Sep 19, 2009

Fun and Nostalgia at Army Open House 2009 (I)

I'm not a fan of military open house in general, but this year I'm making an exception for my Ah Tiongs and to give SAF a chance to show off their gimmicks. My Ah Tiongs were skeptical initially; they thought the Open House is not open to foreigners. I assured them the Open House is not only open to all but free - free entry, free photo-taking, free shuttle service and no dress code. I painted them a carnivorous carnival setting with opportunities to shoot live rounds and ride combat vehicles into our sacred training grounds. They were sold.

(But not me. Not so easy. Men in green are quite sick of all the shooting and riding. After all, we do that every year against our wish. While browsing through the Army Open House (AOH) trailers for information on the event, I finally felt my pulse racing. At last an attraction more attractive than the latest gadgets and equipment. Look at the screen-cap. I was sold.)

Screen-cap from Youtube video.

This post will be short as I did not take many photos of the event. You can go Seen This Scene That for pictures (taken by the author's kid) or just visit the event's Facebook group.

What surprised me was the about turn policy regarding security during open house. AOH'09 was held inside Pasir Laba Camp and visitors were allowed to roam freely without escort and take photos of the camp environment. If you read this account, Chun See and Peter practically had to beg to visit Pasir Laba Camp in 2006. The Open House embraced visitors, locals and foreigners alike, with open arms.

So what was fun and memorable during Open House?

AOH'09 had feature safaris where you were taken for a ride (literally) inside a combat vehicle to witness live-firing or just for the fun of it. We queued up for the Live-Firing Safari and gave the Combat Ride Safari a miss due to time constraint. The Live-Firing Safari was a five stations 'battle course' showcasing the combat capabilities of various formations in the army. In the following order - command post briefing, mine-clearing demonstration, crossing a float bridge, artillery simulation and armor close battle. It was quite an eye-opener for me as we seldom operated with other units in the past and as advance force, I had no knowledge of what goes on in the battlefield behind.

(battlefield behind? This should not be a surprise as 4 out of 5 stations are support formations - artillery, signals, engineers - demonstration. These guys wear the blue beret. The combat formations - commandos, guards, armor, infantry - have their own beret colors. The blue guys play an important role in the battlefield as they clear mines and bridge water bodies for Logistics and provide artillery support to the frontline troops.)

Pasir Laba Live Firing Area
Mission brief handed out to all Live-Firing Safari participants.

The Safari was conducted in a professional manner. Each five-tonner had two 'tour guides' (the one in front did most of the talking with a LCD screen at his disposal, the one behind covered rear safety). Our guides were fluent in English and bilingual; in fact the main one would make a fine guide for foreign visiting dignitaries but we were there just to 'see show'. In my opinion, the Safari execution was too technical and sucked the fun out of it. The organizers thought the more gimmicks they display, the more information they try to cramp into us, the better. So they had this speaker in the tonner blaring out 'battlefield noise' (real SAF signal speak, like 'one niner to two niner, blah blah') which made the Safari more realistic but less entertaining. So your ears picked up the guide's voice, engine noise, signal set noise, gunfire etc. and this 'civilian conscript', his situational awareness reduced by sickness, found the battle situation a bit hard to follow. I'm not sure among the 20 participants - 7 kids, 5 ladies, 2 teenagers, 2 ah tiongs, 1 ang moh - how many understood what was going on. I overheard the guide explaining to an ah-soh a lady, "you are in a five-tonner .. spelt t-o-n-n-e-r" and "the Primus and Bionix share the same chassis".

(Perhaps military instinct kicked in and my mind entered promiscuous mode but I felt overwhelmed by all the information. Ironically, the more I tried to be situationally aware, the more I got distracted. Unlike one who enters the 'good listener' aka 'obedient husband' mode - your wife's singing enters one ear and comes out from the other.)

(If my Hokkien was better, I would explain Primus to the ah-soh this way - ji eh si kek sua pao, ho seh bo? Something like that lah.)

The best part of the Safari was how it ended. Last station was Close Battle - live firing by Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle. So four Bionix dashed out from their hiding place, their wake trailing with black exhaust and while we were still in awe (I was worried the one with spluttering engine and darkest smoke would just break down), they had lined up abreast at a clearing. Boom boom .. boom .. the Bionix fired in short staccato burst. I squirmed at the thought of ending one's life in a hail of cannon and machine gun fire. Then, silence, mission accomplished? At that moment my 'heritage instinct' kicked in. I focused eagerly in the distance. What did I see? To my horror, the target boards were still standing defiantly. Of course I wouldn't know whether they were riddled with fresh holes.

(No offense and no worries to the gunners. Our hit rate firing our own cannon was not any better. In fact, we were resigned to setting up target boards on E-Shaped Knoll, only to take most of them down - whole - after the session. A spectacular hit would be when the whole target board, higher than human, got splintered into pieces. In other words, we missed spectacularly.)

But really, the best part of the Safari was how it ended. We left for the training area and came back to camp as a group of 20 participants. At the end, they handed each of us a small printed photo. It was a group shot taken outside the command post before the actual battle.

Live-Firing Safari Group 6
Live-Firing Safari Group 6. Can you spot Yours Truly? My Ah Tiong told me I look gay in the photo. Note the majority are children, teenagers and ladies.
Live Firing Safari Mission Brief
The cover for the Mission Brief marked confidential. See the double-sided tape on top? That's for the participant to affix his group photo. Nice touch!

AOH'09 also had a shooting gallery where visitors can "experience the thrill and excitement of firing our very own Singapore-made Singapore Assault Rifle (SAR) 21". Secretly I planned to accompany my Ah Tiongs into the range then drop out because I have range phobia. Moreover I had patronized the range during the recent annual conscription. Besides I wanted to give other civilians a chance. But I dropped the idea so as not to be a spoilsport. So we joined the queue which extended to outside the range. Our talk cock session was occasionally interrupted by 'execution fire'. I wonder whether they executed criminals in China this way?

The organizers were considerate. They provided helmet lining so the helmets could be recycled hygienically. Disposable ear-plugs were provided just like during the live-firing safari. It was an organized carnival as I saw girls in skimpy outfit (hey this is a range and we were taught during conscription firers should be in 'SBO helmet rifle') and kids in the range. There was a minimum height requirement but I don't think the soldiers enforced it. Imagine a kid in foxhole supported position. I was half eager and half panicking before the shoot. What was my score? For the first time, I wasn't dutifully bound to clean the rifle after a shoot.

(I'm SAR-21 trained so I have advantage over normal civilians. Precisely why I was panicking. Super sia suay if I lost to my Ah Tiongs right? Luckily I was observing the previous lane firer who missed most of her shots. Her shots landed high so I aimed lower. I did my homework.)

Shooting Gallery Score Card
From BoBo to Killer - my score card for Shooting Gallery.

PS: So what was nostalgic at the Open House? Read my next post to find out.


Victor said...

And you said "this post will be short".

Icemoon said...

Oops, it could be longer with the Leopard Tank and Terrex Carrier. But I did not take photos.

Victor replied at 1:51 AM. So his comments was uber short, haha.

Adelin said...

You're a Killer! Wow.

And, why did you take a photo with your body sideways? That's why you looked GAY! Only girls would do that.

Icemoon said...

Yeah, luckily never throw SAF's face. Imagine conscript soldier bobo, civilians where got confidence in SAF to protect the country?

Hmm, Adelin you should have seen my expression in the photo. Gay-ish smile also. lol