Fifty years ago, Brigadier-General (BG) (Ret) Colin Theseira was one of the 36 officers who participated in the inaugural Mobile Column. The new concept then was made possible by a lot of hard work over several nights, but the 74-year-old enjoyed every minute of it.
"We had to paint, wash and service the tanks ourselves. We worked late into the nights, but it was fun," recalled the former Chief Armour Officer, who was among the first batch of national servicemen to enlist in 1966.
"When the tanks came down the Padang, people were cheering and they were proud to see (how much) the army had grown."
This National Day Parade (NDP), BG (Ret) Theseira will once again be part of the display, standing tall and proud in the Leopard 2SG Main Battle Tank.
"It's a great feeling, it's like coming home. Armour has always been my second home and I'm very happy and proud of the formation."
Featuring 171 assets from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Singapore Police Force (SPF) and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), the 1.3km convoy will be showcased during Act 2 – Our Strength, as part of the integrated show.
Spectators can look forward to new platforms such as the Hunter Armoured Fighting Vehicle from the Singapore Army, alongside crowd favourites such as the Leopard 2SG, Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle and Light Strike Vehicle Mark II.
Assets from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) include the ASTER-30 Missile System, which is making its inaugural appearance. And from the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), a platform to watch out for is the Combatant Craft Medium.
Leading the Mobile Column this year is Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) (NS) Chin Chee Whye, 47. The Associate Professor of Mathematics with the National University of Singapore said: "I'm very honoured to be leading this effort to showcase the strength of our will and the commitment of our people."
Between the challenges of commanding the large-scale convoy involving multiple agencies and achieving precision in the timings and movement, LTC (NS) Chin also makes an effort to engage the participants during rest periods. The reason? To build a rapport, find out if they have any concerns and feedback to the organising committee for a smoother flow.
"When we operate, we operate as a crew regardless of rank and appointment. Once we have confidence and rapport with each other, we will understand each other's intentions over the communication sets easily."
To pay tribute to the Merdeka Generation, servicemen who have contributed to building up National Service (NS) from the SAF and Home Team will be taking part in the Mobile Column.
Among those featured is 1st Warrant Officer (1WO) (Ret) Suhumaran s/o V Nadason. A former Navy serviceman, 1WO (Ret) Suhumaran was the first medic to be naval diver-trained.
He was thrilled when he received the invitation to be part of the convoy: "I'm privileged that 20 years after my retirement, I'm still being invited to be part of the Mobile Column to show people what we have done for the nation."
Through the segment, the former Chief Medic for the Navy Medical Service hopes that the younger generations of Singaporeans will embrace NS positively, just as his generation has done so.
"After 30 years with the SAF, I always felt good (knowing) that I'm doing something different…that I wouldn't get to do if I wasn't in service."
1WO (Ret) Suhumaran would be pleased to know that participants like Lance Corporal (LCP) Mohammad Nabeel Majdi is already doing so.
The 21-year-old Full-Time National Serviceman requested to push his Operationally Ready Date from 9 to 16 Aug in order to participate in the Mobile Column.
Despite the long hours spent rehearsing and being under the hot sun, the transport operator from 1st Transport Battalion under the High Mobility Cargo Transporter (HMCT) Company finds joy in meeting personnel from different services and learning about their operations.
He will be driving the HMCT that carries the RSN's Harpoon Surface-to-Surface Anti-Ship Missile in the Mobile Column.
"I get to talk to the Navy personnel, make new friends and learn how they operate their weapons," said LCP Nabeel.
"It's a proud and memorable moment for me and I hope to put up a good show for Singapore."