One of the most memorable experience of national service is going for oversea exercise. I am sure many of us who’ve gone through NS will agree on this.
Ex Wallaby at SWBTA (Shoalwater Bay Training Area) is a yearly affair conducted between the 3rd and last quarter of the year. A typical training frame last around 3 weeks or so. Vocations from all different units and divisions will get a chance to train there for at least once.
Btw, Wallaby is the name of a kangaroo species. Don’t embarrass yourself going around telling people you are going to Wallaby. You will see alot of wallabies during the exercise, they mightvisit you near your tent and your bx might also run over them
So i shall share more with the pictures..
We were expecting to take the Singapore Airlines, because there was a rumour spreading that all saf personnel leaving for oversea exercise will get to take the national carrier to their destination. Sadly it was a no, but Qantas wasn’t that bad either.
7hrs flight from Changi – Rockhampton, direct flight. We had supper, breakfast, snacks served by angmo flight attendants, first time in my life.
After 7 hours, we landed in the land of kangaroos!
Some tips to share…
Time Frame & Communication: We stayed at the camp for approx 3 weeks? longest time i have ever being overseas and away from home. Some of us got really homesick but there is no signal in the camp, our camp is in the middle of no where. There is only reception at specific areas.
During admin time, there will be many people camping at the reception pole for signal. The reception pole is a specific lamp pole found behind the cookhouse, not any lamp pole you see. You will know when you see alot of people around the magical pole. For better signal & lesser crowd, go to the vehicle ground nearer to the exit of camp growl.
Get Telstra or Optus sim card, also available at Changi airport. You may not have time to purchase them at the Rockhampton airport. Btw, you wont be able to use your phone all the time in the camp, so just forget about being connected to the outside world. go and be a kangaroo for the time being.
Accommodation & Sanitation: We all slept in the tentage, which can house 12 to 16 soldiers per tent. Each soldier will also given a safari bed, sleeping bag and a pillow. The only locker is our own duffel bag, so remember to bring a good lock to safe-keep your valuables. The tent will be very cramp and squeezy but you can make your environment comfortable if you keep your stuff organised and tidy. I will suggest bringing your groundsheet, just in case it rains and the ceiling leak, use the groundsheet to cover your bed.
For the bathing part, it will be an open concept shower. After all the training, you will be too tired to bother about all the nudity. We had to bath with just a shower bag tied with a rope to the hook on the wall. All you need to do is to fill the bag using the pails in the shower room and tap, there are hot/cold taps, just fill up accordingly to your preference. Thankfully, toilets are well maintained and cleaned everyday by the Angmoh cleaner in Camp Growl. Proper toilet bowls with cubical and toilet rolls provided to use.
Food: The only time you will praise SFI food is Ex Wallaby. The food served in Camp Growl is more edible and beyond imagination then the ones in Singapore camp. Over there, food quality and variety are so much better. You will spend most of your chilly nights at the cookhouse with a cup of hot milo or congee.
When the unit celebrate their mission success at the end of frame dinner, a huge party will be thrown with angmoh girls coming in to perform and dance with you, free flow of wine and alcoholic drinks. Wait longggggg longgg
Okay, you get to taste barbeque kangaroo’s meat and free flow canned beer, a bbq cohesion thats it.
Recreational facilities: For the couch potatoes, kopi-kias and the otakus, your only entertainment you get to have in SWBTA is to go to the mess to watch movie or surf the net at the internet kiosk, the kiosk is a huge tentage with two rows of laptops. There is a pingpong table-in a container and a gym-in a container for the gym goers.
Mess: The mess is run by the local Australian, selling fries, carbana, chicken kebab, soft drinks, breaka. etc Price range from $3sgd – $10sgd for a cup of drink and a kebab in a bun. Check out their daily promotion for certain food items, you will see it on the whiteboard over their counter.
Weather and temperature: Rockhampton’s afternoon are crazily hot like machiam siao, and due to the humidity level you don’t perspire like you do in Singapore. But that doesn’t mean you are alright, the water in your body is still being evaporated/absorbed. Follow the hydration plan or take initiative to drink up. Heat stroke/falling sick is the last thing anybody wants to get. MO & basic outfield medical facilities are available in the camp, anything deem serious will be send to the hospital, which is like 1-2hours journey by car, unless you want a free ride in the super puma.
The temperature difference in the day and night is drastically different.
The night is chilly cold, i wear my long 4 pants and green socks to sleep every night. It is important to keep your feet warm, that will prevent you from getting cold. Get a cup of hot milo and lepak at the cookhouse with your mates, best time ever.
Remember to bring your Goretex jacket, the jacket will become your best friend. There were be thunder storm in the afternoon and the cold temperatures in the night too. Your best friend will protect you from the rain and wind there.
Some afternoons are spent cam-whoring, sleeping, or digging drains and prepping our tent for the the storm. (previously when the storm came, our tent flew away, the ceiling leaked and our area was flooded).
Some mornings, we did morning jogs from camp growl to the vehicle point, probably a 3.5km run to warm up ourselves. Imagine the chilly cold wind blowing into your face when you run, then slowly your body starts warming up and finally sweating? That is the best feeling ever!
The humidity level there is perfect for outfield trainings, you dont get to perspire alot, no sweaty sticky soldiers squeezing in the bx. The constant wind blowing also helps to cool you down during the long walks, really like a walk in the park.
Start of our outfield and live firings.. Sat, slept, ate, drink in the bx for days and nights, crazy days but memorable experience. I will never ever forget how amazing the starry nights are, witness countless of shooting stars too.
One of the most memorable time happened on the 4th day of our mission. It was tactical halt after a long day in the bx, we slept by the road beside our vehicle. It was cold, but we couldn’t help it and too tired to care much. Halfway sleeping around 1am, we were awoken by the bright headlights and sound of the toner. The toner came to deliver fresh ration! We had warm seafood fried rice and hot milo in the cold night. It is a state of happiness indescribable.
Oversea training allow SAF soldiers to get expose to the different terrains & weather elements and also to build up combat confidence in a different environment.
Unlike Singapore, driving in the tough terrain allows our bx driver to experience what its like to drive like a real bx driver. Long distance, bumpy mudroad, steep hills, deadfalls and also the opportunity to chop trees down by driving the bx against it.
Group photo after fighting Cougar company at the urban training facility. SAF invested in some money to build a urban complex for saf to train there. Cool huh
live firing signals the entire exercise coming to a closure and that means we are getting closer to R&R. Before that, we gotta pack everything up the container, send our duffel bags up the truck then leave camp growl and return to civilization.
Rest and Recreation (R&R): R&R would be a 2 days 1 night affair. Rockhampton is a small town, there really isnt much place that you can explore. For people who just want to buy some souvenirs and gifts back home, you will have more than enough time on the second day to shop at Stockland.
- Short guided tour to Koorana Crocodile farm
- Visit to Rockhampton Zoo & Botanic Gardens
- Free & easy at Shopping centre
- 1 night stay at Capricon resort
- Lunch buffet at Keppel Bay Sailing Club
- Free & easy at Shopping centre
- Dinner buffet at CQ university
- Free & easy at Glenmore shopping village
Not gonna elaborate much, just some photos to share..
Conclusion: I will still say this is one of the best time of my life. Almost perfect condition for outfield training. The sky is so clear and blue in the day and at night the star is so bright, the wild wallabies hopping around randomly. All these is something you wont get to appreciate in Singapore. There is alot of first time in the exercise, just embrace the differences and you will enjoy the entire trip.
And of course, we should give thanks to the host country for allowing us to train in such a wonderful environment!