I reached 高雄国际航空站 in the morning. Weather was not good and was in fact drizzling. A typhoon had just passed Taiwan. We alighted from the Eva Air plane right onto the runway where we were picked up by a shuttle bus to the arrival hall. The system could have been better if we alighted not on the runway and at a place with shelter.
We then took a bus from the airport straight to our camp, Hengchun Camp. The journey was long. It was too early a morning and so all the shops along the way were not opened. I could see mountains everywhere.
Hengchun Camp was more like an old camp to me. The camp was there for more than 30 years. The external looked average but then the internal revealed itself. More than 50 soldiers were made to live in a bunk! Fans were not enough! Toilets were at another block and so we actually had to cross to another block just to use the toilet. Toilet facilities were bad too. Some of the showers let out water that could boil an egg! Those were condemmed. The first day was more like an admin day. Packing of stuff, setting up of beds, and orientation around the camp were all done on the first day.
NAVEX, NAVigation EXercise, was the first outfield. This was a 3 days 2 nights exercise and to pass this exercise, each team had to find a total of 5 check points inclusive of start point, log points and end point. I was allocated to one of the Charlie Coy teams. NAVEX was the most enjoying exercise to me because of the absence of CO. The purpose of the NAVEX was to acclimatise us to the undulating mountaineous terrains of ROC. Even though the distance to be covered was more than 25km and terrains in ROC was more undulating, it did not turn out to be as tiring as the previous few exercises in Singapore. Maybe seeing civilians outfield gave us motivation to move on. Houses, shops and civilians could be seen everywhere even on top of mountains. KTV (both mobile and fixed), restaurants, hotels, houses, temples, anything could be spotted anywhere. There's also this special service that we labelled them as Ninja Vans. Ninja Vans are mobile food stalls that come in the form of a van. They often were seen tracking the whereabouts of soldiers, following behind soldiers and then stopped in front of them, setting up their mobile food stall, hoping to earn some money out of the soldiers. NAVEX was the only exercise that permitted me to patronise these ninja vans. They sold cold drinks, chicken burger, etc. My first night outfield was spent in a house beside a temple. The owner of the house was kind enough to take in 2 teams and allowed us to spend our night there. The next morning, we were awoken by the owner for breakfast. I could not believe my eyes when I saw a big pot of hot plain porridge and more than 5 varieties of vegetarian dishes on the table. They were more than enough for more than 20 people. We did not manage to finish the food in the end. We offered to pay for the food but was rejected and so we decided to give the money as offerings to the temple instead. The owner was really very nice people. My team then went on to find the remaining checkpoints. We were determined to complete the exercise before the second night so we could spend the night in camp instead of outfield. We succeeded.
Platoon Battle Course
Platoon Battle Course was the second outfield for me. This outfield actually only involved platoon levels and so I should not even be involved. However, CO wished to conduct a visit and see how individual platoons performed and so I was called to accompany him. This outfield was quite a relaxing one. Just needed to walk around and observed how other people fight. Everyone wore a system called the TES. A head mount on the helmet plus a harness on the webbing constituted the TES. For goodness sake, it's quite heavy and most importantly, it's uncomfortable. The purpose of the TES is to indicate who has being killed in action or wounded in action during a battle. TES will give a continuous beep sound for KIA personnel and a discontinuous beep sound for WIA personnel. There was one platoon who was made to fight in a cemetery. Cemeteries in Taiwan and the ones in Singapore were so much different. In Taiwan, all cemeteries are really huge and grand. I hope the dead were not disturbed.
CME, Company Mission Exercise, was the third outfield for me. I would say this one is rather tiring. The 3 different companies - Alpha, Bravo and Charlie, were made to fight one another. CO and I were attached to Alpha team. The night walk was quite okay except for the river bed walk. My whole boots and feet were all wet because of the river bed walk. The morning walk was tiring. Ever-ending up and down the mountains plus the hot sun made everyone so tired. Everything was over in the early afternoon.
BME, Battalion Mission Exercise, was the fourth or rather the final exercise before the ATEC. Talks circulated that this walk would be a test for everyone. We would be doing a mountain hook around RAMROD. Map distance revealed only 7km but this was without taking consideration of elevation and mountain hook. By the time we reached the peak of the mountain (700m plus), the feeling was good. Cooling wind plus a 30min rest energized me. Mountain hook is really a good experience to me.
Nights off at Kenting
After the BME, we were given a grace 1 week rest before the real test, ATEC. Arrangements were made to ferry all soldiers to Kenting. Kenting is a tourist attraction. It is basically a night market. Roadside food stalls, souvenirs shops, boutique, restaurants, etc can be found there. My friends and I had our dinner in a Italian restaurant. From the many roadside food stalls, I tried food like 烧烤鱿鱼, 鸵鸟沙爹, 羊沙爹, 鸭舌, etc. YUMMY!
This typhoon was said to hit Taiwan and might disrupt ATEC. ATEC is the code name for the final exam which every battalion has to sit for. ATEC is an exercise to test how well a battalion can fight. The ATEC people will also put on their TES and then become enemies of us in the 4 days 3 nights exercise. If ATEC is delayed, then it may have to be held in Singapore instead. What this means is that our 1 month training and preparations in ROC will go down the drain. No one wanted to go back to Singapore for ATEC. In Hengchun, we were at the outskirts of the typhoon but then the wind was already blowing at around 30km/h. I could even feel sand particles blowing and hitting my legs. Birds were seen fleeing from their homes on trees and trying desperately looking for better shelters. But very often, they were blown and ended up against nearby concrete buildings. This night was the first time I had a really good sleep because of the cooling effect brought by the strong winds even though windows and doors were locked. By the next morning, Typhoon Talim had past us and Taiwan. ATEC would continue!
I will continue writing some other day...
[ To Be Continued ... ]
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