Nothing moves without their green light and they can cancel a war game if they feel training safety is compromised.
Safety teams who oversee Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) peacetime training serve a vital role that comes into the spotlight whenever the SAF loses someone in a training incident. On other occasions, they are taken mostly for granted by soldiers, sailors and airmen they are assigned to protect and safeguard.
We see them around training areas and in prominently-marked safety vehicles, but do not know their names.
The death of Lance-Corporal Muhammad Fahrurrazi bin Salim, a full-time National Serviceman with the 1st Transport Battalion, turns what we have experienced with such sad incidents upside down because the trainees ended up providing aid to the safety team. It is usually the other way around.
Just 20 years old, LCP Fahrurrazi’s mission brief saw him prepare to support a river crossing exercise in Brunei by adding one of two assault boats – 5.4-metre long aluminium craft powered by an outboard motor – to two others carrying medics and safety personnel. The third and fourth assault boats were spares for boats 1 and 2 that would be stationed near the water crossing site to ensure all went well.
Now, to have one spare assault boat for each craft on active duty underlines just how much HQ Lancer’s training cadre values training safety. The soldiers who would have taken part in Sunday’s river crossing would probably have been in good hands. Not only were safety elements outlined in training safety regulations in place, contingencies such as immobile boats were catered for thanks to NSFs like Fahrurrazi and team. He was more than just a boatman but an integral part of a safety apparatus dedicated to making sure trainees are kept safe.
LCP Fahrurrazi disappeared en route to his assigned mission under circumstances which are now under investigation. As fate decreed, some of the soldiers he would have watched over ended up searching a 12-kilometre stretch of Brunei’s Batu Apoi river to find his body.
In a matter of days, that feel-good sensation many Singaporeans felt watching our country’s 47th National Day Parade seems to have disappeared. Although many netizens do not know Fahrurrazi, how many of us felt disappointment tinged with a sense of hope – however faint – that the search would not be fruitless?
Many non-Muslim Singaporeans would have been only painfully aware that Fahrurrazi’s family was only a week away from one of the key celebrations on the Muslim calendar.
For those of us who have seen firsthand how Muslim servicemen endure military training during the holy month of Ramadan, the quiet determination of NSFs like LCP Fahruzzazi in carrying out his duty quite possibly evokes feelings of admiration for what the NSF had to go through during fasting month.
Early this morning, the SAF search party found what they were ordered to find.
While the end result is not what many of us had prayed and hoped for, his homecoming today may help his loved ones eventually find closure.
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CPL Fahrurrazi will always be remembered for being a supportive friend to his buddies.