SAF, US Marine Corps strengthen ties at joint exerciseExercise Valiant Mark successfully concluded today on 9 December.
Report by Chia Chong Jin // Photos by Kenneth Lin & Lionel Lee
Over the past two weeks, some 850 soldiers from the 7th Singapore Infantry Brigade, 3rd Battalion Singapore Guards (3 GDS) and the United States Marine Corps (USMC) Marine Rotational Force Southeast Asia, I Marine Expeditionary Force trained alongside each other in a series of missions.
The exercise, which was held in Singapore from 28 Nov to 9 Dec, culminated in a battalion heli-borne mission, involving joint planning and a deliberate assault by troops at Murai Urban Training Facility (MUTF). The troops also conducted urban operations training, live firing and jungle training together during the 12-day exercise.
The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) supported the exercise with two AH-64D Apache attack helicopters and three CH-47 Chinook helicopters.
A learning experience
Among those who worked closely with the USMC during the acclimatisation and component training period was 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) Timothy Tang, a Platoon Commander from 3 GDS.
"The exercise has been fulfilling, as we have been able to participate in many new activities. For example – jungle survival training – this is something that I believe most of our soldiers, as well as the USMC soldiers, have not experienced before.," said the Full-time National Serviceman (NSF).
"We were also exposed to how the USMC would assault urban objectives. Even though we were similar in the way we capture urban terrain, there were multiple components within an assault that we can learn from the USMC."
Corporal First Class (CFC) Kisuksharan Devakumar, Platoon Runner, 3GDS, shared similar sentiments. "The exercise has been enriching and it has broadened my horizons. Working with the USMC allowed us to experience different equipment and training styles. It has proved to be a valuable experience for all of us."
When asked about the key lessons he has learnt, the NSF said: "It was an eye-opening experience… to see our US counterparts perform similar drills, with a couple of additional tweaks, it showed us that there are many ways to approach any one scenario."
"Not many people would have the opportunity to participate in a foreign exchange between two militaries, so I am thankful to be able to participate in this exercise."
Bring the heat on
For the US Marines, acclimatising to Singapore’s hot and humid weather conditions proved to be one of the biggest challenges they encountered during the exercise.
"Upon arriving, we found that the weather was at a higher temperature and higher humidity than what we are accustomed to", said First Lieutenant (1stLT) Timothy Runstandler, Kilo Company, Platoon Commander, USMC.
"It was a challenge that we enjoyed adapting to. Working with our Singaporean partners, we learnt some tips and tricks of the trade of how to deal with this climate and temperature, and we quickly assimilated to the climate."
1stLT Runstandler and his men worked hand-in-hand with SAF soldiers from 3 Gds during this exercise. "Training alongside the SAF felt natural, as we understand how to fight war the same way – we have similar philosophies.
"The soldiers just naturally gelled together, and they were able to cooperate well right from the get-go."
Corporal (CPL) Mason Flint, Kilo Company, Squad Leader, acknowledged these views. He said: "It was really good to experience this exercise with an army that has the same warrior ethos as us, which has the same mindset and same tactics as we do, even though we have different Standard Operating Procedures."
He added: "It doesn’t matter who we are partnered with, what country we are in or what climate we operate in; what is most important is the partnership between two nations.
"At the end of the day, we can’t fight alone. It doesn’t matter how small we start that partnership, as long as we continue to grow from it, then we will all better ourselves."
CPL Cynthia Perez, an Intelligence Specialist from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, also shared the same sentiments when cooperating with her Singaporean counterparts. She said: "The SAF soldiers were very proficient in terms of their understanding of intelligence operations.
"Their SOPs were similar to ours, and with that, we were able to flow very well and it was seamless. Additionally, we exchanged inputs to ensure that in future operations, it would be even better than this time round."
Asked about her key takeaways from this year’s Exercise Valiant Mark, she said: "Seeing how well the Singaporean soldiers were able to communicate down to the tactical level and they were able to overcome issues (quickly) – that was something that we could learn a lot from.
"With our experience here, we will be able to better navigate and work with other countries as well."
Launched in 1991, Exercise Valiant Mark underscores the excellent and long-standing defence relations between both armed forces. Apart from such bilateral exercises, The Singapore and US military also interact regularly through multilateral exercises, high-level visits, as well as professional exchanges and attendance of each other's professional courses.