Basic military training suspended; recruits do physical training and online learning at home

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SINGAPORE - Basic military training (BMT) might have been suspended for more than two weeks now, but Recruit Emir Ilyas Elham is not taking this period to relax.

In fact, the 18-year-old full-time national serviceman aims to lose another 4kg to 5kg by the end of his 19-week BMT, on top of the 10kg he has already shed since he enlisted into the Singapore Armed Forces in late-January.

Enlistees whose body mass index, or BMI, is more than 27 are considered obese and must undergo a longer BMT, as compared to nine weeks for non-obese, combat-fit recruits.

Recruit Emir is now aiming to get a "gold" award for his Individual Physical Proficiency Test - which consists of doing push-ups, sit-ups and a 2.4km run - up from his current "silver" standard.

To achieve his goals, Recruit Emir, who had a BMI of just under 30 when he enlisted, has been on a regimen of exercising twice a day and maintaining a healthy diet during this period of BMT suspension at home.

He must also complete a minimum of 200 minutes of self-directed learning every day through online training content provided by the Basic Military Training Centre, such as watching videos on weapon handling and first aid.

He is among 3,400 recruits who have switched to home-based learning since basic military training was suspended from April 7 - the same day Singapore's circuit breaker period to minimise the spread of the coronavirus kicked in.

The recruits have to submit quizzes, do weekly reflections, as well as take part in discussion forums, where they can raise questions on topics they were unclear about.

Participation and completion of the syllabus is monitored by their commanders, both at the Basic Military Training Centre school level, and at the centre's headquarters.

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Recruit Emir said: "For me and most of other obese recruits, I feel it's important to maintain the fitness to not let our efforts go down the drain.

"I lost about 8kg to 10 kg already (in the past 10 weeks), so it's become a self-motivating factor to keep fit."

Asked if he misses the interaction with his platoon-mates, he said they have bonded in the past weeks of training and have become close friends who keep in touch every day.

"I guess I do miss them and the general experience of being in BMT, and hopefully when this ends, we can all go back to training together."

On Wednesday (April 22), the Home Team and the Ministry of Defence announced in separate statements that the suspension would be extended to June 1, in line with the Government's extension of the circuit breaker period to the same date.

They also said the period of suspension will count towards the servicemen's full-time national service, and their operationally ready dates will not be affected.

When training resumes, recruits will undergo a "structured heat acclimatisation regime" to condition them to the training tempo, said a Mindef statement.

"This progressive approach ensures that recruits train safely and confidently as they acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to graduate as newly-minted soldiers of the SAF," it said.

With the extension of the circuit breaker period, BMTC is reviewing its plans for the recruits, such as how their graduation dates and how their subsequent training would be adjusted.

Recruit Ferguson Chiew, who enlisted on April 1, spends three to four hours a day completing online lessons, on topics such as how to handle the SAR-21 rifle, and regimentation and discipline.

He also has to submit his temperature reading twice a day, before 7am and 2pm. Similar to restrictions for other Singaporeans during this period, recruits are told to stay home as much as possible, and go out only for essential activities.

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The 18-year-old said: "This whole circuit breaker came as a surprise. But we felt that they had reasons for the measures so it's more of maintaining that soldier mentality, and doing what needs to be done every day.

"I would say that the home-based learning won't exactly serve as a replacement for BMT, it's more of a preparation for us to return to continue our BMT."

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