Written by: Aloysius Tng (19-U4)
Designed by: Jo Yeoul (19-A2)
From the 2nd to 4th of December 2019, I had the privilege of being able to embark on a 3D2N MINDEF Experience Programme (MEP). This programme organised by the MINDEF Scholarship Centre (MSC) aims to expose students to the various vocations in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and give them deeper insight into how the SAF works, providing an opportunity to witness it first-hand.
I was filled with uncertainty when I heard about this camp as one organised by MINDEF/SAF conjured up unwelcome images of hiking through jungles and swarmed by mosquitos. But a closer look at the itinerary was quick to change my mind as I was drawn in by the opportunity to interact with active servicemen and hitch a ride on the military assets. With the prospect of being able to try out the various military equipment and prepare for National Service, I was intrigued and found myself signing up.
Life in the SAF
On the day of reporting, the first thing that struck me was the sheer number of participants, with over 100 students from schools all across Singapore. We were then transported to one of the various military camps where we would be spending the next few nights in, and it looked exactly like what you would see in an Ah Boys to Men movie, complete with a simple bed and steel closet for each student. Despite its simplicity, it turned out to be fairly comfortable and the bunk was very well ventilated, ensuring a good night’s sleep. Bunking with nine others was a first for me and turned out to be an incredibly fun experience as we spent the nights playing games and bonding, where I learnt that the student sleeping in the bed opposite me was a Eunoian too!
Over the next few days, we were given numerous opportunities to learn about the SAF from the servicemen themselves. There were multiple sharings by soldiers from the respective Services (Army, Navy, Air Force and Joint C4I), and through them, we understood the role each of them plays in defending Singapore and how vital the SAF is. We were also able to see a different side of the SAF when interacting with the servicemen assigned to our groups as they shared their personal experiences in the force and what a normal day in the SAF was like for them. Contrary to what you might see in your typical Hollywood action movie like the Expendables, the soldiers were not the hulking mass of muscle, but personable and friendly citizens like us who were happy to entertain our questions.
An unforgettable trip
Now for the fun part. There was something to look forward to every day and we started off the first day with a Judgemental Video Live Firing (JVLF) with the Army. Participants previously in the National Cadet Corps (NCC) who had previously experienced live firing shared that it was a thrilling experience and I was certainly not disappointed. One of the video scenarios depicted a terrorist attack with hostages, and our mission was to take them. I had never wielded a Singapore Assault Rifle – 21st Century (SAR-21) before, and for a first-timer, I think I performed pretty decently. My first shot went wide as the recoil of the rifle startled me, implanting itself not in the head of the terrorist, but of the hostage. Thankfully, my second shot was on point, hitting the target straight in the chest. Firing a live rifle was a truly exhilarating experience, and I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins as I left the shooting range.
The second day introduced us to Joint C4I and the Navy. Joint C4I is a vital force of the SAF that comprises Military Intelligence and Cyber Defence, and many of us were awed at the sheer skill required to perform their jobs. Joint C4I is responsible for safeguarding the cyber and information battlespace, and we were shown first-hand how this is done via a live demonstration that showcased cyber defence operations and some of its technologies. Also, as part of cyber education, they showed us how technology can be misused and employed by people with malicious intent. As for Military Intelligence, we played war-games where two teams were required to play a game of wit in order to score the most amount of points by predicting their opponent’s movements based on the intelligence provided.
For the Navy programme in the afternoon, we were treated to a boat ride aboard a Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat (RHIB), a small vessel which flew across the waters at nearly 80 km/h. It was a simply exhilarating ride as we cruised across the water at breakneck speed and literally took our breath away with the wind whipping at our faces. Our time with the Navy did not end there as our next ride was on a Fast Craft Utility (FCU). The students were buzzing with excitement as the FCUs pulled up onto the beaches and it was only heightened by the sight of numerous warships littering the harbour. It was no surprise to see everyone (me included) immediately whip out their phones and start snapping pictures of this amazing sight. As we docked inside the troop carrier, we were given the full tour of the ship, exploring its vast underbelly and learning about its history and functions through the various crew members. We ended the day with a hearty barbeque on the deck and a new appreciation of the Navy.
They saved the best for last as the final day showed us a glimpse of the Air Force operations when we headed to an airbase for a flight on-board the CH-47 Chinook Helicopter. This was a first for most of the students and the highlight of the programme, leading to much excitement as we were finally led into a massive Chinook and took off into the skies, giving us a bird’s-eye view of Singapore that we have never seen before.
Overall, the MEP is definitely not one to be missed. Not only is it packed with fun and unique experiences, but it also enables us to learn about the SAF and all it has to offer. I came out of this programme with a better appreciation for what the SAF does for our country and I am sure that many will feel the same way after going through this programme. I definitely recommend J1s to attend this programme and if you are interested, keep an eye out for emails regarding the programme!