SINGAPORE: This year’s National Day Parade (NDP) will pay tribute to the first ever Mobile Column that took to the stage at the Padang 50 years ago in 1969.
The Mobile Column - which shows off hardware and other assets from the Singapore Armed Forces, the Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force - last featured in NDP 2015.
This year, it will see participants across generations. Spectators can look forward to a display of a whopping 171 assets performing a nearly 15-minute drive-past.
A JOY RIDE WITH THE MOBILE COLUMN
As part of a media opportunity, CNA got a sense of what it was like to ride in one of the 13 Leopard 2SG Main Battle Tanks participating in the Mobile Column.
Weighing 55,150kg and standing at a height of 2.99m, the tank appeared menacing up close.
Reporters were told that while the other vehicles had ramps to walk up, the Leopard 2SG Main Battle Tanks required strength to swing oneself up onto it. We were also cautioned to be careful while climbing up as the surfaces of the tank was rough with anti-slip covering that could scrape skin right off.
This reporter really had chosen the wrong day to wear jeans.
After the gargantuan task of hauling myself up onto the green behemoth, I was given a safety briefing on stable standing positions when the tank was moving and what to do in case the tank overturned.
We also had to wear tight-fitting helmets that had a communications link to the crew in our tanks and the rest of the Leopard Tanks that were in the convoy.
As I lowered myself into the gunner’s station, I noted how small and compact the inside was. I watched and listened as my tank’s vehicle commander communicated and executed drills with the driver who was situated somewhere below us.
Before I knew it, the signal was given over the headset and we were off. Though slightly bumpy, riding in a tank felt exactly like riding in a truck – except you are standing and half of you is exposed.
As we cruised through to the Padang, I turned around to marvel at the sight of the Leopard tanks leading the 1.3km long convoy of 158 other vehicles.
In the procession were other assets such as the Hunter Armoured Fighting Vehicle from the Singapore Army and the ASTER-30 Missile System from the Republic of Singapore Air Force that will make an appearance for the first time during NDP 2019.
Alongside crowd favourites like the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle and the Light Strike Vehicle, spectators will also get to see naval assets that have not appeared in previous Mobile Columns, such as the Combatant Craft Medium.
HONOURING THE MERDEKA GENERATION
The final segment of Act 2 of the parade will also feature a salute to the Merdeka Generation for their service and contributions in building National Service.
Speaking to reporters at a doorstop, chairman of the Mobile Column committee, Lieutenant-Colonel Wu Jianmin said the strength of the Mobile Column was not only in the hardware or platforms, but in the operational standards and commitment of Singapore’s servicemen and women as well.
“The Mobile Column 2019 will end with a special segment to pay tribute to our Merdeka Generation servicemen. The SAF and Home Team stand strong today because of their sacrifices and their commitments towards Singapore’s security,” he said.
“We hope that this final segment will also inspire Singaporeans to inherit the spirit of the Merdeka Generation and continue to be committed to defending Singapore, protecting our loved ones and our way of life because we are now pioneers of our future.”
One of the Merdeka Generation participants is retired Cpt Loh Kwan Boh, 63, who is participating in the National Day Parade alongside his son, Cpt Charles Loh who will be commanding a Hunter Armoured Fighting Vehicle during the parade.
“It is a significant milestone for us. We get to participate in National Day for the first time and also that this being Singapore’s bicentennial year as well as 50 years since we rolled down Padang in 1969, it’s a very big thing for us,” said 26-year-old Cpt Loh.
When asked about paying tribute to his father’s generation, Cpt Loh said: “I see this as one of the ways to make him proud. He has actually passed the baton down to me as an armour officer. So it’s my duty to carry on the legacy and continue to work hard in armour.”
Cpt (RET) Loh, who was from the early batches of the 40 Singapore Armoured Regiment (40 SAR) that trained in the AMX-13 tanks, had made sure to expose his young son to the SAF by bringing him to every open house.
“I would say in a way, it must have nurtured some of his interest over the years ... I was very proud of him that he wanted to sign on and that he chose Armour. I was a tank officer so I am very proud that he is also a tank officer,” he said.
Despite the pair working with different tanks, Cpt Loh said his father and him still share their experiences with each other.
“Although the training knowledge cannot be passed on, the things like values like leadership, responsibility - he will try to give me pep talks to do well in what I do in my training,” he said.