Business as usual for Commandos

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07 May 2020 | OPS & TRAINING

Business as usual for Commandos

// Report by Thrina Tham

// Photos by PIONEER photographers & courtesy of 1 Cdo Bn

English Melayu

The Red Berets continue to be on 24/7 standby to quickly respond to contingencies, and to train new batches even during the circuit breaker period.

The Commandos are one of the Army's operational units on standby to deploy for contingences at a moment's notice.

Birthdays at Hendon Camp used to be celebrated at common areas, where men of the 1st Commando Battalion (1 Cdo Bn) would gather to sing.

Since safe distancing measures have been put in place because of COVID-19 (or coronavirus disease 2019), celebrations are now done a bit differently.

"The quirky thing that we do now is – we would sing (the birthday song) from inside our bunks to another bunk (instead)," said 3rd Sergeant (3SG) Carvalho Antonio Pottier Mohammad Fakhri, a Detachment Commander in 1 Cdo Bn.

As part of Singapore's circuit breaker measures, the Commandos – largely made up of Full-Time National Servicemen (NSFs) –eat, sleep and train only within their functional groups.

Apart from such measures, operations have not changed for 1 Cdo Bn.

Being part of the Army Standby Force, 1 Cdo Bn continues to be ready to defend Singapore against external threats, as well as support homeland security against internal ones.

This means that the unit is on 24/7 standby to respond to contingencies in a short period of time.

The Commandos conducting component training at Hendon Camp.

"While there's COVID-19, some services can come to a standstill... But when it comes to defence, the clock doesn't stop," said its Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Fabian Pwi.

He added that one of the unit's key concerns is how quickly it can resume its intake of soldiers from Basic Military Training (BMT). 1 Cdo Bn's last intake of NSFs came in before the suspension of BMT, and it expects its next intake between June and July, barring any changes to the circuit breaker period.

"When soldiers continue to ORD (reach their Operationally Ready Date), we need to maintain a coherent-sized force to be able to achieve the mission that is tasked upon us," said LTC Pwi.

Commandos undergo a 10-month long journey from enlistment to becoming operational, going through various competencies such as the airborne course to earn their red beret.

The red berets specialise in raids and reconnaissance and are trained in various skills including rappelling (pictured) and parachuting.

Other safe distancing measures undertaken by 1 Cdo Bn include staggered timings to have meals and draw weapons.

The Commandos also sanitise their equipment after each training, such as the equipment at the Standard Obstacle Course.

To ensure that the soldiers are fit and healthy for their duties, they also undergo a 14-day Stay Home Restriction Order before booking in. During this period, the Commandos are expected to update their superiors whenever they leave the house for essential services, said LTC Pwi.

The Commandos undergoing just-in-time training within their functional groups.

Due to the measures, the troops also stay in camp for a longer period than usual.

Detachment Commander 3SG Varatharajan Ramkumar Rohan shared that he has an added responsibility to ensure safety measures are adhered to.

"I make sure my men's morale is always high, that they're fine. (And) I also make sure everyone is following the new safety measures," said the 22-year-old.

Detachment Commander 3SG Carvalho says he and his men have become used to practising safety measures as part of their daily routine.

For 3SG Carvalho, the stringent measures were initially a culture shock as the unit was very tightly knit.

"But we've been practising these day in, day out to the point that it is sort of instinctive to everyone that this virus is serious and we need to…treat all these measures very seriously and strictly adhere to them," added the 21-year-old.

He added that although detachment-level training takes more time now, having more time with his men meant getting to know them better.

"Training is a little bit more fulfilling because you're with this group of people for a prolonged time, so you understand them better… When you go through hardships with them, you really feel like a true band of brothers."

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