SINGAPORE: The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officially opened a new training institute at Clementi Camp on Monday (Jul 31) where soldiers will be trained in counter-terrorism and homeland security.
The Island Defence Training Institute will train up to 18,000 active soldiers and national servicemen (NSmen) every year in homeland security. A further 15,000 personnel every year will undergo training for other island defence roles, said the Defence Ministry.
The training institute is made up of four sub-units. Two of them, located at Clementi Camp, focus on training soldiers to protect key targets in Singapore as well as conduct joint patrols.
The other two units at Mowbray Camp, meanwhile, focus on military security and policing duties.
"Our training is as realistic as possible towards a terrorist threat,” said assistant company trainer at the Homeland Security Training Centre, Second Warrant Officer Mark Mu. “It makes it able for us to judge, and for them (the soldiers) to make decisions on the ground."
For instance, at the Homeland Security Training Centre - one of the institute's four units - video simulation is used to prepare soldiers to deal with various threats. There are 12 scenarios in all, including dealing with a gunman in a shopping centre, a suspicious vehicle at a checkpoint, or a potential attack from the coast.
The training at this unit is conducted over seven days, with refresher courses for NSmen.
Soldiers will use real bullets later on in their training and also learn search and arrest techniques.
"They need to judge for themselves on the ground what kind of level of force to apply, using minimal force to de-escalate the issue,” 2WO Mu said. “Of course the main thing is to save lives, and stop the violent act at that point of time."
Trainee Second Sergeant Muhammad Zayyani bin Shamsuddin said: "These kind of situations, l myself have not gone through (before) in any training of this sort. We do not know if this kind of situation might happen any time any day.
"I'm definitely confident now after the training. If anything were to happen I can actually react instantly.”
The scenarios are “constantly updated," said institute commander Senior Lieutenant Colonel Vincent Soh, so that troops can be “immersed in a very realistic environment before they are required to conduct the operations”.
He added that having a centralised training institute means “better overwatch, supervision, and ensuring training standards and training consistency across all the units and troops”.
The SAF, like many militaries around the world, has had to adapt its tactics to the changing nature of conflict amid the sharp rise in terror incidents, urban warfare and small-scale attacks targeting civilians.
In 2010, it established the Island Defence Task Force to, among other things, coordinate joint patrols with the police. Numerous joint exercise have also been held in recent years, including Singapore’s largest anti-terror exercise in October 2016, which involved over 3,200 people from the SAF, police, and SCDF.
"Joint training is definitely a way ahead for us,” SLTC Soh told Channel NewsAsia, adding that the institute is in discussion with Home Team training agencies on how to incorporate such training into their curriculum.
“The design of all these training programmes has already been in consultation with them based on our past experience,” he said. “But nothing beats joint training - where the troopers can train together with the policemen and understand each other better."