Safety stepped up in Australian training area for SAF after NSF dies in vehicle incident

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Exercise Wallaby director, BG Mark Tan, said that safety awareness has been stepped up in the wake of a fatal vehicular mishap in September. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

ROCKHAMPTON (AUSTRALIA) - Exercise troops in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area have reviewed their safety measures and ensured that there is sufficient safety supervision and fast medical response to emergencies, said Exercise Wallaby director Brigadier-General (BG) Mark Tan from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

"On the ground, we have also stepped up the awareness of safety on each level to make sure each soldier know of the risks around them," said BG Tan, who was speaking to reporters at the 2,800 sq km training zone north of Rockhampton, Queensland, where some 4,000 SAF military personnel are participating in Exercise Wallaby from Sept 3 to Nov 4.

His comments came in the wake of a vehicular accident last month which killed a full-time national serviceman, 3rd Sergeant (3SG) Gavin Chan, during the first phase of the exercise. The incident triggered a one-day safety pause to evaluate what happened and whether there were enough safety measures, said BG Tan.

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

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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 both 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 meant that senior commanders play as big a role in safety as the average soldier, said Senior Lieutenant Colonel (SLTC) Sherman Ong Sher Meng, the exercise's air director.

Said SLTC Ong: "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 efforts 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 (ME6) 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."

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Meanwhile, BG Tan also thanked his Australian counterparts for their access of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, and also to 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 take place from Oct 14 to 28.

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