS332 Super Puma and CH-47D Chinook helicopters from the Republic of Singapore Air Force, as well as the Endurance-class Landing Ship Tank (LST) RSS Resolution and Fast Craft from the Republic of Singapore Navy.
Conducted from 31 October to 14 November, the exercise kick-started when troops from both armies embarked on professional interactions such as the sharing of different urban operations (UO) drills, tactics and techniques, as well as learning more about each other's weapon systems. During the Army-wide safety timeout, the troops made full use of the opportunity to rehearse various drills with the ADF. CPT Brian Chua, Officer Commanding (OC), led a company comprising of both SAF and ADF troops, and shared that, "the Australians counterparts were very forthcoming and willing to share their experiences. We did rehearsals for helicopter emplaning and deplaning drills in preparation for the heli-insertion exercise. On a planning level, I have gained different perspectives from working together during the joint planning with the ADF counterparts, while on an interpersonal level, we grew closer and our troops even attempted to teach them a bit of our Singlish."
Adding on, MAJ Pat D'Arcy, the OC of the ADF Company, said, "one key takeaway would be understanding the planning and execution process to enhance the interoperability between the SAF and ADF. The integration between the troops has been fantastic. I’ve learnt a lot, especially integrating our Standard Operating Procedures, learning and mutually benefiting from both militaries."
Soldiers from the SAF & ADF learning more about each other's weapons during the professional exchange.
MAJ Pat D'Arcy from the ADF (left), and CPT Brian Chua (right)
Troops practising their helicopter emplaning drill, with thumbs-up by soldiers indicating that they had fastened their seat belts.
The medical team supporting the entire Exercise Wallaby (XWB) also used the safety timeout to review and further enhance their existing medical procedures. ME1 Ibrahim bin Hamzah, senior medic from the team, reflected that, "This safety timeout is important because it gives us time to reflect on our current workflow and improve on it. We conducted additional sessions for the medics to revise the medical protocols and ensured their competencies. I took the time to explain to the medics, once again, of their importance in the safety for our troops, as this goes a long way in motivating my medics to put in their best. These drills also prepared the medical team to be organised and efficient when it comes to treating casualties. It definitely helped us to always be ready to give our patients the best care we can."
Medical team revising their medical protocols during the safety timeout.
During the final segment of the exercise, Senior Minister of State for Defence Mr Heng Chee How and Australia's Assistant Minister for Defence Mr David Fawcett visited the troops on-board RSS Resolution and witnessed the action as the advance party prepared for their heli-insertion mission on the ship's flight deck. One can only imagine the downwash as the AS332 Super Puma helicopter took its landing on the ship's flight deck. Soldiers waited eagerly in their standby position and, as soon as the Air Crew Specialist gave the thumbs-up, charged towards the helicopter.
During his joint interview with Mr Fawcett, Mr Heng shared, "XTD is a demonstration of the closeness of our defence relations and is something that has gone decades back. It will grow even stronger in the future, so I am very thankful that the Australian government has been such a close partner to us." Echoing his sentiments, Mr Fawcett shared, "The Comprehensive Strategic Partnership that we have and is developing, is a good bedrock for bilateral training, and (in this exercise), we bring the two forces together and improve our ability to operate."
Soldiers boarding the Chinook helicopter during the troop insertion mission.
Beyond the action at the frontline is the work of the Forward Support Group (FSG) team, who has been providing a spectrum of combat service and administrative support for the conduct of the entire XWB frame. The 100-man team, consisting of NSmen, NSFs and Regular servicemen, began their preparation for XWB as early as February this year and has been in theatre since September. Having volunteered to come to XWB to support the exercise for close to 3 months, CPL Koh Tongshun, Zacvin, one of the members in the FSG Supply team, shared, "my role and responsibility lies in the management of centralised general equipment such as field rations, thermal wear and other expendables. We also manage the controlled equipment such as weapons. I am very excited to be able to experience what it is like to participate in such an overseas exercise."
CPL Koh inspecting the serviceability of the SAR 21 rifle before the exercise.
Similarly working hard behind-the-scenes is the team from PERSCOM. Being the second time supporting XWB, the formation was tasked as the Manpower (MP) team for the FSG and the Rear Admin in Singapore. The team started its preparations as early as March, working with the Frame Admin Headquarters on the flight nominal roll. Concurrently, travel orders and flight packets were prepared in advance prior to the troops' flights. Additionally, the MP team worked tirelessly to ensure smooth execution of Airport Operations, Airport Land Transfer and the delivery of the Education Tour Package. The team had supported a total of 11 outbound and nine inbound flights across the three frames.
Unloading of kitbags by PERSCOM at the Rockhampton Airport.
XTD is a key component of the SAF's annual XWB, which is conducted from 19 September to 17 November. Marking the 28th year of training at Shoalwater Bay Training Area, XWB 2018 is a testament to the close and long-standing defence relationship between Singapore and Australia. The SAF and the ADF share a long history of military cooperation, with extensive interactions that include bilateral and multilateral exercises, mutual visits, professional exchanges and joint operational deployments in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
Written by: CPT Neo Choon Yeong
Photography by: Mr Aloysius Lum