Singapore opens soldier to new experiences
July 31, 2013
AMOY QUEE CAMP, Singapore - Growing up in California's Mojave Desert, Singapore was the last place Pfc. Patrick McCoy thought he would ever be.
McCoy, a rifleman with B Company, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, has been in the Army less than 18 months. However, six of those months were spent in Afghanistan where the terrain is much like his native home.
"I was in the Mojave Desert in the middle of nowhere," said McCoy, who now claims Phoenix as his home.
McCoy is in Singapore supporting Exercise Lightning Strike, a U.S. Army Pacific sponsored event that partners Singaporean and U.S. soldiers from July 15-26.
As far as he is concerned, Singapore couldn't be more different than the desert and dusty country lands he grew up in.
Singapore, a small island in Southeast Asia, is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, home to more than 5 million people.
Since arriving in the country, McCoy has spent most of his time working and training with the nation's soldiers from 2nd Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment, and has already experienced the jungles that make up Singapore.
"I've never been in jungle like this before," McCoy said. "It looks a lot different than Phoenix."
McCoy and his group were specially chosen for their recent combat experience. They returned from Afghanistan only six months ago.
"I was a rifleman while I was deployed," McCoy said. "I went on 80 plus foot patrols, 75 percent of those were in places we knew they had taken contact before. It's a little scary at first. When you see someone shooting at your buddies and know they are endangering their lives, you forget about everything and your training kicks in."
It's this experience that makes McCoy and his platoon good candidates to teach the Singaporean soldiers. McCoy himself is still new to training others, but his experience with the Singaporeans has proven to be beneficial to him.
"I'm normally pretty introverted," McCoy said. "Training like this helps me get out of that. I like teaching people. They are eager to learn and constantly ask questions."
Most of the Singaporean soldiers McCoy worked with have never deployed before, but while the U.S. soldiers are the ones sharing combat experience, the Singaporeans are teaching them how to operate in a jungle, a skill they definitely didn't learn in Afghanistan.
"It's been a learning experience on how to operate in the jungle," McCoy said. "Our tactics with jungle warfare are not exactly up to par. It is completely different than what we are used to coming from Afghanistan."
For the Singaporean soldiers, the time spent with their U.S. counterparts has been educational.
"It's fun to meet a new culture and a different army," said 3rd Sgt. Bill Pung, a machine gun commander with C Co., 2nd Bn., SIR. "We can see the differences between the way we train and the way they train. They are easy to talk to and easy to get along with."
Although McCoy has only spent a week working with the Singaporeans, he's already found a lot of common ground with them.
"They're pretty much just like us," McCoy said. "It's mostly young guys around the same age."
McCoy said it helped that their soldiers are also infantryman just like him.
"Right off the bat there was a good connection," he said. "We all do the same type of work."
McCoy has also been fortunate enough to have the Singaporean soldiers lead him and his platoon on tours of the downtown area, a jumble of skyscrapers and businesses that can be confusing without a local guide.
"I've been taking a bunch of pictures," McCoy said. He's been sending these back to his wife, Mallarie, who he's been married to for the last year.
"She get's really worried," McCoy said. "I had to tell her 'I'm not going in combat, I'm just going there to train.'"
For McCoy, the biggest challenge of the trip is finding the perfect souvenir for his wife. "The pressure is on me," he joked.
Going from the Mojave Desert to the jungles of Singapore is a big change, but McCoy is taking it all in stride and using it as a chance to expand his horizons around the world.