Exercise Valiant Mark (XVM), an annual bilateral exercise between the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the United States Marine Corps (USMC), recently concluded its 22nd edition in the vast desert plains of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Training Center (MCAGCTC), located in Twentynine Palms, California. The exercise involved soldiers from the 7th Singapore Infantry Brigade (7 SIB), 7th Marine Regiment, USMC Aviation – supported by F-16C/D fighter aircraft and AH-64D Apache attack helicopters from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). That made up a total of over 1,000 participants in XVM 18!
The exercise was conducted from 25 August to 15 September. With its vast training area, the MCAGCTC provided an excellent template for large-scale vehicular, mechanised and combined arms manoeuvre training, as well as air-land integrated live-firing exercises in both conventional and urban scenarios.
Singapore has always shared a close and mutually-beneficial bilateral relationship with the United States of America (US) on many aspects. The two countries maintain long-standing military relations and interact regularly through bilateral and multilateral exercises, cross-attendance of military courses held by both countries, as well as professional exchanges on international platforms. XVM serves as a platform for the two armies to further enhance interoperability and cooperation, especially in the increasingly-uncertain security climate.
Troops from SAF and the USMC.
During the exercise, SAF soldiers and US Marines went through combined training sessions, sharing different tactics and techniques with each other. One of the exercise participants, LTA Chia felt that XVM provided a platform for both armies to exchange Standard Operating Procedures and best practices with each other. "The US Marines conducts training differently from us and by sharing our practices with each other, we can learn how to further enhance our training." Echoing his sentiments, 2SG Iyog found that training with the US Marines was the most memorable experience for him during the exercise, "We got to work with the US Marines and learn what they do, as well as exchange our experiences with them."
Besides providing an opportunity for professional exchanges between the two armies, the terrain in XVM was also an eye-opener for our soldiers. As shared by LTA Queh, "The training in XVM exposed our soldiers, as well as myself, to a different terrain. The vast training area and dry, hot weather is very different from Singapore. Being able to train under such remote conditions has built up confidence in our soldiers and gave us a brand new experience." Besides providing a different experience for the soldiers, MSG Habib also found that the new terrain brought about new challenges. "Deploying our men in such terrain was very different, as compared to how we usually deploy them in the local terrain in Singapore. Through this exercise, we gained more confidence operating in such terrain."
In the prequel to the final segment in XVM, both SAF and the USMC conducted Section, Platoon and Company live-firing exercises. With a larger and wider live-firing area, it allowed the troops more versatility and complexity in planning highly realistic and enriching live-firing scenarios. This was evident in the Company live-firing exercise, where troops had to advance and execute their assault under the cover of heavy fire support from the General-Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) teams and the USMC's heavy machine gun crews, while Snipers and Company Marksmen provided cover for their approach.
Pre-mission brief conducted by Officer Commanding (OC) before the company's live firing mission.
Soldiers providing cover fire during crossing of danger area.
The sum of all the meticulous planning, rigorous training and conditioning over the weeks came together in an exciting finish to XVM – the Final Exercise. In a combined effort by the USMC, SAF and RSAF officers, the Final Exercise is a large-scale combined arms live-firing exercise involving ground troops and armoured units. On top of it all, the RSAF F-16s and Apaches were on standby to execute close air support fire missions upon the request of the troops on the ground.
At the official closing ceremony of XVM, all personnel involved gathered for the returning of colours to mark the closure of a long, safe and highly-eventful training. The ceremony was graced by Commander, 7 SIB, COL Xu Youfeng and Commander, 7th Marine Regiment, COL Kyle B. Ellison. In his closing address to the participants, COL Kyle remarked, "XVM to me was more than an exercise; it was an operation grounded in purpose." Indeed, XVM is a strong testament to the fact that Singapore and the US are able to commit to and ensure a strong level of cooperation and commitment.
Closing ceremony of XVM 18.