Friday, March 14, 2014

Brave it. A hero I am not.

The other day I consulted, well discussed, a major personal problem with my daughter. A problem I really could not comprehend nor was able to face it head on.

She heard me out and thought through my predicament. She quietly replied “ Brave it Dad

Brave it. Yes that was what I had been doing all my life. I am no hero. Just braving it out. I recalled my first encounter with the enemy, just two weeks after my commission. I was raw, green and real scared. That was my first mission as an infantry platoon commander deployed to face Indonesian commandoes in Kota Tinggi/Mawai areas in Johore during the confrontation. I had braved that and just did what I had to do. The mechanics and requirements of commanding a platoon was still fresh in my mind. I survived that ops, but did not come out of it any braver.

To my children and to my wife I am a fake. Hello I am no hero. Macho yes. Bravado yes, Gangho yes. I am human. But a hero I am not. I am definitely not hero material in anyway. I am officer material, and that comes with responsibilities for my missions, my guns, my men and their families. And last, always last, responsibilities for myself and my family.

 The older I get the more fearful I get. Every time I deployed for ops with my Batteries or my Regiment, I would always promise to bring my troops home safe. No hero stuff. I would wear my NATO steel helmet at all time whilst on ops and I would punish any of my men who did not wear their headgear. I would also be armed to the teeth.

I had my fair share of excitement, during ops deployments to Sabah, Sarawak and the border areas. I would always scan the hillside as we drive in our convoys in the winding roads. We can expect an ambush at every turn of the road. And it was more scary during our riverine patrols in Sebatik Island.
One night I was in my bunker in Sungei Limau, Pulau Sebatik when we had indications that the enemy would assault my gun position. I was literally shaking with fear, my SMG ready to fire full bursts. I still recall hearing my gun sergeant beside me in the bunker, assuring me softly “ Jangan takut, Tuan

I am not a hero. “Tuan” woke me up. I AM TUAN, the only Tuan in the gun position. I must brave it. “Saya tidak takut Sergeant Baharum” I lied. I survived and made it through the night.

I was appointed senior military commander in a sector during a tight cordon of an enemy camp in the area outside Bau, Sarawak. I commanded two Gun Troops and two Recce Troops in my sector in four dug-in ambush positions. The enemy would try to break out of our cordons every night. Was I scared? You are right, I was dead scared. Who wouldn’t? We had contacts every night and I had to crawl from trench to trench to give confidence to my sector. We were not infantrymen.

Then again, I remembered we were almost caught in an enemy ambush just outside Kem Gubir, Kedah. But as fate would have it, the newly arrived infantry company from Johore insisted to be deployed first, in place of our Battery. The company was ambushed instead of us. I was still shaking for several days just thinking of it. I am no hero.

If I recall the incident when I was the SO I logistics 1 DIV, and I was stranded in Julau, Sarawak whilst personally delivering ammo to the troops. I was alone in enemy territory all alone. It sure was scary. I am no hero.

As a gunner, I have this phobia as an OP with my guns firing directly from behind me. Direction OTGT gives me the creeps as I hear the round whistling overhead past me. What if the round falls short? Well short? I am no hero because I am one Gunner who had experienced the Sizzling Cha Cha sound of a round coming down directly on your position. I am no hero. I survived from a direct hit in Ken Inlet Mong Gajah. And for the record, I also survived an immediate crested round in a gun position in the EW Highway in the 70s. Now that’s real scary. A hero I am not.

My daughter was right in saying “Brave it dad.” I did, many times.

Take care heroes.

Allen Lai

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Beyond the call of duty

The other episode worth mentioning  and sharing with you all is the incident in Ops NONOK, also in Sarawak. I had posted this incident preciously in this blog, so I will not repeat the incident. But to refresh the incident, during our deployment into the area called Kg Nonok, near Kuching to support the PFF in their Search and Destroy Ops, our FOO party was led by Major Hashim (Retired). The PFF platoon was ambushed and Major Hashim had called for immediate close fire support. Despite the ambush area was only about 6 Km from the gun position, we had problems with the Fire Orders net.

The two signalers with the FOO party found out that the PRC radio rod aerial was shot off. No comms on the VHF fire orders net. The only alternative was to go on to the HF Bty net. But the 931 HF rod aerial was not effective to establish comms. One of the signalers, ran out under enemy fire to lay out a ground aerial. He pulled the aerial to it maximum length. The FOO party managed to establish erratic comms over the Bty net due to the atmospheric conditions at that time and also perhaps effects of signal dead ground. The fire mission was effective and saved the PFF platoon and our FOO party from the enemy ambush.

I regret that I do not remember the brave Gunners names. They had performed beyond the call of duty. But I do remember recommending the whole FOO party to be awarded and recognized as commendable actions under enemy fire.

But again I do not recall if anyone from the incident was awarded. Perhaps Major Hashim got a KPK medal? The PFF platoon showed their gratitude by kissing the Guns when they visited our gun position.

Yes our guns are our real heroes. Are they not?

I admire and salute our FOO party and in particular our signalers. I suppose it is enough and it is a blessing that we did suffer any casualties during the incident.

Read the episode here:

Take care
Allen Lai

Friday, March 7, 2014

Gunner Basri - Hero from 2 ARTY

Taking the cue from Major Dswami, I had to tried to recollect if there were any heroes in the Artillery Corps. Off hand I really do not know nor have I heard of any heroic medal recipients in our regiments. Crooks aplenty.

But I do know several Gunners from my own regiment who would qualify for bravery medals, but for reasons beyond reasons they were not to be recognized as heroes.

My first hero is Gunner Basri from B Bty 2 Arty. Don’t know his full name though. We were deployed to Bau Sarawak sometime in early 1970. Gunner Basri is an unassuming young man from Semanunjung, but would pass off as a Sarawakian. A keen and intelligent soldier who had often wanted to change corps to KORIS.

We gave him an opportunity to prove his innate talents when we were deployed to Bau. 3 Bde in Kuching was looking for ground intelligence and had requested for volunteers to join the Bde MIO team. Gunner Basri volunteered to infiltrate into the Kampung Batu Kitang/ Batu Kawa areas just in the outer fringes of Kuching town. Kapung Batu Kitang and Kampung Batu Kawa were two of the hottest areas in the First Division Sarawak.

In the passing months we forgot all about Gunner Basri as he was attached formally to 3 Bde. We did not expect any news from him or of him. We do know he would be infiltrated into the enemy territory and monitored by our MIO and police Special Branch.

Five months later, out of the blue, 3 Bde was excited with an A1 intelligence report from the Special Branch who had received an urgent INTEL report from Gunner Basri.

A group of enemy had planned to cross the Sungei Sarawak Kiri near the main bridge Jalan Kuching/Bau crossing the river in the Kampung Batu Kitang area. The enemy crossing would take place at 2200 hours on a certain date. They had arranged for 4 sampans for the crossing. Gunner Basri was one of the sampan owners. The need for 4 sampans would indicate a fairly large enemy group, easily 10 to 15 enemies.

3 Bde decided to ambush the sampans as the enemy crossed to the south bank of the river. A company from the resident infantry battalion in Semanggoh Camp, near the Kuching Airport, was deployed into three ambush positions.

The infantry platoons were in their ambush positions for two days and the enemy crossed the river on the third night.

Gunner Basri was one of the sampan operators. He knew our ambush would be in place. But he could not get out of the dangerous situation for personal fear of his cover being blown. He must go along with the crossing. He had to ferry 5 fully armed enemies.

Gunner Basri’s cool and quick thinking saved him. He had deliberately delayed his sampan to be the last sampan to cross. He had quietly removed and dropped the shear pin of the sampan’s OBM, hence could not start his engine. He gave all sort of excuses to look for spare shear pins. And that delayed his sampan from crossing together with the other three sampans. I would believe he would be  sweating and praying all the time.

He was about 5 minutes behind the main crossing. When the three sampans reached the south bank, his sampan was still midway in the river.

The ambush was sprung when the three sampans reached the south bank. All hell broke loose with flares and tracers. Gunner Basri managed to escape by turning down stream and sped off from the killing zone. Afterwhich he and the enemies in his group jumped into the river and swam to safety. His group had no casualties and had survived the ambush.

The overall ambush was a success with several kills and a big immediate follow up ops was launched the following morning. Gunner Basri and his group escaped.

Gunner Basri had accomplished his aim and had done his best to eliminate the enemy grouping in the Kampung Batu Kitang area. He quietly came out of the area and reported back to 3 Bde. He was not rewarded.

Another incident happened to Gunner Basri whilst on leave for his extraordinary duty. One night when he went out to Kuching town on his motobike. He was a hit and run victim in Jalan Green. He was hospitalized in the Kuching General hospital with a broken leg. What was more intrigued was when he had unknown visitors making enquiries about him.
Gunner Basri requested for immediate discharge from the hospital. 3 Bde did the right thing by immediately flying him back to Semanjung.

I salute Gunner Basri and was thankful that he had survived and was safely back in 2 ARTY in Kluang. We are all sorry for him for not getting any bravery medal, but he was always appreciated as our local James Bond.

Allen Lai

Renjer Valour Blogspot

Hi all

We wish to show our appreciation and thank Major Dswami Gwekanandram (Retired) for his blog on Malaysian Rangers national heroes. His contributions are invaluable collections of the heroic deeds of our Ranger Officers and their men. All of them are awarded the nation’s highest awards for bravery in the face of the enemy. Major Swami had documented their actions well with appropriate accolades and citations. Syabas Major Dswami. Least we forget the contributions and sacrifices by our heroes.

We also wish to thank Major Swami for allowing this blog to have a link to his important blogsite. We hope we will be able to generate more readership to the heroic actions of our brother Ranger officers and men.

Major Dswami. We salute you.

Allen Lai