Standing Sentinel


Above: Almost the same weapon being used.
 

The old M16, haven't touched it since 2004.
 
With the close of the movie "Skyfall", I completed my mandatory duty or rather training with the army. The final words of my unit CO (Commanding Officer) rang in my ears. The unit will be on active alert for the entire year.

On my 34 years old shoulders, an elderly age for an infantryman, laid the burden of standing sentinel over my homeland for an entire year.

I read the post by asingaporeanson titled "Singapore is good" and my fists clenched when he mentioned about the silliness of our homeland defence. I cannot blame him for his misinformation, he was never involved in active combat duty. He was a service side soldier during his national service and never served reservist duties. In his bid to sensationalize the badness of Singapore, he tends to dismiss what is working in Singapore and amplify all its faults. He definitely did not attended the latest intelligence brief.

I am not a Singapore hugger, I too live frustratingly in the country struggling to make ends meet. I questioned daily on why the cost of living in Singapore is so high and why I am not able to switch jobs as easily as a healthy person.

It was easy to make fun of the army. I always joke that the army operates on Bangkok time as most training and lectures are always held one hour late.

The recent stint back in camp was a rapid tempo training phase packed with lectures and field trainings. I was looking to a relaxing timetable since the unit has just completed a major wargame exercise. But it was not to be.

Despite being excused from physical activities due to my hypertension. I was still required to attend all field trainings. Fire arms and attend all lessons. Well, despite the recent training safety scare due to the death of a few soldiers. It seems that the safety scare doesn't extend to me. Well, not that I mind.

After the numerous briefings on Al Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiah and bomb threats. I realised there was no escaping on my duty. I will need to serve my duty, so excused or not excused, I had better learned all the skills that were taught so that I know what to do when we turn operational in 2013. The unit is converting from a regular infantry unit to a counter terrorist unit.

Given that a reservist unit is conducting this conversion instead of an active unit. It was telling of the alert footing that Singapore is at. Peaceful, definitely it is not.

To mentioned the old James Bond cliche, "given the the license to kill" seems silly. But this is exactly the power given to us. On operations, we have now being given the green light to maim or kill if necessary. And yes, the entire process transiting from non-alert to live round fired from rifle cannot exceed 4 seconds. I was tested on that. The power of arresting people with all necessary power were also given to us on operations.

In my entire 15 years in the infantry both as an active soldier and as a reserve soldier. I have never being given such a green light. This really comes as a surprise especially at 34 years of age.

The streets of Singapore are not less safe at night because the police posts closed after office hours. They remained safe because there are men out there scanning the skies, gazing over the waters and foot soldiers (police and armed soldiers) walking the land. Some in uniform, some not. And this 34 year old is one of them.

I call them the Sentinels...



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