Training to be soldiers from home during COVID-19

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27 Apr 2020 | OPS & TRAINING

Training to be soldiers from home during COVID-19

// Story by Benita Teo  

// Photos courtesy of REC Emir and REC Ferguson

English Melayu

PIONEER visits two recruits (virtually, of course!) to find out how they've been keeping up with their Home-Based Learning (HBL).

Since BMT was suspended, recruits like REC Emir have been continuing their lessons and training at home through the HBL syllabus.

Since 7 Apr, recruits have been sent home as the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) suspended Basic Military Training (BMT) in line with the nation-wide circuit breaker measures.

However, this time back home is no holiday for these Full-Time National Servicemen. They have been continuing their BMT lessons and training through the HBL syllabus on the SAF's LEARNet portal.

Every weekday, they have to spend about 200 minutes studying a minimum of four modules on the portal. The recruits' participation and progress is monitored by the respective Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) schools and HQ BMTC.

Recruit (REC) Emir Ilyas bin Elham, 18, enlisted on 29 Jan as part of the BMT (Obese)/Physical Training Phase (PTP) while REC Ferguson Chiew, also 18, enlisted recently on 1 Apr.

Hi REC Emir and REC Ferguson! How has the HBL experience been so far?

REC Emir: It's good, because the lessons equip me with technical and theoretical knowledge about NS (National Service) and BMT. It also helps me maintain a regimented lifestyle, similar to that in BMTC. I wake up at around 6.30am to take and report my temperature, and exercise before having breakfast.

REC Ferguson: The modules in LEARNet are neatly categorised and the lessons are progressive so that we aren't overwhelmed by the information. There are also quizzes that help to recap the key points.

REC Ferguson attending his lessons on LEARNet. The recruits' HBL syllabus is based on their stage of training, and range from general military knowledge, regimentation and discipline to basic soldiering skills and physical fitness lessons.

REC Ferguson: If there's something I don't understand the first time, I will go over the lesson again or turn to my section mates in our group chat. If others are also facing the same problem, then we'll approach our section commander for clarification.

REC Emir: Our platoon commanders and section commanders have told us that they are happy to help if we have problems understanding specific terms and concepts.

REC Ferguson: The fact that there's no limit on the number of times we can attempt the quizzes also means that there's no pressure to rush through our lessons and we can learn at our own pace.

How do your platoon sergeants and commanders keep track of your progress?

REC Emir: At the start of each week, our platoon commanders will remind us of the modules we have to cover. At the end of the week, we have to write a reflection on what we've learnt, as well as the PT (Physical Training) we completed.

The LEARNet modules provide an important refresher for REC Emir on topics such as Singapore Assault Rifle (SAR) 21 technical handling, to better prepare him for training when BMT resumes.

Do you find HBL beneficial in deepening your soldiering skills?

REC Emir: Even though we cannot carry out practical training now, learning the theory helps to prepare us so that we can be ready when BMT resumes.

Before BMT was suspended, my batch already had our SAR 21 weapon presentation and completed the technical handling portion. LEARNet was useful in that it was a revision.

For example, while going through the notes, I will remember an important step that I must pay attention to when handling my weapon. The videos also refresh our memories on the steps for things like stripping and assembling the SAR 21.

REC Ferguson: I haven't been presented with my rifle yet, but I've studied SAR 21 handling on LEARNet. It gives me an introduction to my rifle by breaking down weapon handling into different chapters. With the foundation and theory, I feel better prepared for the actual handling.

REC Emir’s advice for other recruits is to take the HBL lessons seriously, to smoothen the transition back to BMT in camp when the circuit breaker is lifted.

How do you maintain the discipline to keep up with the lessons and PT on your own?

REC Ferguson: In camp, there was a fixed schedule we must follow. Now we're on our own, there's no one physically here to tell us what to do. So it really takes the correct mind-set: "OK, I have these tasks and PT, I must do them and be on schedule." This is not a break for us to slack off; we still have our responsibilities as soldiers.

REC Emir: Like REC Ferguson said, we must remember that we are still serving NS. It's our responsibility to complete our assigned tasks. Having been in BMT for 10 weeks already, my batch-mates and I are motivated to finish our lessons and learn as much as we can, so that when we go back to camp we can dive right in and complete our BMT well.

REC Ferguson believes having the right mind-set of wanting to stay on track for lessons and PT is an effective way to maintain discipline.

What have you been doing to stay fit?

REC Ferguson: I do push-ups and sit-ups to train for IPPT (Individual Physical Proficiency Test), and have started doing circuit training. I exercise twice a day, and do 3km runs on alternate days. Sometimes I exercise with my family at home, but usually I do it on my own.

REC Emir: Back in camp, we had a mealtime regime where, before going for lunch or dinner, we would have to do static exercises like push-ups, sit-ups and squats. I do this at home too, including before breakfast. It just takes me half an hour. Every night, I go for a run too.

Most of my batch mates have lost a lot of weight in BMT. This is the time to put into practice what we have learnt, so that we can prove that we can continue to lead a healthy lifestyle, even on our own.

"Keeping active during this circuit breaker period also allows us to be better prepared for not only our upcoming IPPT but also the general rigours of BMT."

REC Emir

What tips do you have for new recruits who will be enlisting during the extended circuit breaker period, and will be doing HBL?

REC Ferguson: Remember that you are serving your NS even though you're at home. So you have certain responsibilities to uphold as a soldier, such as completing your lessons, taking care of your fitness and health, and following instructions from your commanders.

REC Emir: Don't forget that after the circuit breaker period is over, you'll have to go back to camp (to complete your BMT). So you should take the HBL lessons seriously, so that it won't be so difficult when you resume BMT in camp. It will make your transition smoother.

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