SINGAPORE - Top military shooters from the region are in town for the latest edition of the Asean Armies Rifle Meet, a diplomatic tradition that goes back 26 years to 1991.
In all, 550 army shooters from South-east Asia will be firing away after the week-long event kicked off on Monday (Nov 13) at Nee Soon Range.
They are aiming for a total of 15 trophies that will be awarded to the best shooters across five categories: carbine, rifle, machine gun, pistol (men) and pistol (women).
All 10 Asean members are represented in this year's competition. Each country takes turns to host the annual competition, and Singapore last hosted the event in 2009.
Colonel Andrew Lim, 44, who is in charge of the event's steering committee, said in a media briefing last week that a "healthy dose of competition goes a long way to build relationships and deepen trust".
The annual competition will also "avoid all the second-guessing that will potentially take place if (we) don't meet often enough", added the infantry chief.
At the opening ceremony on Monday, Brigadier-General Siew Kum Wong said that the rifle meet is an important avenue for Asean countries to renew relationships.
"It provides the platform for professional military ties to be established and deepened," he said.
Besides the rifle meet, annual meetings for Asean army chiefs and sergeant majors will also take place next week. This year, they will discuss how Asean countries can work together to fight extremist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ( ISIS).
BG Siew, 46, said: "Their modus operandi transcends the traditional state-defined borders and isolated actions from individual countries will not be effective."
Meanwhile, at this year's rifle competition, shooters will be using the Multi-Mission Range Complex at Pasir Laba Camp for the first time. The three-storey indoor live firing range allows shoots to take place regardless of weather.
Major Phongsavath Khamphouy, who is in charge of the team from the Laos' People Army, said the indoor range provides a different kind of challenge because shoots are usually conducted outdoors back in Laos.
"We will adapt as soon as possible," he said.
A Singapore representative, Master Sergeant Harinderjit Singh, 38, who is taking part for the sixth time, said it is important to keep a cool head.
"I make sure I have a routine and stick to it. I remind myself not to get nervous," said MSG Harinderjit, who is in the 10-men pistol team.
His teammate, Corporal Terry How Wei Yang, 22, who is making his debut in the competition, said he goes through the rundown in his mind every night.
Both men are looking forward to the meet and to learning from their competitors.
MSG Harinderjit said: "Every year, there's something new to learn. We get better and they get better too."