Most of us from the navy, both past and present, have fond memories growing up in Tuas Naval Base (TNB). After all, it is where the majority of our sailors, after completing training at the schoolhouses, spent their formative years on board the ships to learn the ropes and gain their sea legs. For most of us in the navy family, going back to TNB ignites a nostalgic feeling reminiscent to our 'childhood' in the navy.
It was exactly the case for a group of NSmen two weeks ago when they reported to TNB for their annual in-camp training (ICT). However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year's ICT was conducted a little differently from the previous ones.
Besides having to don face masks, the operationally ready NSmen (ORNS) crew from the Bedok-class Mine Countermeasure Vessel (MCMV) RSS Katong and Victory-class Missile Corvette (MCV) RSS Vengeance trained in small functional groups.
Shaking Off the "Rust"
Both sets of crew spent their first week of ICT training ashore at simulators to refresh their skills and shake off the 'rust' after not being able to train together for more than a year.
Regular service personnel from their respective flotillas were also present at these sessions to guide the ORNS crew, bridge any gaps, and share on updated practices and processes. The respective ORNS ship crew also conducted a 'fast cruise' in harbour, a common training practice where they execute planned serials ashore first in order to iron out processes. Having warmed up in the first week, our ORNS crew went boldly into the second week of ICT and sailed out to further hone their competencies and team processes!
Eyes on the Target
RSS Vengeance had much to be proud of during this ICT. After a hiatus of over a year, Commanding Officer (CO) LTC(NS) He Ruimin directed his team to sharpen their focus for the sailing – to conduct a successful A-Gun firing out at sea.
The team, which won Best Naval NS Unit for the last five years, delivered above and beyond. In a single firing run, they expended every planned round and even destroyed the killer tomato target!
LTC(NS) He shared that it was important to balance between staying safe and ensuring an operationally ready ship. "Although the safe measures posed some inconveniences, it gave us an opportunity to rethink creative and sustainable ways to train efficiently."
During the sailing sorties, the crew interacted only within their functional groups, and operated within their respective control centers such as the Bridge, Combat Information Center (CIC), and Machinery Control Room (MCR) and engineering spaces.
"I am grateful that we conducted another safe and successful ICT. Destroying the killer tomato target in a single firing run is a reflection of the entire team's professionalism and commitment, and testament that a fully NSmen ship can remain sharp and ready even in the midst of a pandemic. I thank 8th Flotilla for their consistent support and kind understanding to my NSmen's needs, as well as the dedication and sacrifices made by the Vengeance team and their families."
Assistant Operations Officer CPT(NS) Christopher Tan shares, "This is my fifth time that I am back for a high-key ICT. I did not have any major concerns coming back to train because the number of (COVID-19) community cases are relatively low in Singapore and I feel quite safe with the implemented measures such as keeping within small numbers in our functional groups. I am very glad to be back sailing again. In fact, it is quite bittersweet when we complete another ICT and have to say 'till the next time’ to my friends here."
CPT(NS) Tan closed up as an Officer-of-the-Watch (OOW) during the ICT sailing, which entails 'driving' the MCV, a ship that is capable of reaching speeds in excess of 30kn (55km/h). As the MCV slipped off, CPT(NS) Tan (left) gave conning orders to the helmsman, while CO RSS Vengeance LTC(NS) He Ruimin (right) watches on.
When asked whether he faced any challenges to close up as the OOW, CPT(NS) Tan remarked, "On the contrary, you won't forget how to drive a ship after training for so many years!"
CPT(NS) Tan had served as Navigation Officer and Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer on the MCVs.
Weapon Control Systems Supervisor SSG(NS) Ang Chun Seng felt that the strong commitment of everyone on RSS Vengeance led to the successful outcome, "I had some reservations when I learnt that we had planned for a firing. We don't just go out to sea to fire the A-Gun and hope for a good result, we should plan for success, and I know that it would take a lot of preparation. However, after the shore training in the first week, I felt that we established a good level of teamwork and trust which gave me confidence for the firing. Destroying the target is a whole team's effort – the bridge, MCR, and CIC really came together as one."
SSG(NS) Ang (first from left) felt rather bittersweet as the ICT drew to a close. "Returning back to the MCV really brings back a lot of memories. It feels great to catch up with my fellow NSmen. The MCV is special to me and I am glad that we can play a part to maintaining her operational readiness and protect Singapore."
Achieving High Readiness
In the similar vein, the ORNS crew from RSS Katong went out to sea for a readiness inspection during their second week of ICT. With positive energy and strong determination, the crew executed a mine countermeasure lead-through, defensive measures against potential surface threats, and a mine-hunting survey within our waters – tasks expected of an operational MCMV.
Commanding Officer RSS Katong MAJ(NS) Alan Tan commended his crew's achievement and attributed their success to having a shared purpose, strong teamwork, camaraderie and friendship.
Executive Officer RSS Katong CPT(NS) Calvin Loh felt that coming back for ICT proved to be a good opportunity for his crew to refresh their knowledge as well as to connect back with the navy family. In particular, he enjoyed reminiscing with his crew during the break times and working together as a team to achieve their goals, and is glad for measures put in place so that they could come back for ICT.
Underwater Systems Supervisor 1SG(NS) Sri Ganesh echoed his XO's feelings about the measures and shared that he felt safe coming back to train. "I can see that the Flotilla and RSS Kallang were deliberate in creating a safe environment for everyone. We stayed within our functional groups for training, and even had staggered meal timings so that we didn't end up in the same area."
"I enjoy being back and seeing my friends. It gives me a sense of accomplishment to lead my department and build on our competencies and knowledge. I think that it's important to continue with ICT safely so that we can be ready whenever the nation needs us."
Assistant Operations Officer RSS Katong LTA(NS) Victor Chua reflects on his takeaway from this ICT, "I realise that it's important to stay current with the relevant processes and workflows. But it is also just as important that we come together and build on our common understanding as a team. It is so satisfying when we see different individuals coming together and achieving a common goal."
"I also truly enjoyed being able to relive some of the best moments during my time in the navy. I was once the gunnery officer on board and I am proud of the typhoon gun with its right combination of precision and lethality."
Looking Forward to the Next Time
As another chapter closes for RSS Vengeance and RSS Katong's ORNS crew, we are confident that they will continue to grow stronger through the years and look forward to the next time they return. Our NSmen may be coming back from all walks of life, but they can always count on the navy family looking out for them when they come back for ICT.
Onwards & Upwards!
Photos courtesy of ME2 Spencer Teo (RSS Kallang) & ME1 Glenn Emmanuel (RSS Vigour).
Additional inputs provided courtesy of CPT Carlton Chng (RSS Kallang) and CPT Boaz Koh (RSS Vigour).