S'pore-Aussie exercise focuses on saving lives

S'pore-Aussie exercise focuses on saving lives

ROCKHAMPTON, Australia - This time round, it was about saving lives - not perfecting their deadly shots.

For nearly 25 years, Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers have been using Exercise Wallaby in Australia to hone their battlefield steel. But for the first time yesterday, they also incorporated a separate exercise to test how aid would be delivered to a tsunami-wrecked portion of the country's coastline.

The six-day Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercise dubbed Exercise Trident, began on Monday and imagines an undersea earthquake and a powerful tsunami which devastates long stretches of Australia's Queensland coast - a scenario eerily similar to the March 2011 disaster which afflicted Japan.

In the exercise, air, land and sea units with more than 900 servicemen swing into action after the Australian Defence Force (ADF) accepts the SAF's offer of help.

Yesterday, watched by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Australia's Assistant Minister for Defence Stuart Robert, SAF Chinook helicopters evacuated the injured to the navy's Landing Ship Tank (LST) RSS Resolution, and also dropped medical teams into the fictional town of Sam Hill.

Naval vessels ferried supplies to shore from the LST, even as a water purification unit was readied to provide relief to civilians.

Invoking the memory of 2004's deadly Dec26 tsunami in Asia and this month's Super Typhoon Haiyan which killed thousands in the Philippines, Dr Ng told reporters that it was "not the exception" that militaries respond with help. He said: "Increasingly our militaries will be called upon. So I think (HADR) is a significant (and) important capability to build up."

Mr Robert added that both countries could learn from each other during the exercise.

Singapore's and Australia's militaries are among others, such as those in the US and Britain, that came to help after Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines two weeks ago.

Exercise Trident, in which 14 ADF personnel joined as planners, was also the first bilateral exercise in Exercise Wallaby's history, and the first time the SAF conducted integrated air, land and sea operations there.

Dr Ng, who returns to Singapore today, also observed a live-firing exercise yesterday and officially commissioned into action the SAF's upgraded Light Strike Vehicle Mark II.

The ongoing 65-day Exercise Wallaby which ends on Nov 30, involves about 5,200 troops this year and is the SAF's largest overseas exercise. It takes place in the rugged bushland of Shoalwater Bay Training Area, which is four times the size of Singapore.

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