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7th Rangers: The Day The Enemy Tried To Crawl Into Our Base -

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And go to your God like a soldierā€
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" ā€œWe are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.ā€

ā€œIt is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.ā€
ā€œOld soldiers never die; they just fade away.
ā€œThe soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,
for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.ā€
ā€œMay God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .ā€
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How shall I deal with you?
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Can't always be a saint."
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Because the world is awfully rough.
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The Soldier squared his shoulders and said
And I never passed a cry for help
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I've wept unmanly tears.
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Among the people here.
They never wanted me around
Except to calm their fears.
If you've a place for me here,
Lord, It needn't be so grand,
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand."
There was silence all around the throne
Where the saints had often trod
As the Soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.
"Step forward now, you Soldier,
You've borne your burden well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."

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The Day The Enemy Tried To Crawl Into Our Base -
Monday, June 24, 2024

Death trying to crawl into my base

I returned to the unit. I arrived in my Unit and I was dispatched to another course, the Unit Emplaning Officerā€™s Course in Taiping at the Services School, as for normal, I was not keen to attend. As I preferred to laze around and get drunk to replenish all the beers, which I missed whilst away on course. It was a two-week course on how to transport troops and cargo in airplanes and helicopters. I did very well in the course.

Came back to the unit, when I arrived back at the unit, only the rear party was there. I was informed that the Battalion was on operations. I asked where was my UCIS Platoon, they told me that they were the first deployed. Apparently, a Corporal from the 8th Royal Malay Regiment was shot dead at Karak, followed by a killing of a Captain Tajuddin from The Intelligence Corps. 7th Rangers was conducting the follow up operations in Lembah Klau, Pahang.

I reported to the Battalion Headquarters, the acting Adjutant told me that I had to report to Camp Indera in Raub, where the Battalion Tactical Headquarters was located. I was to go by train, with one of my UCIS Corporal Matthew Mijer anak Raweh, an excellent Dayak with combat experience. Who rather played a role eliminating the CTā€™s in the Gua Musang area.

The other shit job I had to do was to take a soldier for trial in Raub for the Commanding Officer to sentence him. The soldier was AWOL and caught by the MPā€™s. He was a flight risk. I instructed Matthew to draw a pair of handcuffs, for that soldier who was from my hometown! The trip to Raub via Mentakab was in the morning by train. We would be picked up at Mentakab by a military vehicle.

In the morning, I drew my M4A1 a carbine with a retractable butt. I drew another 150 rounds for my 5 magazines. Filling each magazine with 30 rounds. Corporal Matthew brought the detainee from the cell in the Battalion. He was handcuffed, the moment he saw me, he requested that the handcuffs be removed as we would be traveling on a train and that it would not be good for the image of the Army and him.

He told me that he would not run away and gave me his word. I laughed at him, ā€œif you can run away from the Army after attestation you expect me to trust you?ā€ I told him that any attempt to run I would place a round in his leg if I missed Corporal Matthew would do it. Which was very unlikely that I would miss. After a rickety journey, we soon arrived in Mentakab.

There were three Volvo three quarter ton trucks to pick us up with 4 escorts heavily armed. Soon we reached the Battalion Tactical Headquarters at Raub, adjoining the Raub Golf Club.  I handed the discipline case over to the Regimental Sergeant Major.  I went to see my CO, I asked my CO, whether I can join my boys, wherever they are. He told me that they were in deep jungle and I could not join them.

My CO further told me that the area at Lembah Klau was vacated by Bravo Company to follow up on the killers of the Corporal from the Royal Malay Regiment and the Military Intelligence Officer of Selangor Captain Tajuddin at Ulu Yam. He told me not to worry that he would give me a good batch of soldiers to replace Bravo Company.

Yes, indeed he did, this was another WTF moment. I did not know it then, there were six recruits who had just finished their basic training in Port Dickson. They were at the Tactical Headquarters; they had not done their advance training yet. He told me that he was going to give them to me. I very nearly had an apoplectic fit! I asked him about NCOā€™s, he told me now that they were short of NCOā€™s he was going to give me two senior Rangers. They were formerly my boys from Bravo Company.

One was a Kelantanese whose name was Ghusok another was Lim See Meng, a Chinese. What about Signaler? I asked him, he replied nonchalantly, ā€œyou do not need a signaler as you too well trainedā€. I was lost for words. I think he hated me that much and wanted me to be killed. I met up with recruits and the two senior Rangers, I knew the two of them very well.

I told Ranger Ghusok that he will carry the radio set and Ranger Lim See Meng that he would be my leading scout and we would take turns. I also jokingly told him if we do not get any Communists, we would shoot him and dress him up as one. I asked the recruits if they could operate the Light Machine Gun which was to be loaded with a 30 round magazine using 7.72mm rounds.

That was my support weapon, which the brand new recruits were going to operate. I asked them if the know how to erect a ā€œbashaā€, a hammock and a shelter. I got Ghusok and Lim to conduct training for them as we were going to be inserted the following day. Nine of us in a Company Area of Operation. We were replacing 3 platoons (more than a hundred soldiers)  with 9 men. I was laughing helplessly wondering what my CO was thinking. Well our blood will be on his hands.

Morning came; I was ready to move with this rag tag bunch of youngsters playing soldier boys. They were assembled in a file with their packs and ammunition. I gave all the six a claymore mine each to distribute the weight. Ghusok distributed the spare batteries for the radio set, I was also equipped with a verey light pistol, a pistol to fire flares for illumination or as a signal.

We were dropped off at Lembah Klau by our escorts in two there quarter ton Volvo trucks. I plotted my route and moved, Ghusok was at the rear, whilst Lim was in front. The previous day I rehearsed them on immediate action drills. If fired from the front how to deploy. We rehearsed for all directions. That was important so that you get a fighting chance with new soldiers just off the production line.

We went into a rubber plantation. I entered into my area when I saw a knoll, looked like a low lying hill. On one side was a wide lazy flowing river. On the other side was a very steep incline. It was fringed with a primary jungle and a small holderā€™s rubber plantation. There were two narrow approaches to the knoll. I place my LMG on the northern approach, forward of which I placed one single claymore mine. On the other approach, I placed another claymore mine. I was not taking any chances.

I placed everyone in the all-round defense position, gave them their arcs of fire for the daytime and used sticks to mark the arcs of fire. I placed a thin nylon string around the base, It will be waist level at night and at ground level in the day. To prevent my boys wandering out of the perimeter at night. If it happens there is a high likelihood that the person going out of the perimeter might get shot dead by anyone who is trigger happy and panics.

The first night there was no untoward incident. We had our dinner and did our standard stand to. Ranger Ghusok had the sentry list drawn up, I too was on the sentry list. The first sentry will be on at 2000 hrs, for one hour and until 0500 hours, after which we all stand to. Therefore, that everyone does only an hour of sentry duty. Once it is 0500 hrs, everyone quietly gets up and takes his appropriate place facing outwards.

We stay in that position until daylight. After which I send out Ranger Lim and two others to conduct a clearing patrol, with me leading. We conducted the clearing patrol around 300 meters away from the base, as the distance is the range for effective fire of small arms. We look for tracks and any signs for threats. After the clearing patrol we have our food quietly, Ranger Lim See Meng who was my ā€œBatmanā€ when I was in Bravo Company serves me breakfast.

It was a simple breakfast, of biscuits, which most soldiers call ā€œdog biscuitsā€, it is hard and fulfilling it keeps your hunger pangs away. Those days we did not have those fancy MREā€™s only until later. Our combat rations were of poor quality as they, whoever was arranging for them was more interested in making money to line their pockets. We lazed around in the base, observing the track nearby and the rubber smallholding.

We saw a small kid with his mother tapping rubber, they were Chinese. Later in the afternoon I saw a male Chinese, tough looking tapping rubber in that same area. He was darting glances in our direction. Even though we were lying low and quiet. His instincts must have been on overdrive. At that time, I did not think much of it and went out on a patrol with Ranger Lim See Meng, leaving the rest under Ranger Ghusok.

I told Ranger Ghusok we would be away for at least 3 hours. We just carried light rations of biscuits and pineapple jam. We plodded along slowly to observe the rubber tappers from afar. I saw the male Chinese making glances in the direction of our base. The thought never crossed my mind that he was a Communist sympathizer or a foot soldier. He looked very well built.

The intelligence people told us during briefs that Communists in the jungle normally are pale and look starved. He did not look anything like that, so I brushed off that thought. We spent a good four hours observing him, the female rubber tapper and the kid were nowhere to be seen. The weather was looking as though it might rain, so Ranger Lim and I decided to return to base.

We ate rice with chicken from the can and baked beans. Most of my soldiers hate baked beans. I loved baked beans since I was a kid. My dad brought home a baby monkey to be a pet. Use to give it baked beans, being a kid I ate that which was the baby monkeyā€™s. We did our routine ā€œstand toā€ walked to everyoneā€™s position to check on their arcs of fire and asked them the password for the night.

Our passwords are changed daily; it is to challenge anyone whoever approaches us. It is a systemic way of challenging and a drill, important life and death routine. It goes like this: Sentry: ā€œHalt who goes there?ā€ The challenged: ā€œFriendā€. Sentry: ā€œCome forward to be identifiedā€. Sentry: ā€œMacheteā€. The challenged: ā€œorangeā€. If it is right, the sentry will say, ā€œPass friendā€. This is just an example; if it is a group, it is different.

I normally rest with my boots loosened wearing my ammo pouches, my rifle across my chest and keeping my ears raised to pick up sounds when it is pitch dark. Of course, all of our weapons are cocked with a round in the chamber that is standard procedure with safety catch at ā€˜safeā€™. The M16 safety catch can only be flicked to safe after cocking it. I lay down in my basha, the night was pitch black, and you could not even see your fingers in front of your face.

Shit! Then it started to drizzle, why shit? It becomes more difficult to pick out sounds. At that time night, vision could only be seen in movies like the ā€œGreen Beretā€. Over the patter of raindrops, it is difficult to distinguish sounds. Then I heard the crack of a dead branch, a single sound and then silence. After a while, I heard another crack, I did not wait, I tightened my ammo pouches and my boot strings.

Got off the hammock very quietly, crawled over to Ranger Lim See Meng on the drizzle soaked ground, he whispered to me, ā€œSir we are surroundedā€. At that moment, I felt my balls ā€˜shrinkā€™. My mouth, I still could make sounds. I told him to stay in his place, observe very quietly, and open fire if he is sure, within his arcs of fire. Next, I crawled up to the light machine gun position, the new soldiers, I had paired them up.

The sound of the approaching enemy was towards the LMG. I silently patted myself on the back for my excellent appreciation on siting the LMG. I crawled to both the soldiers and whispered to them if they did see anything. They said no with trembling voices, if they were trembling, I was worse off. I had to account for their lives.

I should have been an actor. I told them not to worry in a calm a voice as possible, when I actually wanted to scream my head off. As nothing could be seen, a spark came to me, I had a flare gun. I told the two young soldiers, I am going to fire the verey light pistol, to light up the area in front of them. I stood up loaded a cartridge of the illuminating round, held my arm estimating where the enemy were and prayed that none of the trees in that dense area would block that illuminating round.

Further, I told them to open fire with LMG at whatever we saw there. I was already picturing the dead enemy. I stood up at that moment in time not realizing that the enemy would be able to see me too. Stupid as a stupid does. Shot of a quick ā€œHail Maryā€, fired the pistol, no I did not hear the rounds firing it was only a loud metallic clang. The young soldiers did not ensure that the magazine on the LMG was there!

In their panic-stricken state, they did not fix the magazine of 30 rounds. They were still not used to sleeping with loaded and cocked weapons. I whipped my M16 and let out a long burst of rounds. The enemy was cursing with foul language in Chinese and fled. I knew at that time that the shit was going to hit the fan. I did not order the ā€œstand downā€.

They were all cold and shivering until daybreak along with me. Throughout this incident there was not a squeak from any of the troops. I reported that incident to my CO, the Brigade Commander was furious and wanted to have me placed on a charge for failing to kill the enemy (disciplinary action).

I guess The CO cared for me, knowing that I was with fresh troops and another was Major Muhammad Sultan bin Ismail, my former Cadet Instructor who was an OC in the Battalion. From what I heard both of them defended me very strongly.

posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 4:42 PM  
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