Tuesday, September 28, 2010

BMT Graduation Parade: March order

Invitations have gone out, the show venue is booked and there’s no turning back on the Basic Military Training (BMT) Graduation Parade this Saturday.

As preparations shift into high gear, planners are aware that this high-profile event staged with a postcard view of Singapore’s city skyline can earn the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) heaps of positive publicity – or it could swing sentiments the other way.

Officers and men from the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) who think the 24-km route march to the parade venue is all but routine must snap out of this mindset before their recruits march off.

Spectators won’t just crowd the 26,000 seat floating platform at Marina Bay. They will be found all along the marching route and not everyone may react positively to seeing 3,200 recruits marching in close order, chanting for all the world like some Tolkien army off to battle.

If the recruits sing – as they normally do on Tekong – with a full-throated gusto loud enough to wake the dead, would sensitive, sleep-deprived civilians complain to the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) as fast as their fingers can punch out their missive on a BlackBerry?

And what songs should BMTC instructors choose from their selection of marching tunes? Army ditties bordering on crass vulgarity or those laced with dark humour about the military life? Some Army songs are best sung out of earshot of civilians and this will be hard to police unless the enthusiasm of song leaders is reined in way before the march.

No route march is complete without song, so the dilemma BMTC instructors may face is how to manage public reaction to a route march of this magnitude.

Toilet stops in Singapore’s urban landscape will also pose a challenge. With 3,200 recruits on the march for some six hours, all that water parade fluid will have to come out some time or other. These recruits can’t turn the streets into an open sewer, as they normally do while outfield on Tekong. Will there be enough portaloos? Will the queue lines stretch a mile long at rest stops, throwing the no-rehearsal route march out of sync and delaying the parade?

Is there a security plan?

One hopes the recruits parade under a dry sky too because there’s no shelter at The Float – the terraced spectator platform at Marina Bay – unlike the spectator gallery normally used for BMTC parades.

As the clock ticks towards H Hour, the parade will demand many last minute preparations from BMTC personnel.

And should unknown unknowns crop up which threaten to unhinge well-laid plans, the SAF will look to the individual soldier's initiative and effectiveness of small unit leadership to bring things on an even keel.


Anonymous said...

Were you a PES E Poey?

bdique said...

Interesting considerations to make. Well I sure hope that all will be fine on that day, and that it will be a day for all, recruits, parents and curious onlookers alike to remember with pride :)

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing this is the idea of someone in Mindef trying to improve public perception of NS and/or boost SAF morale. It might be a fine idea but I agree with your concerns. There's no telling how the conditions will be that day (could be a hot 38C, high humidity day), potential traffic directing and drinking water + restroom logistics nightmare (the formations will travel slower than NDP and make stops to drink water and go to restroom along the way) and what to do about recruits who fall sick and drop out of the march (you can pick only the fittest to participate in the 24km march, but there's no telling who will fall sick, not drink enough water or over exert themselves too early in the march that day). Maybe they're trying to make The Float an icon like our Mexican friend's Masada. Anyway i hope they recoup more plus than minus in this exercise.

Anonymous said...

Its a huge PR gimmick with no clear objective.