Best Combat Unit: Winning is in the Commandos' DNAThe soldiers of 1st Commando Battalion (1 Cdo Bn) have done it again! This elite fighting force has clinched its 18th consecutive Best Combat Unit award in the Singapore Armed Forces' Best Unit Competition.
// Story by Benita Teo
// Photos by Kenneth Lin & Ong Ji Xuan
This time, 1 Cdo Bn showed their mettle by ensuring that standards were kept high even as they had to quickly adapt their training programme for the local landscape. This was due to travel restrictions because of the pandemic.
Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Koo Kai Siong, 33, applauded his team for the hard work they had put in to ensure the unit's success: "(It) reflects the commitment of all our national servicemen in giving their best to defend their home and their loved ones. This includes every commando fighter, as well as the administrative and support assistants who have supported our battalion in operations."
He also thanked those who had contributed to developing the young troopers in the battalion: "It takes a village to raise a child, and every commander and trainer…who pitched in to train our soldiers and give them the strong fundamentals to succeed is important."
We find out from LTC Koo, Regimental Sergeant Major 2nd Warrant Officer (2WO) Haresh s/o Kunasehkaran, 35, and Full-time National Serviceman (NSF) commando fighter Corporal First Class (CFC) Ganeysh D. Bathmanathan, 20, what it takes to be the Best Combat Unit.
1) Get creative and adapt to changing situations
The pandemic may have put a damper on the commandos' overseas training programmes, but it has definitely not clipped their wings.
To make sure that they are able to maintain necessary levels of rigour during jungle training, the unit redesigned training to suit the local landscape. This includes a seven-day outfield exercise where they embarked on missions and underwent navigation and jungle survival training like they would in Brunei. They also trained within small-group detachments to avoid intermingling.
Behind the scenes, the commanders and trainers also ensured that the training was conducted safely by carrying out reconnaissance of the exercise area and designing lesson plans so that training was in line with COVID-19 safe management measures.
"Overall, we were able to ensure that the intensity and combat endurance that is required of every soldier, is maintained (despite) a change in the training area," said LTC Koo.
CFC Ganeysh agreed: "There have been some difficulties (such as) limitations on total training size. However, these have been managed well. And safety has always been emphasised.
"Furthermore, we adhere strictly to the safe management measures set by both the government and the Army. So even in this COVID situation, we've still managed to uphold the high training standards that have been set for us."
2) Always train hard and give your all
Training has had to change as a result of the pandemic, but it hasn't dampened the morale of the troopers. In true 1 Cdo Bn fashion, their focus was solely on achieving training goals and maintaining the standards of their predecessors.
CFC Ganyesh recalled the difficult times: "There were many tough training exercises with long outfields and difficult mission objectives that we had to accomplish, regardless of the constraints placed on us. However, we always persevered, worked hard, and gave our best no matter what."
And after the darkest night, the dawn is always the sweetest – which is why 1 Cdo Bn is proud and happy to win this Best Combat Unit award.
"We've been working towards the ATEC (Army Training Evaluation Centre) assessment since Basic Military Training (BMT). It was a very tough period with a lot of outfields. But it has made reaching the goal and winning the award all the more fruitful and rewarding for us.
"There's a lot of pressure on us to uphold the legacy of our seniors and those before us. However, we will not become complacent. We will definitely strive to keep performing well and upholding high standards," said CFC Ganeysh.
3) Secret ingredient: the Commando DNA
New batches of NSFs come into 1 Cdo Bn every year. So how does the unit ensure that its values and qualities carry on after each cohort passes out?
With a secret ingredient called the "Commando DNA" – a strong sense of stewardship to create a legacy that can be passed down, and soldier fundamentals that endure through the generations.
LTC Koo explained: "We stand on the shoulders of those before us. And we transform this into a positive, motivational force to be that shoulder for the next generation to stand upon.
"This strong sense of stewardship drives every soldier to give their best and empowers them to leave behind a legacy that they will be proud of, a chapter in their commando lives when they were NSFs."
2WO Haresh added: "Right from BMT, they have been instilled a sense of regimentation and discipline. And then we carry this culture forward, especially when they become more senior and understand how these values…(help) them to fulfil their training objectives and missions to the best of their abilities."
There is also a strong focus on last-mile leadership, where commanders are entrusted with passing on the skills and values they have learnt to their men.
"Last-mile leaders are the 3rd Sergeants on the ground. Every company has at least 15 of them, and we teach them all the important soldiering techniques and fundamentals," explained 2WO Haresh.
"They are responsible for bringing this knowledge down to every single soldier on the ground. And we check back with the companies constantly to see how they are doing. This method has been working very well for us."