A tough two-day battalion heli-borne mission capped off Exercise Valiant Mark, which came to a close on 24 Apr at the Murai Urban Training Facility.
Over the past two weeks, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the United States Marine Corps (USMC) went through activities such as urban operations training, live firing, jungle training, as well as tactics, technique and procedure (TTP) exchanges.
About 900 personnel from the SAF's 7th Singapore Infantry Brigade, 1st Battalion, Singapore Guards (1 GDS), 24th Battalion Singapore Artillery and the Army Deployment Force, and the 2nd Battalion of the USMC 7th Marine Regiment took part in the annual bilateral exercise.
The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) also deployed four AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, two CH-47SD Chinook helicopters and two AS332 Super Puma helicopters to support the exercise.
For the US Marines, one of the biggest challenges they faced was Singapore's hot and humid weather. Many of the USMC participants had also not experienced operating in a jungle environment before.
"Coming out here from the deserts in the US, we experienced a whole different climate," said Sergeant (SGT) Adrian Sanchez, 1st Platoon, 2nd Squad Leader, USMC. "We got acclimatised to Singapore's weather (through hikes and runs), and the acclimatisation period helped us in our execution of the missions."
SGT Sanchez and his men were attached to Alpha Company, which consisted of two platoons of SAF personnel and one platoon of USMC troops. "We worked together hand-in-hand – clearing buildings, and over the course of the two weeks leading up to this mission, we built a strong relationship with the SAF. That is why we were able to succeed."
Corporal (CPL) Thomas Euson, 1st Platoon, 2nd Squad Team Leader, shared similar sentiments: "With the help of our SAF counterparts, we were able to quickly adapt to the change in environment... So far, it has been great working alongside the SAF."
Among those who worked closely with the USMC during the acclimatisation and component training period of Exercise Valiant Mark was 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) Neel Karve, an Assistant Platoon Commander in 1 GDS.
"Exercise Valiant Mark allowed me to see how the US Marine troops go about their drills," said the Full-time National Serviceman (NSF). "It has been an eye-opener to learn how different militaries work."
He added: "During the battalion mission exercise, my company had a platoon of US Marine troops integrated with us, and the marines had a platoon of our guardsmen integrated with them. It was an exciting experience having different uniforms working together to achieve the same mission goal."
3rd Sergeant (3SG) Ethan Ong, Section Commander, 1 Guards, agreed: "It is really an honour to be able to train alongside the US Marines. They are a world-renowned armed force and they have a lot of experience that we benefitted from."
Asked about his key takeaway from this year's Exercise Valiant Mark, the NSF said: "During the TTP exchanges, we learnt more about the USMC's operating procedures and the types of weapons they handle… That made me realise that there's quite a lot that (our militaries) have in common, more so than our differences."
Exercise Valiant Mark 2019, which began on 11 Apr, was part of the extensive interactions between the two armed forces. Apart from such bilateral exercises, both militaries engage in multilateral exercises, high-level visits, as well as professional exchanges and attendance of each other's professional courses.