Monday, August 13, 2012

Missing SAF serviceman in Brunei: Who watches the watchers?

While Muslim families count down to Hari Raya, the loved ones of missing Singapore Army soldier, Lance-Corporal (LCP) Muhammad Fahrurrazi bin Salim, have a greater weight on their mind.

They are not alone in this trying moment. Their concern is shared by many Singaporeans of all races, many of whom do not know LCP Fahrurrazi but read with a heavy heart the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) announcement that he had gone missing in Brunei.

It is telling from the two MINDEF news releases issued thus far that all training safety regulations (TSRs) appear to have been followed to the letter.

Life jacket. Check.

Safety boats. Check.

Individual elements mandated under the TSR for a river crossing exercise appear to have been moving into position on the Batu Apoi river on Sunday morning.

But as the safety watchers are deployed, who watches the watchers?

According to MINDEF, LCP Fahrurrazi was piloting one of four boats "to provide safety coverage for the water crossing segment of a jungle training exercise". "It was daylight during the incident with clear weather and water conditions were calm," said the MINDEF NR issued today (click here for the full NR).

Sunday's NR (click here) said that at 8am that morning, LCP Fahrurrazi's boat "was noticed not to have followed the convoy". From this statement, we build a mental picture that his boat was last in line in the four-ship convoy powering its way up the jungle-fringed river.

Stringent TSRs for water activities mean all trainees will have several eyeballs watching over them. But incidents do not pop up fatefully during the mandated training period.

Extreme vigilance is needed for all activities, including but not limited to those that take place on brown water in open country where weather conditions, water currents and wildlife are beyond the control of any safety officer. If the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has lost people even in swimming pools, it goes without saying that any activity in open water must be monitored and watched carefully.

Whatever the end result, MINDEF/SAF needs to reflect on safety protocols for safety parties en route to making sure TSRs are fulfilled.

Would we need safety boats for safety boats, safety vehicles watching over safety vehicles? How about extra medics to watch the medics assigned to watch the exercise proper? If the point man in a jungle training exercise has his back watched, who watches the back for the rear scout?

Hindsight is always 20:20. Pending more information on this episode, it is easy for armchair warriors to say this or that should or could have been done better.

One immediate takeway is driving home the safety first message, especially for SAF safety marshals. These safety guardians watch over SAF personnel and owe it to themselves to always watch out for one another.

One would hope this story will have a happy result.


Anonymous said...

Good point. Who are watching the watchers? There should be a fair amount of redundancy, especially in safety matters.

Anonymous said...

He is my closest buddy in secondary school .. :'( please pray for his comeback safely :'(

Anonymous said...

Actually the are other 3 boat operators are the safety for each other. This is a freak accident whereby no amount of safety will pull this off. More details of investigation need to be unveil before you jump to conclusion is safety issue.

Anonymous said...

We are all praying for his safe return home.

Anonymous said...

Pray for the safe return of LCP Fahrurrazi.

Remember when i was in the Armour unit. As armoured vehicle commanders, not only do we need to constantly take care of our vehicle, stores, signal antennas, weapons and men, we also keep a look-out for our platoon armoured vehicles in a convoy. We commanders will always turn around to see if our immediate end vehicle is following the convey on top of watching where we are going and other stuff we need to worry about!

Alternatively, you can appoint your 2ic to keep a look out for the rear vehicle, but you still feel responsible.

i do not know the intricacies of brown water convoy so cannot comment. Please pray for the safe return of a fellow Singaporean NS soldier.

Anonymous said...

Yes, safety first. Every NSF life counts, SAF will need tocome clean with this one.

Anonymous said...

Pray for our lost Soldier  hope tat he's Safe n Alive!!.To his Parent i felt how they feel now more over Hari Raya is ard d corner. I was there in Batu Apoi almost 20yrs ago n shld i say d water Current there is very Strong depand on Season n water is very Milky.Wat i knw tat there's Crocodile i d river, weather to believe or not but we were told tat time n tat's y there's Safety boat with PTI n SNIPER standby in it.Insyallah he's Safe Amin.

Anonymous said...

Latest news abt our NS Men tat gone missing, tat his body has been found.N nw they are waiting for his Jenazah (Body) to Arrive back to S'pore.The funeral will b @ Blk 108,Jurong East. My Heartfelt for his Family n CONDOLENCES to his Family too.

Anonymous said...

Condolences to the breaved.

David Boey said...

Dear Anonymous 13 Aug 11:24PM,
Please read and try to understand the 2nd last para:"One immediate takeway is driving home the safety first message, especially for SAF safety marshals. These safety guardians watch over SAF personnel and owe it to themselves to always watch out for one another."

So details of the investigation will be shared with all Singaporeans? That's news to me and I'm sure many readers of this blog.

We shall not sit idly, dumb and mute, and hold back questions that can improve our SOPs.

If the three boats are safety for one another and this is indeed a "freak accident" that no amount of safety can prevent, should the blame be pointed at the lowest ranking servicemen since the SOP is apparently blameless?

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

the tabletennis players was promised thousands of dollars for winning medals.the players only felt tired and happy but for this native born Sporean and the whole family got what from the government.the only best word 'condolence'

Anonymous said...

Maybe with immediate effect, safety boats shall have two soldiers, a buddy system. The intermediate boats coxwain will pilot the boat and his buddy will keep a look out for following convoy and also general surroundings safety. A buddy system at least ensure another soldier is on hand in close proximity to render aid to each other.

The said...

Actually, we need not and should not go for overkill and knee-jerk reaction. Who watch the watcher? Good question, but to what end?

Get a watcher to watch the watcher. Then, who watch the watcher who watch the original watcher? How far do you want to go. Watcher watching watcher who watches the watcher who watches the watcher ad nauseum.

Forget about the exercises. Make all the soldiers form a large circle so that each can watch each others' back.

siraframo said...

I've never been to Brunei for Trainings, only to Crescendo. I've did a little bit of research, the area where the NSF went missing has a small population of crocodiles. In one of the NR, it indicated that the uniform remained intact, no bruise on the body, but a bite mark on the lips. It could be a False Gharial croc, an asian breed that is commonly found in Kalimantan as well. Since MINDEF says it will investigate, god knows how long they take. Maybe next year or ??? I'm just assuming the deceased could be attacked by a croc.