Proud to be a sailorDeck Weapons Specialist 3SG Aqil Adli Yashir enjoyed his training and looks forward to sailing on the Landing Ship Tank as part of the Navy family.
//Story by Teo Jing Ting
//Photos by Kenneth Lin and courtesy of 3SG Aqil
It was fasting month. 3rd Sergeant (3SG) Aqil was hungry and thirsty. Yet he pressed on.
The 21-year-old was preparing the OTO Melara 76mm anti-aircraft gun. He had to take out the loading tray and pad, load the rounds which weighed close to 12.5kg and check the gun for errors. It was hard, manual work and required intense concentration. The pressure was on as his instructor watched his every move.
His two minutes was up and 3SG Aqil had successfully prepared the weapon for firing. It was a huge load off his mind.
"You need a lot of concentration and focus 'cos if you miss any step, it becomes a safety hazard. You really need to know what you are doing and for me, it was really tough 'cos I was also hungry and thirsty!"said 3SG Aqil.
"That's why I really respect the sailors on board ship, 'cos they are very competent in what they do. They know how to do their checks, they know what the safety precautions are, they know exactly what to do at the right moment."
The Deck Weapons Specialist (DWS) was at the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN's) Naval Military Institute undergoing hands-on training as part of his specialist cadet course. This involved practising the different weapon loading and unloading procedures, as well as the safety aspects on board ship.
Fortunately, his fellow cadets were very encouraging. They constantly entertained him with jokes to keep him from thinking of food and that kept him in high spirits and he was able to concentrate on his training.
Learning the ropes
As a DWS, 3SG Aqil was trained to handle a variety of weapons on the ship. These included the AR-15 rifle, the CIS 0.5 machine gun, the General Purpose Machine Gun as well as the OTO Melara 76mm anti-aircraft gun. He also had to undergo seamanship training, which included learning various roping techniques and steering a ship.
"If you're posted onto the ship, you are also required to help out with the seamanship aspect. So we also take up various roles like doing lookout duties and maintaining the ship," explained 3SG Aqil.
Learning about these may be new and exciting but his first sail on board the training ship did not go as well as he expected. For one, he became seasick.
"I wasn't used to being on the ship and we were sailing across the Singapore Strait for about seven hours. It was very hard to concentrate but it's something I have to adapt and overcome."
His most memorable training? Firefighting on the helicopter as well as shipboard. For the former, he was part of a four-man team that had to carry a fire hose to direct a fire away from the helicopter.
It was much more difficult on ship as he and his crewmates had to douse a fire in a small corridor which mimicked the narrow passageway of a naval ship. The enclosed environment, coupled with the intense heat from the fire, made it especially challenging but memorable.
"You have to communicate with your team members… (even though) you can't really hear them over the fire, the pressure of the water from the hose and the breathing apparatus. It was really tough!" said 3SG Aqil.
"Still, it was a very fun and eye-opening experience. I'm also glad I wasn't fasting at that time ‘cos I would have really been very thirsty!"
Becoming part of the Navy family
On 17 May, 3SG Aqil was among the 927 cadets who graduated as Specialists and Military Experts of the Singapore Armed Forces. There were 777 graduands from the Singapore Army, 54 from the RSN, 84 from the Republic of Singapore Air Force and 12 from Joint.
In the light of the current COVID-19 situation, the cadets will receive their bayonets at decentralised small-scale indoor parades organised by their respective vocational Training Institutes from 17 to 20 May.
Post-graduation, 3SG Aqil would be posted to the Endurance-class Landing Ship Tank (LST) RSS Endurance. He looked forward to sailing, taking up different duties and being part of the Navy family.
"From what my instructors and trainers say, being on board the LST is very fun ‘cos ships have a family-like culture where everyone bonds and always looks out for one another," said 3SG Aqil.
The Temasek Polytechnic alumni was also grateful and happy to be given the opportunity to be in the Navy.
"The skills that I'm learning here are those that I won't be able to learn outside. It's honestly been an enriching and fulfilling experience and I can't wait to see more!"