Why Singapore Armed Forces need to train at Shoalwater
HARSH realistic environment with space to fire spike missiles.
That is why almost 4,000 Singapore Armed Forces personnel have embarked on the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area for the 27th year of training exercises in the Central Queensland area.
The Australian media were invited out to Shoalwater Bay last weekend to witness what the 3120 army personnel, 550 air force personnel and 298 navy personnel were doing.
This year's Exercise Wallaby is even bigger than previous years after negotiations between the Australian and Singapore governments which resulted in the Australian-Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
Exercise Wallaby 2017 Director Brigadier Mark Tan said SAF would like to be able to double the number of SAF personnel training during Exercise Wallaby as well as double the amount of time SAF are in Australia.
"That is something that I think is invaluable to a small country like Singapore that does not have sufficient land for our own training needs,” he told media at Shoalwater Bay (SWB) on October 8.
"This is a very important exercise for the Singapore Army. It's our biggest exercise ever.
"The space here allows us to train both helicopters and ships in a very large and complex exercise which allows us to advance our capabilities. Allows us to train our soldiers in realistic and tough environment.”
First Sergeant Joel Wong said one of the things SAF can do at SWB but not in Singapore was firing spike missiles.
"We can fire the spike missile over here in Australia but we can't back in Singapore because of space constraint,” he said.
"It was different finally seeing a live thing other than the training simulator.”
Brig Tan said training at SWB allows SAF to train units that were operationally ready and to make them strong mentally,physically and "also strong in their hearts”.
"Soldiers that understand the importance of being adaptable on the battle field in resilient conditions,” he added.
Brig Tan touched on the importance Exercise Matilda - a bilateral armour exercise involving both Australian and Singapore troops to follow Exercise Wallaby.
He said Matilda added strength to the relationship between Australia and Singapore.
Brig Tan explained Australian Defence Force personnel fought for and with Singaporeans during World War II - when the Japanese occupied the island country - as well as along side each other in deployments in East Timor and Afghanistan.
As for the strategic side of setting up an exercise for almost 4,000 people, Forward Support Group Commander ME6 Luke Goh Zhenyu, who is the commander in charge of providing logistics support for Wallaby 2017, said preparations started as early as last year.
"The Forward Support Group has three key roles. First, we are responsible for the projection of personal, vehicles and equipment from Singapore to Australia,” he said.
"This is no simple task given the sheer numbers and the size of the exercise. Planning commences many months before exercise begins.
"Our second key role is to set up the camp infrastructure as well as provide basic amenities.
"The other key role is to provide training support. For example, the recovery of unserviceable platforms out in the field, to provide medical coverage in the camps, comms coverage in the training area as well as the provision of equipment and supplies.”
"One of the biggest challenges we have is to balance the resource demands against the desire to provide a positive soldier experience. We need to differentiate between the must-haves and good-to-haves so that we prioritise our resources accordingly.”
But supply is not the only part of Logistics' role. Luke said they also brief troops about the strict environmental requirements in SWB.
"We also have an environmental monitoring group that goes out to the training area and does the necessary inspection and remediation prior to the handing back of the area to the Australian Department of Defence,” he said. "We are committed to ensuring that our training area is returned in a condition that is good, if not better, than when we found it.”
Luke said SAF recognised the importance of data connectivity for soldiers so they organised for a SIM card vendor to visit SWB to sell SIM cards within about 24 hours after the soldiers touching down.
He said in anticipation of higher power demands for mobile phones, safe power charging stations were set up.
SAF also has what they call an educational tour package for the national service troops.
"We don't want them to just come here and train and then just leave without experiencing Australian culture so the last two days before they fly out they actually visit some of the areas, some of the attractions in Rockhampton,” Luke said.
"Taste some of the food here and experience the Australian culture.”
Exercise Wallaby 2017
From September 3 to November 4
Total SAF personnel: 3968
Air Force: 550
9 x Leopard 2sg Main Battle Tank
1 x Leopard 2 Armoured Vehicle - Launched Bridge
2 x Leopard 2 Recovery Vehicle
13 x M113 Armoured Personnel carriers
65 x 5-ton trucks
2 x high mobility cargo transporters
31 x Bronco all-terrain tracked carrier
44 x Bionix II infantry fighting vehicle
41 x light strike vehicle mark II
30 x ops utility vehicle
35 x MB290 vehicles
24 x motorcycles
7 x combat ambulances
81 x land rovers
1 x C-130 hercules transport aircraft
4 x AH-64D Apache Attack Helicopter
6 x AS332 Super Puma Helicopter
2 x CH-47 Chinook Helicopter
1 x Shikra Radar
1 x Air-land tactical Control Centre
2 x MPSTAR Radar
3 RBS-70 Ground-based Air Defence System
5 x Fast Craft Equipment Personnel
4 x Fast Craft Utility
1 x Landing Ship Tank