Commandos take down 20th straight Best Combat Unit win

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29 Jun 2023 | MILESTONES

Commandos take down 20th straight Best Combat Unit win

This is 1st Commando Battalion's 37th Best Combat Unit win.

//Story by Teo Jing Ting / Photos by PIONEER photographers

Long-standing champions: 1 Cdo Bn is the SAF’s Best Combat Unit for the 20th consecutive year.

The Red Berets have done it again.

They clinched the Best Combat Unit title in the annual Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF's) Best Unit Competition – clocking their 20th consecutive win.

The competition – introduced in 1969 – recognises units which excel in the areas of combat readiness, operational proficiency and administrative excellence.

2WO Ng, the RSM of 1 CDO Bn, is proud to be part of the battalion's victory.

This victory is especially significant to Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) 2nd Warrant Officer (2WO) Jonathan Ng, who enlisted in 1st Commando Battalion (1 Cdo Bn) 20 years ago.

"2003 was the first year when we took back the Best Combat Unit win and I'm very honoured to be the RSM to lead 1 Cdo Bn in winning the 20th consecutive award this year," said the 39-year-old.

"This win is not by chance, not by luck. It is through the progressive training and strong determination and resilience of our soldiers."

MAJ Tan intends to keep flying the Commando flag high and uphold the battalion’s culture of excellence.

Commando fighting spirit

Trained to operate deep within enemy territory, the SAF commandos are known for their high proficiency in specialised operations such as airborne, reconnaissance and raid missions.

"The fighting spirit in each Commando is born of two things – brotherhood and a clear understanding of his purpose," said Commanding Officer Major (MAJ) Tan Rui Lin.

The 32-year-old explained that the battalion aims to inspire each commando to do their best in order not to let the rest of his brothers down. Every commando is also clear of his purpose and mission – which is to defend the nation.

"When we are out for missions, the load on our backs may be heavy. But it will not be heavier than the responsibility we have been entrusted in defending the nation."

Commando trainees undergoing the X72 rite of passage. [File photo: Timothy Sim]

March of tenacity

It is known that Commandos go through some of the toughest training in the SAF.

For Full-time National Serviceman (NSF) Corporal First Class (CFC) Alagappan Vishalcidambaram, the X72 was one of the hardest missions he has even gone through.

Comprising a 72km march over three days with minimal rest, this milestone march sees trainees performing combat tasks like rappelling, crossing water obstacles and even taking down an enemy key installation – all while enduring fatigue and stress during the continuous exercise.

Only after completing the march will they be able to call themselves Commandos.

During the X72, commando trainees practise three modes of insertion: by rappelling, through airborne means, and via boat. [File photo: Timothy Sim]

"It was a very challenging experience and almost all of us were down at one point or another. But we never gave up, we kept on pushing and motivating each other," recalled the 20-year-old Commando Fighter.

"When I finished the march and was presented with my red beret, I felt a great sense of satisfaction. It was one of my proudest moments."

Commando trainees preparing to go through the ATS, which simulates a realistic parachuting experience.

CFC Vishal added that another challenge he had to overcome was the basic airborne course, as he had a fear of heights.

Thankfully, he underwent progressive training at the Airborne Trainer System (ATS) – this helped him gain confidence so that he knew what to do and expect when it came to the actual jump.

"It was a scary yet cool experience to jump out of a plane and I'm glad that I managed to overcome my fear of heights. The instructors really helped, coaxed and encouraged me to take on this challenge and I'm grateful to them," said CFC Vishal.

A commando trainee jumping off a 11.2m-high platform to simulate exiting from a plane. The ATS allows trainees to experience a complete flight drill as well as emergency procedures during the jump.

Forging strong brotherhood

For fellow NSF 3rd Sergeant (3SG) Khant Tun, being a Commando is all about the camaraderie and brotherhood.

As a first-generation Singaporean serving National Service, he found himself surrounded by a new family of brothers when he entered 1 Cdo Bn – brothers who supported one another through thick and thin.

"When any one of us is facing challenges or difficulties, we will try to help and encourage each other, and make sure that he gets through it," said the 20-year-old Commando Leader.

The brotherhood and camaraderie formed with their fellow Commandos have kept NSFs CFC Vishal (left) and 3SG Khant Tun going through rigorous training.

These bonds are also the reason 3SG Khant Tun says his most significant memories as a Commando are during jungle training in Brunei.

"My batchmates and I were there for a navigation exercise and every night, after setting up camp, we would talk and bond with one another – it's a memory that will stay in my mind forever."

A Commando trainee earning his red beret after completing the X72. [File photo: Timothy Sim]

Flying the Commando flag high

Seeing generations of NSFs going through gruelling training, finding their confidence and forming strong brotherhood is something that 2WO Ng finds fulfilling as an RSM.

"When I see how the NSFs grow from boys to men and interact with their parents during the milestone parade, and (the parents) thank us for transforming their sons and returning them safely, it makes me proud."

For MAJ Tan, what makes him proud is how the unit has continued to maintain its standard of excellence as well as uphold the traditions that have been passed down through generations of Commandos.

"The 1 Cdo Bn of today is standing on the shoulders of giants. It wasn't easy to get here and this is something that we shouldn't take for granted," said MAJ Tan.

"It is up to us – the current generation – to uphold this enduring culture of excellence by maintaining our best practices and striving to be better versions of ourselves.

"We owe it to ourselves and our seniors to keep working hard, and fly our flag high."

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