Watering heightsPIONEER journalist Teo Jing Ting finds out if she has what it takes to be a naval diver.
// PHOTOS Kenneth Lin
PIONEER journalist Teo Jing Ting finds out if she has what it takes to be a naval diver.
"Come on, you can do it!" Deaf to all calls of encouragement, I peered nervously into the clear depths of the dive pool.
I was at the home of the naval divers in Sembawang Camp, attempting the Maritime Assault Course (MAC). This annual test assesses the fitness and operational competencies of advanced naval divers.
Done in teams of four, it includes a 6m tower jump and caving ladder climb, a physical fitness station (which comprises a 200m run, flipping a 105kg tyre over 80m, 20 jumping jacks and 20 push-ups), a shooting test and a casualty evacuation (casevac) race. All in 15 minutes.
For me, the MAC was a simplified version. I only had to do a 3m tower jump and caving ladder climb, shoot at targets, flip the tyre and take part in the casevac. I also had all the time I needed.
The tower jump simulates naval divers entering the water from a helicopter while the caving ladder climb is akin to climbing up from the side of a ship.
My heart was racing with excitement as I swam towards the caving ladder. The moment I hoisted my leg on the first rung, the ladder started swinging wildly.
"Woah!" I yelled. My diver buddy, Staff Sergeant (SSG) Eng, instantly steadied it from the bottom.
My arms were burning as I slowly ascended the ladder. The higher I climbed, the more I was afraid of falling. That was probably the only thing that kept me going.
By the time I reached the top, I was literally clinging onto the ladder for dear life. Relief flooded through me as I stepped onto
This was followed by a wave of panic when I realised I had to jump into the pool.
In the end, I couldn't go through with it. Face burning with embarrassment, I descended the pool ladder. I had faced enough fears for one day.
After the pool component, we headed to the indoor range.
Usually, the naval divers do this upon completing their physical fitness station. This tests how well they can regulate their breathing after a strenuous workout to shoot accurately. Out of the 12 rounds given, 10 must be on target.
I put on a combat vest, goggles and helmet before strapping the HK416 assault rifle across my shoulders.
As I took aim, SSG Eng said: "Aim at the top part of the target. That way, the rounds will land in the middle."
I took his advice and landed eight out of the 12 rounds on target. "Not bad for a rookie", I thought as I silently patted myself on the back.
Strength of a (non)warrior
Armed with new-found confidence, I proceeded to the 105kg tyre-lift. Gritting my teeth, I expended my strength but the tyre hardly left the ground.
On the second try, I managed to raise the tyre and propped it on my knees before flipping it. After two attempts, I was spent.
I felt guilty for prematurely judging the naval divers when they each took turns to flip the tyre three times throughout the 80m route during an earlier demonstration.
To make things worse, my arms slipped when I was lifting the tyre on the third try and part of it landed on my left foot. Karma hurts.
Last but not least was the casevac run. While balancing a stretcher with a 80kg mannequin on their shoulders, the divers have to run 400m before transferring the "casualty" onto a Combatant Craft Medium.
Before lifting the mannequin, my teammates and I had to synchronise our movements. "1, 2, 3, up!"
Though initially bearable, the weight started to take a toll. I struggled to maintain my grip and even used both hands at one point for fear of affecting the rest of my team.
At that moment, I truly understood what teamwork for the naval divers meant. They trust one another completely and push on to complete their mission. This makes operating in the murky Singapore waters possible, knowing that their teammates always have their backs.
After walking a mere 50m, I was never happier to put the stretcher down.
Before taking part in the MAC, I had wanted to try the Sea Circuit, a water confidence course that all naval divers have to pass. That'll have to hold. For now, I have a pressing appointment… with my masseuse.