Commandos clinch Best Combat Unit award for 14th straight year

(From left) Lieutenant-Colonel Ng Kiang Chuan, Corporal Anders Seah and Mr Seah Yee Choon.
(From left) Lieutenant-Colonel Ng Kiang Chuan, Corporal Anders Seah and Mr Seah Yee Choon.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

SINGAPORE - When asked what spurred him to pull through the elite unit's tough training, commando Anders Seah paid tribute to his father, who was also a commando.

"Before every mission, my father would give me a call, and even recorded a video to offer me words of encouragement and to tell me to be determined, and to push on when the going gets tough," said the 20-year-old full-time national serviceman (NSF).

Corporal Seah's contribution to the operational readiness of his unit, the 1st Commando Battalion, has paid off, as it took home the Best Combat Unit award for the 14th consecutive year, its 31st win.

The cohesiveness of the 1st Commando Battalion was one of the factors behind its winning streak, said the unit's commanding officer.

"This achievement bears testament to the high operational proficiency and strong fitness culture espoused by the commandos," said Lieutenant-Colonel Ng Kiang Chuan, the commanding officer of the 1st Commando Battalion.

The SAF Best Unit and the Best NS Unit competitions were introduced in 1969 and 1993, respectively, to recognise units which have excelled in the areas of combat readiness, operational proficiency and administrative excellence.

Eighteen active units and 11 national service units will receive awards for being the best in their formations. The awards will be handed out on Saturday (July 1) at the SAF Day parade held at the Safti Military Institute.

Singapore celebrates 50 years of national service this year (2017). Cpl Seah's and his father's shared bond through national service reflects the theme of the anniversary, "From My Generation to Yours".

"When I saw the letter (for my unit posting), I was actually quite happy, but also a bit intimidated because I knew what was ahead of me, as my father had shared his NS stories with me," said Cpl Seah, whose father was also part of the commando unit that won the Best Combat Unit 29 years ago in 1988.

His father, production manager Seah Yee Choon, 51, said: "I felt very emotional because it's always a happy thing to see your son follow in your footsteps. We were proud of him, but also worried because we knew that commando training was not easy."

After Cpl Seah completed an airborne jump in Thailand in March despite not feeling well, Mr Seah texted him, saying: "U earned the wing! I am very glad u made the move to go... It must be a very sweet feeling now."

Commanders of the Best Unit winners this year spoke of the key role NSFs and operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) played in the units' success.

LTC Ng said: "NS forms the cornerstone of the Singapore defence from generation to generation. For the commandos, it is important that we always communicate to them clearly the purpose they serve."

Commanding officer of 143 Squadron, Lieutenant-Colonel Ong Teck Koon, whose unit won the Best Fighter Squadron award, said: "Without the contribution of these NSFs and NSmen, past and present, the squadron really would not be able to operate at a normal pace during peacetime. Their contribution is really enormous."

The Best Unit awards take into account several factors, including a unit's participation rate in operations and exercises, training safety standards, soldiers' Individual Physical Proficiency Test performance, and proficiency in the units' respective vocations.

Warship RSS Steadfast, which was the first non-US Navy ship to lead a multinational group sail in the world's largest international maritime exercise last year (2016), won the Best Fleet Award.

Emphasising the crew's role in winning the award, commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Edwin Chen, said: "Yes, the frigate is a very high-tech platform, but at the end of the day, it still boils down to these 72 people who put in their hearts and a lot of effort to make things all gel together."