716 SIR named Best NS Infantry Unit for 2 PDFThis is the second consecutive win for the infantry battalion.
// Story by Koh Eng Beng
// Photos by Mano Mahendran & courtesy of 716 SIR
These citizen soldiers went for "route marches" in their own time to build up their combat fitness.
One of them reported for In-Camp Training (ICT) even though he was given the option to defer – his family member was then in critical medical condition.
Another soldier covered longer distances during a mission than he was told to. The reason? As a scout, he wanted gather more intelligence on the enemy forces.
These Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) are from 716th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (716 SIR).
Their strong commitment and hard work enabled the battalion to score a REDCON 2A – the second-highest possible grade – for their overall Army Training Evaluation Centre (ATEC) evaluation last year.
716 SIR has been named the Best NS (National Service) Infantry Unit for 2nd People's Defence Force Command (2 PDF) in this year's Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF's) Best Combat Unit competition.
2 PDF is responsible for, among other areas, counter-terrorism and homeland security within the borders of Singapore.
Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) (NS) Jeremy Lee said: "It is definitely a very proud moment for the unit. We set out this NS journey not aiming for any awards, but to always give our best for the unit as well as our brothers-in-arms.
"So the strength of the unit lies in the commitment of our soldiers, and our desire to do well for each and every one of us. And we are all very proud of winning this together."
One of the challenges LTC (NS) Lee faced was getting his 600-odd soldiers to build up their combat fitness before their ATEC Stage 2 evaluation in November last year.
As his soldiers were generally in their late 20s, busy building up their career and starting new families, it was particularly challenging for them to maintain their fitness, he explained.
It also didn't help that the battalion could not conduct any pre-ICT route marches due to COVID-19 restrictions then, he added.
"So we just did it in small groups. The soldiers actually went by themselves with their commanders to do 'route marches' at their own time," said the 45-year-old.
LTC Lee, who is Assistant Chief Operating Officer of National University Hospital, explained the reason for these extra training sessions: "We had to ensure that they were combat-ready before they came in for ICT.
"There's no magic pill – you can't build up combat fitness in just two weeks, we need to do some preparation before ICT."
Mortar Detachment Commander, 3rd Sergeant (3SG) (NS) Marcus Tan agreed. "Unlike our active days when we were fully accustomed to prolonged outfield training, it took some adjustment when we were back as NSmen."
The 30-year-old software engineer added: "Training and staying outfield, we had to be careful and look out for one another."
For Captain (CPT) (NS) Satria Sadon, the preparation for ATEC Stage 2 Evaluation during the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the toughest periods he faced as an officer.
The 38-year-old, who works as an intelligence specialist in Google, recalled: "With many of us working, studying at the same time, and (juggling) families, it's very tough for us to rally everyone together before ICT.
"But the beauty (of the challenges due to COVID-19) is that it brought us closer. We went through a lot more activities outside ICT, albeit online – we had many zoom sessions to discuss upcoming training and exercises."
Noting proudly that this is 716 SIR's second consecutive win in the SAF's annual Best Combat Unit competition, he said: "This is a testament of all our hard work at all levels – the men and commanders. This award in turn (will) spur a lot of us to continue serving as best as we can."
For his buddies
For 3SG (NS) Marcus Tan, his buddies is his motivation for doing his best for training.
"Looking back, the thing I treasure most is the cohesion and camaraderie among all team members," he said.
"In my mortar platoon, we communicate a lot among us. We took the effort and time to get to know each other better, especially our lives outside the ICTs (and) how each of us have been doing.
"I look forward to meeting my friends whenever I am back for ICT and I enjoy the time spent with them."