Thursday, January 14, 2010

Stand-to Whole Night

Very- Light pistol

I was GPO in Bergosong, a typical gun position on top of a small hillock within a Manila hemp plantation. Bergosong was also a typical defensive position with cleared fields of fire. Even the gun pit was constructed with a view to shoot direct fire if needed.


Having being an Instructor and DS in RMC, Lateda and Staff College in the course of my career, I now reflect that Bergosong would indeed be a perfect platoon plus defence position. It was big enough to have defence trenches in depth, counter attack routes within the position and interlocking arcs of fire. Whilst it was a classic defence position, Bergosong also offered a setup and layout for a classic company attack. Good locations for an attacker’s AA outside direct small arms fire, good approaches to the LD clearly defined in a straight line at the edge of the Manila hemp trees. Not too difficult gradient and climb up to the top of the position, and there were little cover here and there, for pepper potting up to the perimeter fence. A perfect setting for an attack TWET or, for rehearsing Company Attacks. It was so easy to capture the position.  All that was needed was a flare from a Very- light signal pistol for the attacking troops to cross the LD. An attack could be mounted from any direction. My sector faced South, in the direction of the enemy front.



The enemy had escalated their aggressiveness. An attack on our infantry company position in Kalabakan was still very fresh on our minds. There were also reports of the enemy crawling into our infantry positions in the night and had left their Stiletto commando knives stuck on trees inside our perimeters. A clear case of psychological warfare. The enemy could attack anywhere at will. Such was the fear in us.


It was a typical day and we were five minutes to evening stand-to at 1830 hours. Stand-to would normally commence without any loud signal or call, it was usually prompted by word of mouth. Stand-to would last for about half an hour, allowing twilight to turn into total darkness for the night. There would be no lights from the position. The CP would have its bunker flaps down for the night. We would have a small low lighting inside the CP. Stand-to drill would allow us to prepare for the night, allow us to adjust to our seeing in the darkness and check that everybody is accounted for. All patrols would be withdrawn in and booby traps set and gates closed.


Five minutes to stand-to would have most people already in place in their night bunkers. We would have liaised with the infantry platoon on the other side and everybody knew the password for the day. I was just finishing my evening cup of tea and was sitting on top of the flat roof of the CP. My SMG and webbings were inside the CP, which was my position for the stand-to. We all heard the soft bang coming from a distance in the south and shortly, a green flare floated down over our position. We all looked at the flare in awe with our mouths opened and were literally frozen. It was like forever until I shouted Stand-to. I jumped and rushed into the CP. There was still adequate light to observe around. Nothing. I had reported the contact incident to my BC in Wallace Bay. I began to sweat, but my thoughts were clear, albeit my body shivering. I had shouted out if anybody saw anything. But none had. I called the infantry platoon commander over the field telephone line. He too had seen the green flare and have taken up stand-to positions. He had confirmed that his patrols were all in and accounted for. He had closed his sector. There were no known friendly forces operating in our area.


I did a quick appreciation on the situation. Who would fire a green flare and why? My cadet training in tactics was still on my mind. A Very-light flare was the best signal for a large length of troops to cross the LD. A green flare would indicate GO. I had done platoon attacks in field exercises before. An attack would be imminent.


I had agreed with the infantry commander that we all would continue to be in stand-to position until further notice. It was very dark, and the silence was deafening. I was very tensed and started to be claustrophobic in the CP. I was breathing heavily and I knew I had to get some air in the open.  All bunkers had OHP with slits for firing. I crawled to the gun pit, which was the only area that did not have OHP. I felt better with the gun sergeant and gun numbers beside me. The gun sergeant and I were propped against the wall of the gun pit, weapons in hand. I was shivering so much that my SMG was literally rattling. The gun sergeant had many times said softly to me “Jangan takut Tuan” and I replied “Saya tidak takut” each time, but I was shivering.


It was a very long night. The stand-to lasted the whole night and we stood down only after the morning stand-to drill. We were relieved that there were no enemy attack. And until today the infantry and I were still not sure who had fired that green Very-light over Bergosong. It could be another psychological warfare incident by the enemy. I am not sure. 

But what a night.


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