Focusing on the fundamentals

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23 Oct 2019 | OPS & TRAINING

Focusing on the fundamentals

This year's Exercise Wallaby training may have been slowed down by a fire ban, but the troops are making the best of the situation.

// Story Benita Teo / Photos Chai Sian Liang

// In Rockhampton, Australia

This year's Exercise Wallaby (XWB) may appear to be a quiet affair without the familiar rattle of weapons firing at targets. Due to the weather conditions and fire risk, a fire ban was imposed until 25 Oct by the Australian government here at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) in Rockhampton, Australia, where the exercise is held. In accordance with the ban, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has stopped all live-firing training until further notice.

However, the fire ban has dampened neither the spirits nor the training tempo of the troops, who had prepared for months to participate in this annual exercise. Find out how they have been working on their soldier fundamentals and keeping their fighting spirit high at XWB 2019.

Always at the ready

Ahead of their Armour Component Training, the armoured infantry troopers of the 41st Battalion Singapore Armoured Regiment (41 SAR) carry out comprehensive checks on their vehicles and equipment, and also undergo drills to refresh their skills.

Troopers stripping and re-assembling their Singapore Assault Rifle-21 rifles as an instructor keeps track of their timing.
Troopers from 41 SAR are carrying out thorough checks on the Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle, ahead of the Armour Component Training.
''The training here is on a larger scale; we can mobilise more of our equipment and troops and test these on a larger scale,'' said XWB first-timer Corporal Dean Chew (right), a Section Assault Weapon gunner. The 20-year-old Full-time National Serviceman (NSF) spent most of his life living overseas and returned to Singapore to serve his National Service, an experience he said has ''built up (his) mental fortitude when it comes to dealing with tough situations''. Here, he is pictured with 41 SAR Section 2nd-In-Charge (2IC) CFC Muhammad Izzuan Shah Bin Norman.

Bringing it all together

Months of preparatory training culminate in the Armour Compoment Training at SWBTA. Ahead of XWB, troopers underwent simulator training on the Armour Gunnery and Manoeuvre Simulator to get to know the terrain better. They also attended heat acclimatisation training to ready themselves for Rockhampton's hot and dry weather.

To prepare for the component training, the soldiers must first undergo a tabletop exercise to familiarise themselves with their exercise scenarios.
Armoured infantry troops carrying out a mounted assault together with the Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle.
Despite the fire ban, SWBTA remains a very valuable training ground for armoured platforms, said Commanding Officer of 41 SAR, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Low Youwen, 37. ''It is a great opportunity to train in a space that is varied in terms of the terrain, and also permissive. We can do things here we cannot do elsewhere, and that means higher training fidelity for the soldiers. One is large-scale manoeuvres and the exercise of command and control over large swaths of terrain,'' he explained.
''The terrain here gives us the chance to overcome obstacles that are not available in Singapore. Here, the space is very big so it enables us to think further in terms of tactics. It makes us better soldiers so that we are more operationally ready'' said 23-year-old CFC Muhammad Fadhlie Bin Roslie, a Section 2IC in 41 SAR.

Giving our troops a lift

XWB also provides the opportunity for different services to train together. In the second frame of the exercise, the Singapore Army and Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) is carrying out joint missions such as troop lifts and resupplies from the air.

Air Director LTC Benjamin Kwan, 42, explains that XWB is essential for honing interoperability among the Services: ''It's always about the relationship we build with the other services. Last year, we had Trident that was tri-service and other years we have the Army. The relationship is the key thing that we honour, so that we can fight seamlessly together (when the need arises).''
The AH-64D Apache Longbow Attack Helicopter (background) escorting the Chinook helicopter during a simulated troop-lift mission. During an operation, the Apaches provide the firepower to defend the travelling soldiers against enemy attacks from the air.
Air Crew Specialist 1st Warrant Officer Sukwinder Singh observing the air situation from the Chinook during a simulated troop lift. The 40-year-old has flown with many helo platforms in his two-decade career, and was deployed for the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission in Banda Aceh. ''As part of the helicopter family, we are expected to fly in conditions like mountainous regions, wide areas or pitch dark environments, especially at night. Being overseas in SWBTA, this is the best kind of terrain for large-scale exercises where we can employ tactics and streamline our processes. We're appreciative that we can do this here because of the small airspace that we have (back home).''
A pair of Apaches circling the air above a Super Puma to protect it as it prepares to take off.
The RSAF's suite of helicopters undergoing refuelling at Glen Airfield during the simulated troop lift mission.

Taking care of our troops

They're always the first ones to come into theatre and the last ones to leave. They make sure that the troops have a safe and comfortable place to call home, and have the food and rest they need for their training. Meet some of the people from the Forward Support Group (FSG) who make all this happen.

 

2nd Warrant Officer (2WO) Chan Chun Fai, 55
FSG Supply Overall In-Charge for Logistics and Stores

2WO Chan speaking to the SATS kitchen crew at the cookhouse.

This is 2WO Chan's third time at XWB. However, it's his very first as part of the FSG, taking care of the soldiers' welfare. He oversees the cookhouse, making sure that the menu suits the training needs of troops.

"I've been here as part of the exercise troops before, so I know what kind of food they need after a long training (session). For instance, when they came back from a four-day outfield training, I requested for noodles and soup for their recovery and to soothe their stomachs. It's my way of giving back for the times the FSG took care of me when I was here."

 

3rd Sergeant (3SG) Rishabh Gurg, 20
FSG Operations Specialist

3SG Rishabh demonstrating the set-up of a safari bed at the barrack in Camp Growl.

NSF 3SG Rishabh has been at Camp Growl since 20 Sep. This is his first time away from home for such a long period of time, but is happy that he is able to support he soldiers at Camp Growl. His most memorable experience was helping to set up safari beds for the second frame troopers, immediately after the first frame soldiers had left. "We had a very short time frame, but I'm glad to be able to provide them with a comfortable place to rest after their training."

 

Major (MAJ) Lau Wei Yong, 36
FSG 2IC

MAJ Lau's greatest satisfaction is knowing that the troops have been able to train and rest well.

MAJ Lau only arrived at Camp Growl on 10 Oct, some time into the exercise. But that's because he just became a dad for the third time – his daughter was born just a month ago! Being away from his family at this time has not been easy, but his understanding wife knows that he has been working hard on providing support to the XWB soldiers since the beginning of the year, and stood behind his decision to continue with his deployment.

"My personal philosophy is that I want to be here to understand the ground, so that I can address the issues that the troops have and support them in training safely and efficiently. My biggest satisfaction is being able to integrate the different functional groups in FSG to give the training troops our fullest support – when I see the guys walking around with a smile, I'm happy."

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