What you didn't know about The Soldiers' Playground

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17 Sep 2020 | OPS & TRAINING

What you didn't know about The Soldiers' Playground

It’s been 10 years since the Standard Obstacle Course (SOC) revamp! The original course was introduced in 1967.

//Story Sherlyn Quek

//Photos PIONEER photographers

English 华文
The Standard Obstacle Course – also known as The Soldiers' Playground – is a classic rite of passage for recruits during Basic Military Training.

1) It's been 10 years since the Standard Obstacle Course (SOC) revamp! The original course was introduced in 1967.

In September 2010, servicemen bade farewell to the old obstacle course as the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) announced changes to the SOC and introduced a new team-based Vocation Obstacle Course (VOC) and Vocation Related Exercises.

Which of the 12 SOC stations do you find most challenging?

The SOC builds soldiers' strength, agility and endurance for basic combat movement and tasks.

These revisions were made to strengthen the SAF's combat fitness training system, and better prepare this generation's soldiers for challenges they may face in an increasingly urbanised battlefield.

Do you remember the Swing Trainer aka monkey bars?

2) Did you know there used to be only 11 obstacles in the SOC?

As part of the 2010 update, six obstacles were replaced with seven new ones, increasing the total number from 11 to 12.

Some classics - such as the Low Wall and the Jacob's Ladder (renamed the Apex Ladder) - remain, while others like the Swing Trainer are now a thing of (fond or perhaps not-so-fond!) memory.

The 12 stations simulate both jungle and urban operating environments to hone the soldiers' ability to cross any terrain.

For instance, soldiers must duck under the opened window panes of the Corridor obstacle. This trains them to move through areas of restricted height and avoid being sighted by the enemy during urban operations.

Duck and go! Just remember not to hit your head on the window panes at the Corridor station.

Soldiers must complete all 12 obstacles in good time, with a 10m run to the course, followed by a 300m rundown. In the past, soldiers had to run 600m in the final leg of the course.

And to make training more realistic, they have to go through the SOC with combat load - helmet, integrated Load-Bearing Vest, and the Singapore Assault Rifle 21.

Armoured infantry soldiers tackling the Rubble station which simulates the debris of a collapsed building. They must complete the VOC as a team while carrying heavy weapons such as the MATADOR and General Purpose Machine Gun.

3) It's not just the military – obstacle courses also feature in pop culture!

Various obstacle courses are used by military forces around the world. Some have more than one course for soldiers of different Services and vocations – just like the SAF's VOC.

Check out this physical training instructor running through the US Marine Corps "O" course!

The SAF VOC requires troops to carry equipment and perform combat tasks that are specific to their vocation, together as a section or detachment.

Armoured infantry soldiers, for example, carry heavy weapons like the MATADOR (Man-portable Anti-Tank, Anti-DOoR), while Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel are geared up in their EOD 9 bomb suit and helmet during their VOC.

Obstacle courses have also become a part of pop culture – just think of the successful Sasuke and Ninja Warrior franchise or classic shows like Takeshi's Castle.

Do you think you have what it takes to be a Ninja Warrior and fly through these physical challenges?

While military obstacle courses teach soldiers how to navigate the battlefield safely and quickly, these programmes naturally focus on the entertainment factor of people competing to get through tricky obstacles!

Siblings challenging each other to reach the top of the ladder to ring the bell first, as part of a National Service (NS)-inspired obstacle course at the NS50 Sports Festival in 2017.

4) There is a mini-version of the SOC for kids at the Army Museum.

The Army Museum, located at Upper Jurong Road, is currently closed and undergoing an attraction review. But did you know it used to have an outdoor Adventure Park? There, children under the age of 14 can work off excess energy in scaled-down obstacles modelled after the SOC.

There have also been various SOC-inspired courses for kids put up at open houses and festivals over the years!

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