High combat readinessIt’s exam time for the citizen soldiers of 790th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (790 SIR), who must prove their combat readiness in ATEC.
// STORY Koh Eng Beng / Photos Chua Soon Lye
They are getting on with age — most of them are in their late 20s and some in their early 30s. These lao jiao (Hokkien for old bird) soldiers were not expecting to perform as well as they had in their younger days.
But at their Army Training Evaluation Centre (ATEC) Stage 2 evaluation in April, they excelled in their fight against the Opposing Force (OPFOR), relying on their experience and close teamwork.
The battalion's overall Readiness Condition (REDCON) grade for its entire ATEC evaluation was 2A — the second-highest possible grade.
"In the one-week training before the start of the ATEC evaluation, we beefed up (790 SIR's) fundamentals — training tactics and procedures as well as combat fitness. They have also been training on their own, (as) shown by their Individual Physical Proficiency Test results: the battalion was the best among all NS infantry battalions in the last work year."
"This ATEC evaluation is our final milestone — the last time we did this was back in our active days in 3 SIR. This is also our 7th In-Camp Training…(so this may be) the last battle we can truly experience being outfield fighting alongside one another."
Friend & foe
ATEC crossed a key milestone when it conducted its 300th evaluation in April this year.
Commander ATEC Senior Lieutenant Colonel (SLTC) Fairoz Bin Hassan, 40, said: "It means 300 manoeuvre units across nearly 30 years have had the common experience of being put under pressure of a proxy to war."
"These soldiers have proven their mettle and operational readiness, and come out of their ATEC evaluations learning and growing for the betterment of the Army."
ATEC not only evaluates a unit's combat proficiency, it also conducts reviews for unit commanders to help them take stock of learning points from the evaluations.
One new initiative from ATEC this year is the focus on the operational safety of the unit, to minimise combat attrition and fratricide (accidental killing of one's own forces) as well as to ensure the timely evacuation of casualties.
Explained SLTC Fairoz: "You can't win without people, and a battle is not worth winning if there's no one left after it."
ATEC conducts about 12 evaluations each year for infantry, guards, commando and armour units. These are done locally as well as overseas, including in Australia and Thailand.
Comprising over 20 personnel who plan and conduct evaluations, ATEC is supported by umpires and two OPFOR companies from various training institutes in the Army.