Monday, September 27, 2010

Scene setter: BMT Graduation Parade

This weekend, Singapore’s newest soldiers will have their mettle tested in a 24-km route march to the heart of the Lion City.

The march distance is no impediment to the Singapore Army - its combat and combat service support formations routinely train to deploy and fight over long distances.

The fact that some 3,200 Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) recruits will execute a brigade-plus movement to Singapore’s city centre is the challenge.

These recruits will do what no Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) unit has done before. Indeed, the last time armed soldiers moved towards Singapore city on foot and in such numbers was probably during the Japanese Occupation in February 1942.

This time round, every Singaporean son will find a more enthusiastic reception as parents, friends and well-wishers gather for the combined BMTC passing out parade and photograph the landmark occasion in a flurry of camera flashes.

As BMTC troop columns weave their way from Changi Point, at the easternmost tip of Singapore island, to Marina Bay, everything they do will be open to public scrutiny. It takes a leap of faith for BMTC instructors to trust their recruits will do what’s right and demonstrate a level of competence, discipline and professionalism that the SAF expects from its warfighters.

For example, whether the recruits show proper noise discipline at their rest stops or cackle like chickens on a poultry farm will show, to some extent, if they’ve made the jump from excited school kids on an excursion to soldiers who know how to behave during a rest stop.

Complicating the troop movement is the fact that there’s no rehearsal for this route march. Previous generations of recruits performed their route marches on Pulau Tekong island, a training ground sterilised of nosey civilians and well-familiar to BMTC instructors.

To get to the graduation parade, BMTC recruits and instructors will have to organise themselves into four waves of troops, in the correct march order, in the right platoon and company sequence, through housing estates and major highways, with the right amount of medical and logistics support along the way.

And they can’t all take their time.

The passing out parade kicks off on Saturday and the 24-km distance will have to be accomplished well before showtime.

Every recruit who takes part in the route march will be there by choice. How many recruits will be present at the roll call before the march off is open to question.

Those who want to shirk this physical trial and decline the opportunity to prove they are up to the challenge will have ample opportunity to drop out. An imagined ailment, an exaggerated pain, a cooked-up excuse at the BMTC Medical Centre is all it takes for them to step out of line.

The recruit who dreams up creative excuses to chicken out will probably be the same sort of character who goes through life blaming all his misfortunes on society, on fate or circumstance, even on family and friends, without once taking responsibility for his actions.

Recruits who drop out will cement the image that polytechnic students are made of softer stuff than junior college students. This image has been stoked by newspaper reports that link the lack of physical education classes in polytechnics to supposedly poor fitness scores among poly students.

This batch of BMTC recruits is the best judge whether that impression is true or misguided.

At the other end of the spectrum, BMTC instructors must be able to spot recruits with a misplaced gung-ho spirit who want to join the route march even though their personal health does not match their sense of adventure.

Training casualties can be prevented with the right safety first mindset by all BMTC personnel.

On Friday night, as BMTC instructors perform their roll call, under-strength platoons, depleted companies and swollen ranks of the sick parade will make the most vocal statement that three months of Basic Military Training have done nothing for these recruits. BMTC recruits will have to decide for themselves whether or not this scene will materialise.

It is up to BMTC recruits to show that this batch of warfighters-to-be is made of sterner stuff.

Many operational SAF units will be watching how BMTC runs its show.

The SAF has entrusted BMTC - in short, every recruit - to carry out the first ever route march to the city.

Come Friday night, BMTC recruits will get the chance to show they can indeed excel through basics. Urra!

Note: Senang Diri is grateful for the upcoming opportunity to watch BMTC recruits in action as the route march unfolds later this week.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Were you in a kombat unitt???