Robust & safe training at BMTCTough and realistic Basic Military Training (BMT) for recruits continue under safe management measures.
// Story Teo Jing Ting
// Photos Kenneth Lin and Chai Sian Liang
In the midst of COVID-19, training at Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) goes on as usual, with strict safe management measures in place.
Since the resumption of BMT on 26 May, recruits have been undergoing tough and realistic training while adhering to safety measures. These include twice-daily temperature taking, enhanced hygiene practices and frequent disinfection of common areas.
Recruits have also been split into smaller functional groups for all activities, and meal times are staggered to avoid cross-interaction between groups.
In addition, recruits or instructors who exhibit acute respiratory infection symptoms will be immediately separated from the rest and tested for COVID-19 infection.
High training standards
Despite these added measures, training standards have not been compromised.
With recruits cohorted into smaller functional groups, more time has been allocated for certain training activities. For instance, rehearsals for live-firing used to take half-a-day. They are now conducted over one full day with safe distancing measures in place.
Training in smaller groups has also allowed commanders to better focus on the recruits' learning, said 1st Warrant Officer (1WO) Hardial Singh S/O Inder Singh, 58.
"With smaller groups, we can pick up on their mistakes quickly and correct them immediately."
The Platoon Commander of Cougar Company from BMTC School 1 added that the morale among recruits has been high, with two of his obese recruits achieving the Gold standard for their Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) after the physical training phase.
Among them was Recruit (REC) Sebastian Chew, who has shed 12kg since enlistment. When the 21-year-old first enlisted on 20 Jul, his parents were initially worried about the training. But they were soon assured once they knew about the precautionary measures that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) have put in place.
"There are a lot of safety measures that have been implemented, so that really helped to put our minds at ease," said REC Chew.
He added that the commanders have been very proactive in reminding them about the need for safe distancing, wearing of masks and taking of temperature.
At the cookhouse, shields have been put up at the tables to minimise potential transmission of the virus. It is also compulsory for recruits to wash their hands before and after meals.
Forging strong bonds
For REC Abdul Hafiz Bin Ahmad Sulaiman, training has been fulfilling despite the added precautions.
"Even with safe distancing, we still get to bond. It's really about the moments we share - our camaraderie has been on a high, with everybody supporting each other and pushing ourselves to the limits to reach our potential," said the 20-year-old.
He added that the commanders have also been nurturing and caring. They would often check on the recruits' well-being and ask if they are feeling well, before and after every training activity.
The need for a strong defence
Senior Minister of State for Defence and Manpower Zaqy Mohamad saw this during his visit to BMTC at Pulau Tekong on 1 Oct.
Apart from observing recruits undergoing technical handling training on the Singapore Assault Rifle - 21st Century (SAR 21), Mr Zaqy also saw an oath-taking ceremony with safe management measures in place, as part of the modified enlistment process.
Speaking to the media after his visit, Mr Zaqy said that Singapore's defence needs to remain strong in these uncertain times to keep Singaporeans and Singapore safe.
"It is important we maintain high levels of readiness and high levels of preparation to ensure the military operations and security of our nation continues to be protected," he said.
"And certainly today, as we look at how the BMTC runs, we are still enlisting recruits and putting training measures in place to ensure our servicemen continue to be safe and their health is taken care of during this period."
Confidence in the SAF
Since his enlistment on 20 Jul, 21-year-old REC Durgesh S/O Murugah has been undergoing progressive training under the instruction of patient commanders.
"They (the commanders) would teach us step-by-step and answer our queries so that we are familiar with everything that we are doing." He said that this gives him the confidence to give his best during training.
"Training is important 'cos there are always national servicemen who are going to reach their Operationally Ready Date, and the SAF needs to keep training people to replace them.
"In the long run, it is important that we still train and protect Singapore in our own way."