Friday, August 9, 2013
Book review: 2263 Days Operation Blue Ridge The SAF's Six-year Mission in Afghanistan
Two Thousand Two Hundred And Sixty-Three Days
Operation Blue Ridge The SAF's Six-year Mission in Afghanistan
Ministry of Defence, Singapore, 2013, 165 pages, hardcover.
As the only coffee table book on Operation Blue Ridge (OBR), the six-year Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) mission in Afghanistan, Two Thousand Two Hundred And Sixty-three Days deserves a place on the bookshelf of every SAF watcher.
It is one-of-a-kind, so the review's conclusion is straightforward: This is a must-have.
The book's default status as go-to guide on the SAF's longest and most complex mission is well-earned. Facts and figures outline the full scope of the SAF's work in-theatre while pictures - many published for the first time - give readers a comprehensive tableau of OBR's many facets.
SAF officers and students tasked to write about OBR will find it a handy, one-stop starter kit that will get them up to speed on Singapore's involvement in Afghanistan (this ended last month).
The 26cms by 26cms (10.25 inch by 10.25 inch) book comes in 13 chapters. These are:
Forewords and Messages
Closer Than We Think
5,221 km from Home
Doing Our Part
Leaning Forward, Reaching Out
- Genesis of Operation Blue Ridge
Making a Difference
- Bringing Smiles
- Bridging People
- Every Drop Counts
- Sharing Warmth
- Providing Healthcare
Working Hand in Hand
- The Golden Hour
- Steady Hands
- Shield Of Safety
- Eye In The Sky
- Patterns Of Life
Shona Ba Shona (Note: "Shoulder to Shoulder")
- Guns Ready!
Leading from the front
- Forward Leadership
- Embedded To Support
- Making It Happen
- Enabling The Mission
- R.S.O.I (Receive, Staging, Onward-Movement & Integration)
Family and Friends
- Pillar Of Strength
- Forging Ties
- Flying Our Flag
The Flag Bearers
While the pictures and bite-sized quotes from OBR participants make for easy reading, perhaps more ink could have been expended outlining why the SAF embarked on its OBR journey. The forewords by Defence Ministers past and present, and SAF Chief of Defence Force and Chief of Army serve as useful thought drivers.
Further, albeit brief, discussion is found in the chapter, Closer Than We Think. This talks about global security challenges after 9/11 and delves into how the international community closed ranks to act against elements which exploited Afghanistan's wide ungoverned (or ungovernable?) expanses to hatch terror plots against countries such as Singapore.
"Terrorism know no borders," the book states."The international community therefore has a stake in rebuilding Afghanistan, so that transnational terrorists cannot hijack the country to conduct its militant activities."
Attempts by the regional terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), to stage attacks in Singapore form the lead in to describe why OBR was initiated, where SAF forces were deployed, when various phases of OBR were executed, what the SAF did there, how it trained for and supported the mission and who were the men and women who accomplished the mission.
The economy of words used by OBR's author(s) makes 2263 Days read like jottings from a journal, which makes six years of operational achievements easy to digest. This book nonetheless serves as a valuable start point for anyone who wants to engage in a balanced debate on OBR.
Not for nothing does MINDEF describe the mission as the SAF's most complex overseas deployment. About a third of the book is devoted to putting on record the work needed to sustain the mission all those years and the acronym, RSOI, tells that getting there involved more than booking a seat on an aeroplane.
As there are no indications the book will be found in bookstores here, it would be to MINDEF/SAF's benefit if netizens could read its contents on its website perhaps as a downloadable PDF file.
It is a pity that MINDEF/SAF's effort in acknowledging the good work done by OBR participants does not seem to have been extended to the unknown hand(s) responsible for this book. There is no author mentioned. No departments have been credited for their part in the book, which is not the way you want to motivate future book committees tasked to record some SAF milestone.
Even with 2263 Days out of reach, you can get a good idea of its message from a roving exhibition on OBR. A large part of the book's contents have apparently been grafted as material for this exhibition. This kicks off tomorrow at Toa Payoh HDB Hub at 10am and will remain open till 8pm.
You may also like:
A national necessity: Operation Blue Ridge. Click here
Posted by David Boey at 8:20 PM