Friday, August 3, 2012

Safe haven, safe house

The following are two short accounts written with no particular situation in mind. If you know, you know. Cheers.

Safe haven
All his military life, he fought for the privilege of wearing the coveted red beret.

Now, deployed on a real operation, his unseasoned headgear was that of another service.

Newly issued by the CQ, the navy blue berets and crests crowned the heads of some of the republic's toughest fighting professionals as the operation of ironies unfolded.

They were trained for long-range reconnaissance patrols and deep strike missions but found themselves on sentry duty in a static position.

Their Milan 2 anti-tank missiles were acquired to knock out enemy armour or battlefield strong points. But Milans joined them for anti-ship duty - a task which they trained for in reservoirs in the western part of the island, launching missiles against targets across the water, tracking each Milan as the wire-guided missile sped down range trailing a wire in its wake.

Perhaps the only thing this operation had in common with what they were trained to do was the lack of publicity. Total news blackout. No news releases announced their arrival in their area of operations. They could expect no official nod from HQ acknowledging their part in this operation, not a word in newspapers nor could they ever reflect this on their resume of military achievements.

That patch of territory was deemed worth defending during a period of tension (POT) which all parties kept below the radar of public awareness. The thrust and parry of military diplomacy still took place out at sea and out of sight of civilians who were none the wiser.

Patrol boats flirted with unresolved territorial limits, with intrusive probes using binoculars that kept defenders on their guard. In return, weapon optics framed the interlopers with range and bearing data constantly updated in case the birds needed to fly.

Had it been for real, the Milan anti-tank missiles would have punched through the thin aluminium topsides and unarmoured steel hull of the intruder. However, the defenders had to balance missile accuracy against the speed of response of quick firing dual-purpose cannon and MGs fired against their position at point-blank range if the POT escalated into a hot and nasty situation. It did not as interlopers were observed to have kept their A guns under weatherproof coverings most of the time.

Thankfully, diplomacy was allowed to run its course and one of the more unusual military operations soon drew to a close with all "live" ammo returned to the armskote.

Safe house
He could never afford this place, not with his salary in this lifetime nor several working lifetimes added together.

The double storey colonial bungalow that the Caretaker was hired to oversee was kept spick and span for his landlord.

It was easy enough work, albeit a somewhat lonely one. His "landlord" had given strict instructions that his friends and family were never to be allowed onto the premises. He readily complied - as the landlord knew he would as a pre-employment check revealed he had almost no family or close acquaintances to speak of. In terms of temperament, the Caretaker was the type specimen of a social recluse who was happier being left alone and had no big ambitions nor sense of self pity. He was perfect for the job the landlord had in mind.

The detailed background checked paved the way for the Caretaker to land this job of keeping the bungalow's front yard swept clean of leaf litter. All rooms had to be kept dust free and the floor mopped to showroom standard. The bungalow was in a quiet part of the estate and mature trees kept it shaded most parts of the day. It was far enough from the main road that pedestrians and vehicles would not pass its porch. The house received almost no mail, but the Caretaker still made a daily ritual of checking the mailbox just in case.

Keeping snakes - the bane of estate residents - off the property was one of the Caretaker's few excitements in an otherwise mind-numbingly routine duty roster that made each work day almost a facsimile of the previous one and the next and the day after that.

Occasionally, the landlord would call and the Visitors would arrive. Sometimes one car load sometimes in two vehicles.

The Caretaker's job was then to get the air conditioning in one of the rooms running and make tea, before retiring out of sight and ear shot.

As with most human beings, his natural instinct for curiousity made him wonder what sort of enterprise his landlord was running. His nagging concern that he was part of the world's oldest profession was put to rest as rooms in the house were not the kind used by that sort of seedy business. The screening process had worked perfectly as the Caretaker's curiosity did not stretch very far.

Polished parquet floors and rooms almost devoid of all but the most basic furniture - a meeting table, several wooden uncushioned chairs, a white board - that was all that adorned the rooms that kept the Caretaker gainfully employed. For a colonial era property diligently maintained in pristine living condition, it had almost no household electronic devices.

The Visitors would come and go, rarely staying more than an hour or so before exchanging basic courtesies and leaving the house of solace behind them.

Some faces he recognised as they came more frequently. Others were one offs whom he never saw again.

The Caretaker knew better than to ask questions - this the landlord already knew as his personality and intellect made him the sort of person who avoided all but the most necessary social contact.

The Caretaker did an exemplary job. He would perhaps never discover that he was part of a much larger organisation with employee perks and benefits, a proper career ladder and an exciting mission statement.

He may not have been part of the world's oldest profession. But some might argue the Caretaker was part of the world's second oldest one.


Anonymous said...

What a teaser ! Some of you knows, right?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Darkness.

Anonymous said...

The first is the operation for Pedra Branca's safeguarding as judgment of the international court over sovereignty was being read out.

The second is the spy who gave info on Osama Bin Laden's whereabouts.

Anonymous said...

Nice try with the second. But Al Qaeda probably didn't have fantastic employees benefits and career ladder. They do have an exciting mission statement though.

Anonymous said...

War fighting is world second oldest profession?

Anonymous said...

My guess:

It is a colonial bungalow that the British built for their officers in Singapore.

These were built in scattered locations not within camps, such as Sembawang, Rochester Park, Portsdown, Cantebury Road, and some others were within bases. The SAF inherited them and retains the title to many, such as Sembawang still used for housing various forces.

This one is outside of camp and seems to be used for social occasions such as Command House. The secretive and quiet discussions should usually be held at Gombak but you never know.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, reminds me of the time when Georg W Bush arrived for APEC. Full mission profile, loaded for bear in hide sites in secluded places where Manpads can possibly be deployed. Of course, not only the red caps are involved in this one.

Anonymous said...

Commandos are oriented towards external security. And as NSFs they are drawn from all parts of the Singapore population.

I expect the Gurkhas and 100% regular elements in JSOF are trained and trusted as unwavering guardians of Singapore's leadership. They will be the ones also guarding Bush.