By Mitch Meador, Fort Sill TribuneNovember 1, 2018
Fort Sill, Oka. (Nov. 1, 2018) - A high-ranking minister of the Singaporean government visited Fort Sill Oct. 24 to see his own country's artillerymen execute a live fire mission alongside their U.S. counterparts as part of Operation Daring Warrior.
Dr. Mohamad Maliki bin Osman, a senior minister of state at Singapore's Ministry of Defense and also its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, watched the first and second fire missions from a hilltop observation post. Singapore's 23rd Battalion fired its rockets from three High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers while B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery, 75th FA Brigade used the tracked version, the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).
Osman then rode down to the firing line to see how the same fire mission was conducted from inside a HIMARS. A succession of photo opportunities followed: the minister riding to another observation post in the turret of a HIMARS, disembarking, posing with troops around a banner that said "23rd Battalion, Singapore Artillery, The Premier Precision Force," and finally, the minister taking a "selfie" with the Singaporean artillery unit.
Operation Daring Warrior is a combined operation by the U.S. and Singapore armies that has become an annual tradition at Fort Sill. Singaporean Lt. Col. Mikail Kalimuddin, commander of the 23rd Battalion, said his unit was out doing training with a HIMARS battery for the Oct. 24 media day.
"This is part of the evaluation," he said. "This is the culmination of two years' worth of preparation. The battery came out, they've been training, they were evaluated, and they were deemed ready for operations."
The reason they come to Fort Sill each year to train is that Singapore is quite small in terms of land area. It's not suitable for live-firing the HIMARS, given the weapon system's long range.
"So we travel overseas, particularly (to) the U.S., because it's such an excellent range for artillery live-firing. In addition, because the U.S. Army uses the HIMARS and MLRS systems, so that there's a lot of commonality. It's a great opportunity for professional exchange, for us to share (standard operating procedures) and processes and then to train together," Kalimuddin explained.
"For our troops, it's a great chance to work with (Soldiers who are) advanced, developed, and military that's deployed all the time," he said, venturing his opinion that training with their U.S. counterparts bolsters the Singaporean Soldiers' confidence.
The most valuable lessons they've gotten from this experience, he finds, were "training in different terrain, knowing that they can adapt to a difficult situation and having done a combined live-firing with the U.S. military and realizing that they're operating at the same standard, up to the same benchmark."
Singapore sent over about 150 people, including troops and support staff as well as exercise control staff, for this year's three-week Operation Daring Warrior exercise, Kalimuddin said.
Asked if his troops had faced any challenges because of the weather, the colonel replied, "Certainly. I think it's part and parcel of military training that there will be challenges. So, with all the rain, the ground was a bit muddier than usual. So suddenly vehicle recovery was a big feature of this exercise, but hey, that's part and parcel of military training."
In addition to the U.S., the Singapore artillerymen also train in places like Australia, New Zealand and even India, the battalion commander noted. The quality of the exchange with the U.S. military is very high because the two countries have HIMARS in common, and that is very valuable to the Singapore Artillery, he added.
Lt. Col. Jim Raines, commander of 2-18th FA, called Operation Daring Warrior "two artillery forces working together to get a combined training effect. It works on our interoperability skills with other coalition partners. This is a tremendous opportunity for our Soldiers to work together, and build relationships on a very real basis, and be able to deploy forward and project peace by working together."
"Singapore's one of our stronger partners in Southeast Asia and the region, and so this is a recurring event for us," Raines added.
B Battery, 2-18th FA brought eight MLRS launchers to the table Wednesday, Raines said. The HIMARS launchers that Singapore uses and the GPS-guided M270 MLRS launchers the Fort Sill Soldiers fired are very similar. All participating Soldiers understand and are capable of interoperability with each other, he said.
"The Singaporean Army has a firm grasp on the English language, so (there's) been absolutely no issue with coordinating both our communications systems as well as working out some of our plans and operations," Raines said.
The 2-18 FA Soldiers have gained much from the experience, "from basic tasks of maintenance and medical support to recovery operations to actually delivering fires downrange, so it's been a tremendous opportunity for us," the battalion commander said.
"I would say it was a pretty successful exercise," said Singaporean 3rd Sgt. Dol Ta, a young HIMARS launcher crew chief participating in his first-ever live-fire training event on Wednesday.
"I would like to say, we are very appreciative of the chance that we have to be able to train in the United States, that the range is pretty challenging, but we adapted ourselves to all situations of being able to face the chilly wind conditions and also to overcome the rain. So I would like to thank everyone for this opportunity," he said.