Safety measures for armoured operations implemented in Exercise Wallaby this year following NSF's death

ROCKHAMPTON (Queensland) – Commanders and operators of military vehicles moving on uneven terrain in 2018’s Exercise Wallaby – the Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) largest overseas drill – had to undergo additional training sessions.

All armour training for the exercise in Australia, which began in September 2018, have also been completed without any safety incidents, said Exercise Wallaby’s director and Chief Guards Officer, Colonel Seet Uei Lim, on Thursday (Nov 8).

The additional training was one of the measures adopted in May 2018 following the death of a Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle commander during Exercise Wallaby in September 2017.

Third Sergeant (3SG) Gavin Chan’s vehicle had entered an area with a steep incline at night. He dismounted and saw that a boulder was blocking the vehicle.

When he remounted the Bionix and wanted to reverse away from the area, the vehicle overturned and 3SG Chan, 21, was thrown out.

Other measures recommended by a Committee of Inquiry (COI) that looked into his death have also been implemented.

These include tighter training safety regulations to limit exposure of the armoured vehicle commander’s body when executing certain tasks, drills for day-to-night and night-to-day transitions, and enforcing the wearing of seatbelts.

In an email interview with The Straits Times, Col Seet said the measures recommended by the COI have been implemented in Armour training and in units operating on armoured platforms.

He added that participating units this year have undergone the required competency and build-up training.

Col Seet said that all vehicle operators and commanders have gone through the mandatory Overseas Advanced Driving Training orientation package.

The training includes day and night driving across creeks, bridges and off-road terrain, with more emphasis put on the latter this year.

The annual Exercise Wallaby in Rockhampton, in eastern Australia, is the SAF’s largest overseas exercise, involving air, land and sea components. It is held at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, which is about four times the size of Singapore.

More than 3,800 personnel and nearly 400 vehicles, aircraft and ships from the SAF are taking part this year.

Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How will visit Australia from Friday (Nov 9) to Nov 13 to visit Singapore troops participating in Exercise Trident, said a Mindef statement on Thursday (Nov 8).

Exercise Trident, being held from Oct 31 to Nov 14, is the third phase of Exercise Wallaby and the signature bilateral exercise between the SAF and the Australian Defence Force.

Mr Heng will also officiate at the commemorative events for the 20th anniversary of the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s training at Oakey and its 25th anniversary at Pearce.

Col Seet said Exercise Wallaby, which began in 1990, remains the SAF’s key exercise for the conduct of integrated tri-service training in a realistic and challenging environment.

“Shoalwater Bay Training Area’s large training space allows the SAF to conduct exercises of a scale, scope and complexity which cannot be done in Singapore given our constraints,” he said.

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