Wednesday, 28 March 2007

What makes them special?

The 'new' Ketua Pengarah (KP), Lieutenant General (PA) Hj Nasir bin Mat Dam has continuously emphasized on the need for better training and preparation in face of disaster. He also emphasize on the need to get recognized trainers to run such training programs. Recently, JPA3 had recruited more than 300 new officers to fill in the various vacancies in the department. As 'permanent' staff, KP had ordered that they have to go through 6 months of intensive training, covering all aspect of operations.

One of the course is the Search and Rescue (SAR) course - Jungle Survival phase, which I had the pleasure to witness. The course was conducted by PASKAU - Pasukan Khas Udara, the Royal Malaysian Air Force elite commando unit somewhere in Perak.

I was asked to accompany some high ranking officer, acting in capacity as ADC. On the morning when we were supposed to depart, KP decided to pay a visit as well. So on the spot, contingency plans were put in motion. In the Fortuner was just me and Bada the driver, while Colonel rides with KP in his Perdana.

Our first stop was ITU, or Institut Tentera Udara. We were greeted by the Commandant and his senior officers. After lunch, we had a session at the shooting range. Surprisingly, our KP was quite a marksman. One thing that strikes me is his perseverance in trying to achieve perfection.

After that it was off to the training site, about 2 hours away. The participants had just completed the Mangrove Survival phase for 2 weeks. On the day we arrived, they had started the Jungle Survival phase and had gone nearly 5 days without any 'proper' food. Armed with just a parang and the clothes on their back, they were left to live off the land. They had to make their own shelters, utensils, 'bubu' and animal traps. It was a test both mentally and physically.

(Left) - Participants taught the different types of plants
- Participants taught how to make traps
- Participants treated to their 1st solid food in days. Some even shed tears.

It makes me wonder at times as to what drives a human to endure pain, hunger and suffering for the benefit of others.

(Left) - Participants tested in identifying the different types of plants
- Me with 'Pak Yeop', a veteran retired commando. A true Malaysian made 'Indiana Jones'.
- Only practical style of training classrooms. Nature is the ultimate classroom for survival training.

Someone worth mentioning...Pak Yeop. He is a veteran green beret (Commando). He is 60+ years old but he still goes into the jungle to look for herbs. He even outpaced us 'younger' people. You can just about ask him anything regarding what's the remedy for this, what's the remedy for that. The good thing is, he process the herbs that he collects and sells them in capsule form. Looking at his 'very healthy' condition, I can't help but believed in his remedies.

One thing that came to my mind...will he pass on his knowledge & wisdom to someone else? I sure hope so as its very priceless.

Friday, 16 March 2007


Recently, while looking for some important documents, I came across my old photo albums. They sure brought back memories, good and bad. Among the 'happy' photos were those from my ROTU or PALAPES (Tentera Darat) days back in USM.

(Left) - At 3 Artillery Camp in Kamunting during our annual training stint
(Middle) - Shooting competition where I represented 'Alpha' Company in M16 category

(Right) - A night out to Taiping town.

(Left) - Running from base to the top of Maxwell Hill
(Middle) - Photo after I came out from compass marching

(Right) - Strike a pose.

ROTU stands for 'Reserve Officers Training Unit' or its malay acronym PALAPES stands for 'Pasukan Latihan Pegawai Simpanan'. During the 3 years, one is groom to be an officer...and hopefully a gentleman. My number was 7503008. I was the IC (in-charge) for my level and also represented Alpha Company in the shooting competition.

(Left) - Cleaning my M16
(Middle) - Who's the fastest draw?
(Right) - Preparing to move out.

As a Cadet Officer, one is not allowed to use the bus. Instead you must use a taxi, plus you must be all dressed up in white shirt, tie and dark trousers whenever you leave the camp for a night out in town.

(Left) - 1st check point before entering the jungle
(Middle) - One of the check point
(Right) - Drill time

My proudest moment was when I was chosen as "Best Cadet Officer" and received the Combat Benet. Looking at the photos made me realised how time flies. Cannot believe that these photos were taken xx years ago.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Similan Dive Trip 28 Feb-3rd March 2007

I just got back from diving in Similan aboard style. Actually, it was a working trip for me; have to take care of a small group of divers. Similan is famous for pelagic i.e. big stuff such as whale sharks and manta rays.

I arrived in Phuket a day earlier together with Nazri, a PADI Dive master. Nice guy. We bunked for the night at Neptuna Hotel, Patong. Nazri's dive bag got sent to Jakarta instead. The Air Asia guy at the counter made the mistake of not checking the baggage tag.
The next day, we went to the airport to greet the divers flying in from Kuala Lumpur. Again, Air Asia somehow managed to piss off Nazri for the second time by not sending his dive bag on this flight. It was still in Kuala Lumpur!!! I went to their office with Nazri and he spoke to some baggage controller in Kuala Lumpur. The fastest they can deliver his bag to Phuket is at 2300hrs and our boat was leaving at 2000hrs.

We took a ride in mini vans to the jetty, about 1.5 hours away. We did 4 boat dives a day including 1 night dive.

The sweet memories from the trip:-

1) At Koh Tah Chai dive site, there was very strong current. After all 10 of us let go off the dive platform on our boat, we ended up at the dive platform of the boat in front of our boat. Just like 10 ekor cicak. Then I looked down to look at the buoy line (the boat was tied to it) and I saw about 10 divers holding to the line for dear life. Their DM signaled to me for us to move off, so we let go of the boat and drifted. ABORT DIVE!

2) I was busy taking pics when I heard divers banging their tanks. So I turned around only to find 2 mantas heading my way (and they were quite close), not on top but at the same level as me. I was stunned for a while (yep, the sight of these beautiful creatures can do that to you, even if you have seen it before). Changed my camera setting and quickly snapped 3 pictures.

3) The highlight must be the dive from the top deck by Asfa, a non-diver. She was so scared due to past traumatic experience. Everyone was cheering her to do it. After about 5
cycles of divers demonstrating the different ways of how to jump plus the countless number of prayers, she finally did it. She is now a changed person. Obviously, fear is not a factor for her. Maybe we had unleash something which we might regret....hehehe!

Something worth mentioning...saw this mobile bank near the jetty. Wow...even had an ATM machine. That's all that I can write. As for the rest of the pics including the u/water pics, you can find it here. Too many to include in this blog.

To all those who were on the trip....thank you for a great time and hope to do it again with you.

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