Exercise Wallaby

Safety stepped up in Australian training area

Pilots involved in Exercise Wallaby at a safety briefing. Exercise Wallaby, which is in its 27th year, features a difficult and expansive terrain and harsh weather conditions meant to train soldiers to be resilient and to test the capabilities of the
Pilots involved in Exercise Wallaby at a safety briefing. Exercise Wallaby, which is in its 27th year, features a difficult and expansive terrain and harsh weather conditions meant to train soldiers to be resilient and to test the capabilities of their vehicular platform.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SAF Brigadier-General says it is foremost, after incident last month which killed NSF

Exercise troops in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area have conducted a review following the death of a serviceman and found that safety measures are adequate, though steps have been taken to ensure they are well executed to provide sufficient safety supervision and fast medical response.

Exercise Wallaby director Mark Tan said yesterday: "On the ground, we have also stepped up the awareness of safety on each level to make sure each soldier knows of the risks around them." He was speaking to reporters in the 2,800 sq km training zone north of Rockhampton, Queensland, where about 4,000 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel are participating in Exercise Wallaby from Sept 3 to Nov 4.

His comments came in the wake of an accident last month which killed a full-time national serviceman, Third Sergeant Gavin Chan, during the first phase of the exercise.

It triggered a one-day safety pause to evaluate what happened and whether there were enough safety measures, said Brigadier-General Tan.

He said "we were convinced that there were sufficient measures in place" and have resumed training to "instil confidence in the soldiers that the training they are undergoing is still safe".

Exercise Wallaby, which is in its 27th year, features a difficult, expansive terrain and harsh weather conditions meant to train soldiers to be resilient and to test the capabilities of their vehicular platforms.

Said BG Tan: "As we train here in these harsh conditions, it is also important that we train safely. That is foremost in our considerations.

"To conduct training that is safe, realistic and tough, we have to put in place safety measures to ensure that safety is incorporated in each level of the training design."

This means that senior commanders play as big a role in safety as the average soldier, said the exercise's air director Sherman Ong Sher Meng. "We believe that having zero accidents is a very possible target, and it is important that this idea is imbued within all levels."

The rescue and evacuation of 3SG Chan also involved parts of the Wallaby's Forward Support Group, which makes sure that all logistics in the exercise are in order.

Forward Support Group commander Military Expert 6 Luke Goh said: "Losing a buddy certainly had an impact on the soldiers who are close to him. But I think the battalion recovered quickly after the safety pause."

Meanwhile, BG Tan also thanked his Australian counterparts for access to the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, and the people of Rockhampton for their "friendship and hospitality" towards SAF personnel.

The first bilateral exercise in the training area between SAF and the Australian Defence Forces will start on Saturday and end on Oct 28.

Correction note: The story has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2017, with the headline 'Safety stepped up in Australian training area'. Print Edition | Subscribe