Woke up at 6am to shower. After solat Subuh we started our activity with morning exercise in our respective groups. My group’s instructors took us running, walking and a bit of jungle trekking around the camp where we saw the place they lived and trained. We also saw from afar the late Sultan Johor’s home in the camp. He was a strong supporter of commandos, they refer to him as “ayahanda kami” (our honorable father). I’m not sure if the new Sultan has his late father’s military passion. Owh, guess what, I was happily walking while chatting with one of the instructors when I noticed Mr. Cute Commando was right behind us. He was assigned to my group after all! :-D
When we reached the seaside one of the instructors asked me, “Do you see those twin towers?” pointing to two chimneys at a plant next to the camp. I said yes. He continued, “They will take over this camp soon.” That was when I realized that he was being sarcastic when he said “twin towers” as he was referring to Petronas refinery plant. I could hear traces of sadness, even perhaps anger, in his voice. If you read the history of Malaysian commando (I’ve put a link to a Wikipedia article in yesterday’s entry), you will know what a treasure the camp is to these people. It’s not only their physical base; it’s their spiritual base, one that they relate to with their lives. Sungai Udang Camp is the Home of the Commandos. It was where the 1st Special Service Regiment was formed on 1 August 1970, which later became today’s 21 Gerup Gerak Khas.
Throughout the years the camp had witnessed many commandos came and gone. Some died in line of duty, some during training, some were fortunate to serve until they retire from the service. In this camp commandos look at death in the eye on daily basis, even when they are not in war. They use live bullets during training and shoot targets millimeters away from their heads. They walk on beams 6-inches wide and 3-storeys high above the ground in the middle of the night with nothing but an oil lamp at the end of the beam to lead their way, no harness or safety net as insurance. They get punched, kicked, tortured and left in muddy jungle without food and clothes for weeks at a time, all to prepare themselves if our country ever faces time of distress. If there’s one group of people that deserve to be first class Malaysian citizen, it’s them.
To have a place you call home, a place where you risk your lives each day, a place where you form brotherhood stronger than blood with your fellow comrades; such meaningful place being taken away from you, is truly an awful thing. Yes, they will get a bigger base at Mersing camp with way better facilities, but home is home. Even more so when the home holds so much history that defines their identity as commandos.
Back to morning exercise, after we were done with that we had lontong for breakfast (yummy!) and continued with the next activity - marching class. Most people had experienced marching during school, so it wasn’t that hard. The hardest part was probably doing it under the hot sun. The marching instructor even commented that we did pretty well for civilians.
We had fried meehoon for morning break. Marching was tiring so I ate a lot, also because I knew there would be more physical activities coming up.
Then we had compass reading class. Military compass is unlike the ones you buy at shops. Even within the forces, the army (Tentera Darat) uses different type compass than the air force (Tentera Udara) and the navy (Tentera Laut). Since we were in training with the army we used their compass, which reads from 0 to 6400 as opposed to 0 degrees to 360 degrees on normal compass. We learned how to reach a target if the bearing is given and vice-versa. Some were pretty straight forward, but when it came to targets with obstacles along the way, some calculations needed to be done to divert the route, which could be pretty confusing even for an accountant!
The pool next to our campsite. PULPAK TD is short for Pusat Latihan Peperangan Khusus Tentera Darat.
We took a break for lunch. Today we had to cook our own lunch and dinner using army food rations. We were given 6 packs of rations which were quite plenty considering each ration could feed a commando for 2 days.
This is cooking, army style.
After lunch and solat Zuhur we went to put our compass reading skills to good use. We were given bearings and photos of things we had to find all over the camp, using only the compass as guidance. It was like participating in The Amazing Race once again (I joined one organized at work last year which I really enjoyed), only tougher as it was unfamiliar territory and we had to trust the compass to lead us from on pit stop to another.
We crossed the field, climbed the hill, trekked through the jungle, walked by the beach.. wherever the compass pointed us to!
While we were in the jungle, one of my group members got stung by an insect (probably a bee) and she got immediate allergic reaction. Our instructor called for medical team and 3 of us waited with her and brought her back to the campsite. The rest of us (including me) continued with the activity. We reached the final pit stop about half an hour earlier than expected but it wasn’t good enough as we only took second place. We were quite frustrated but it was okay, we did our best. It was still early for dinner so we rested for a bit before gathering again at 6pm to cook and eat.
After dinner and Maghrib prayers we had night navigation activity. Each team was given a Night Vision Goggle (NVG, not NGV, that’s gas) to lead us through the jungle. Imagine trekking the jungle at night and only the person (the leader in front) got to see the way as only he or she had the NVG. The rest of us just held onto each other’s shoulders and walked in a line behind the leader. We took turn to be leaders (though some chose not to be one). During my turn I was fortunate to be able to locate the tracks pretty easily. Only a few missed turns, fortunately our instructors (including Mr. Cute Commando) were there to correct me. It could get quite stressful being a leader as the people behind you kept telling you to move forward when you couldn’t actually see which one was the right way. Even with the NVG on, finding the trail was quite a challenge as jungle trails were really narrow and covered with leaves and branches, therefore you could just as easily lead the group to nowhere. And did I mention that the NVG displayed everything in one color - green - which made it difficult to differentiate if the trail was clear or otherwise.
Fortunately after what seemed like an endless journey in pitch dark, we managed to get to our destination ahead of other teams, yeay! We exited the jungle in Kem Terendak, another army base next door. Then we walked back to Kem Sungai Udang, this time using the road under bright streetlights *phew*.
Once we reached the campsite Capt. Abu told us that we had to move place. More walking, great. We quickly packed our things and started walking towards the seaside which was quite far. There we were given sleeping mats and pillows. We would sleep under a porch with ponchos as walls. Oh well, at least it had roofs.
My sleeping mat. See that little round spots at the side? I sprayed insect repellent (the one in green canister) around it.
Feet hurting, body stinky, too tired to go for a shower. Night night, I’ll shower tomorrow.