BMTC ramps up measures against COVID-19Stricter safe distancing measures, more courses conducted online and a shortened direct enlistment process - these are part of measures implemented at the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
// Story by Thrina Tham
// Photos by Chua Soon Lye
"In the midst of the evolving COVID-19 situation, (BMTC) has adjusted our direct enlistment as well as our training to align with the Army advisory and government guidelines," explained Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Dennis Oh, Commanding Officer of BMTC School 1.
"BMT enlistment is crucial for the build-up of operational units," he said, in an interview on Pulau Tekong on 1 Apr.
"The welfare and the well-being of our soldiers is of our top priority. So these enhanced measures are important and necessary for us to ensure the operational readiness of our SAF and, at the same time, safeguard the well-being of our soldiers."
Here are some of the precautionary health measures that BMTC is implementing.
Adjusted direct enlistment process
Since 31 Mar, guest visits have been removed from the 02/2020 BMT cohort to reduce the number of people entering Pulau Tekong and to shorten the direct enlistment process.
The direct enlistment exercise has also been conducted in multiple smaller batches - from reduced seating capacity on buses and ferries to a small group of 40 recruits (down from the usual 100 to 150) reciting their Oath of Allegiance in the auditorium.
Recruits are also placed in smaller groups when having their meals and kitting up.
Stricter safe distancing measures
Since DORSCON Orange was declared this February, BMTC has implemented safe distancing measures, such as staggering meal times as well as book-in and book-out timings, to minimise interaction between companies.
From 31 Mar, stricter measures of 1m safe distancing were introduced.
This has been implemented through clear markings throughout the school: from cookhouse queues and tables, to alternate seating in the auditorium and on the ferries.
As the ferries are operating at only 50 per cent seating capacity, ferry timings between Pulau Tekong and the SAF Ferry Terminal have been adjusted to cater to the smaller, multiple batches of passengers.
Training in smaller groups
All physical training and activities for recruits will now be conducted at a section level, which is typically about 16 men.
There will also be staggered timings for the groups to carry out their training.
The Weapon Presentation Ceremony, typically conducted at the cohort level, will also be scaled down and conducted at the section level instead.
Non-essential events like anniversaries and celebrations such as Recruits’ Evening has also been cancelled to avoid mass crowding.
Taking lessons online
BMTC will also avoid mass lectures by taking its lessons - such as the fundamentals of handling the Singapore Assault Rifle (SAR) 21 and Combat Buddy Aid - online.
Using the LEARNet digital learning platform, recruits will be able to complete these lessons in their bunks and minimise contact with other platoons.
"A lot of our lessons such as CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and weapon handling are uploaded on the LEARNet platform for recruits to learn without coming together. This is how we can enforce social distancing," said LTC Oh.
"Training rigour will not be compromised (just) because we do it in smaller groups. Training will still proceed with our objectives (in mind) and our standards are not compromised in any way."