Wednesday, April 04, 2012

We band of brothers

(Background: Under the Singapore system, a male citizen typically enlists at the age of 19, serves two-and-a-half years full time, and then undergoes annual training of about two weeks' duration for the next ten years, before being phased into the reserve.)

Yesterday, the infantry battalion which I have served in for the past ten years formally stepped down, and I will be phased into the reserve in the middle of this month.

Having gone to medical school before rejoining the military, I did not start in this unit as most of the men did, but I did undergo every one of their annual training with them. However, my involvement with this unit did begin way back while we were both serving our full time stint twelve years ago, when I was the base Medical Officer at the army's training base in Thailand when the battalion came for their overseas training, and I was again the base Medical Officer at one of our Australian training bases when my current Commanding Officer went there for training too.

Over the past ten years we underwent a few changes of commanders and principal staff officers, went through tough training missions, and through all that we grew to trust each other. I gave myself the personal mission of not losing a single soldier under my watch, and when the battalion stepped down yesterday, I was glad to say I achieved that (although at one point it came really close...). While I enjoyed the camaraderie that has developed over the years, I often wonder to myself if I can deal with seeing so many friends and comrades being killed or maimed if we were to really go to war.

Today, my Commanding Officer made me a gift of his green beret which was awarded to him at the end of his US Special Forces training, as well as the badge and tabs.

I have a small collection of hats which I bought on my overseas trips or which were given to me by friends and family, but this beret has the most history behind it. It will take the place of honour among my collection, and remind me of the times I spent with the remarkable men whom I had the privilege of serving along.


Rodger said...

Excellent post and a wonderful gift to treasure.

Dan said...

Great post, and very nice gift.

wahj said...

Now that's what I call a souvenir =)