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.