The Malaysian Army, is part of the Malaysian Armed Forces which consists of two more branches, the Royal Malaysian Navy and the Royal Malaysian Air Force. In this exclusive interview, Vinashal Pillai had the privilege of getting behind the garrisons at Camp Terendak and Batu 10 to acquire more intel on Malaysian Army truck drivers.
The Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF), like any armed forces in the world, is tasked with the defence of the sovereignty of Malaysia and acts as a deterrent towards any other nation with hostile intent towards it. In peacetime however, the MAF is expected to train for war regardless of the peaceful environment to ensure the state of readiness and competencies are at its peak always and to meet any form of threat imaginable and plausible.
Apart from training for war, the MAF’s secondary tasks in peacetime is to provide Military Aid to Civil Power (MACP). The term is used in many countries with different variations and implications in each. In Malaysia, MACP encompasses natural disasters such as floods, typhoons, tropical storms, epidemics, drought and earthquakes. The army also partakes in United Nations (UN) sanctioned missions, namely Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief or HADR where the Army generally acts as a supporting unit during the crisis whereby the commanding officers are sometimes headed by civilians.
Asian Trucker caught up with Lt Col Ahmad Abdul Hamid, the Commanding Officer of the 73rd Battalion of the Royal Army Service Corps at Camp Terendak, Melacca to get his insights on army truck drivers, their basic training regiments and the operations that goes on in his company – the transport and supply unit specialised in logistics advice and assistance.
AT: Could you give us a brief history of The Royal Service Corps and its origins? AHMAD: The establishment of the logistics arm in the Malaysian army was back in April 1957 as part of the Army Service Corps (ASC) which was renamed to Armed Forces Maintenance Corps (AFMC). The AFMC was tasked with providing logistic assistance to all Armed Forces. However, in 1965 AFMC was disbanded and the Armed Forces together with The Royal Service Corps were inaugurated. The Royal Service Corps specialises in army logistics and have teams such as maintenance and freight companies, except weapons and basic military supplies.
Each brigade has a freight company and a brigade workshop. While inside a division, there is a transport battalion and four companies in it. This includes freight company, air transport companies, supply companies and headquarters companies. At the battalion level, it is headed by at Lieutenant Colonel. And every company is headed by a Major or Lieutenant.
AT: How important is The Royal Service Corps and its role when there is no war? AHMAD: In combat, The Royal Service Corps or RSC is the main artery in the military as it acts as a logistics hub for the army. Always operating in the rear-end and not the front during combat, its task: to deliver supplies such as food, medical supply and personnel and provide intel on the best available route to move supplies in and out of the war zone and maintenance to the vehicles. Severing them can cost an army dearly in any combat.
In peace time, The RSC acts as the support unit for initiatives such as Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) and Humanitarian Assistance And Disaster Relief (HADR). It works closely with the police, fire department – Civil Defence. During a crisis such as natural disasters the RSC will provide MACP and will work with the Welfare Department with the latter usually taking lead in the operations.
In this scenario, the RSC will set up transport hubs and dedicated lines to move victims of natural disasters to dedicated shelters, provide The Meal, Ready-to-Eat – commonly known as the MREs and set up a field kitchen near the disaster area or ground zero.
AT: What are some of the vehicles used in the operations? AHMAD: The RSC provides front-line vehicles such as 3 ton trucks (used for personnel and equipments), 7 ton trucks (used for equipment and boat), drops (20 feet containers), oil and water bowser, tank transporter, Mobile Fuel Dispensing System (CFT) and shipping cargo, lodging (transit) for aviation via MAS or Air Asia. Sometimes during a mission the company needs to build a temporary bridge, hence the engineers and personnel will be brought in the 3 ton trucks and equipments in the 7 ton trucks, this is done to ensure that the maximum load on the trucks is utilised as opposed to carrying personnel in the 7 ton trucks – which will amount to a waste in tonnage.
AT: What are some of the examples of RSC missions in the country or region? AHMAD: The most common operations for us in the country is flood rescue and management. An example was the floods between 2014-15 – the worst the country has seen. The worst hit state was Kuala Terengganu, where we deployed ten trucks to aid the flood victims in villages that were badly affected by the disaster. It was a two-week operation, where we handled all logistics, set-up field kitchens and distribution of rations, clean drinking water and MREs.
For overseas operations, such as the ones sanctioned by the United Nations. We do not bring our trucks abroad, instead they are provided to us depending on our specifications and needs. Once there, our assets work closely with foreign counterparts during the missions. Some of the sanctioned missions were; The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, 2011 New Zealand Earthquake, UN peacekeeping missions in TimorLeste, Afghanistan and Lebanon. There are three field ranks for overseas assets; a) Staff Officer – Also known as a logistics officer, sits in the office/outpost and manages the assets b) Observer – The main objective of the observer is to collect data C) Peacekeeper – This encompasses patrol and checks.
AT: Tell us more about the truck drivers and their job scope? AHMAD: Truck drivers oversee the transportation of assets and equipments as well as the safety of their passengers and cargo. They also need to be aware of their surroundings especially during recovery missions and convoys. Every truck driver that comes out of the training academy at PULMAT, Kamunting in Perak is well trained in terms of tactical driving. For instance, during convoys a truck driver needs to be alert at all times. Participating in convoy missions is no easy task as it entails planning, organisation and deployment. Therefore, the drivers are well equipped and always ready in any given situation such as; ambush, vehicle breakdown, route change due to accidents or hazards. During missions or convoys, mechanics will accompany the trucks in case of breakdowns. The standard mode of transportation is in a Toyota HILUX.
AT: Can you tell us more about the selection process of the drivers? AHMAD: Each recruit will undergo the standard military training such as collective training: which involves the whole battalion and self-training: such as first aid, swimming, floating (threading water) and upon graduation from Port Dickson, they will be divided into different specialisations; driver, food supply and chef. This is followed by the specialised training at PULMAT.
AT: Please elaborate on PULMAT and how long is the duration? AHMAD: PULMAT is the acronym for Pusat Latihan Kor Perkhidmatan Di Raja or Royal Service Corp Training Centre. Every truck driver from my Corp, KPD will have their training at PULMAT. They will undergo training from the basic level till advance. Basic training will take up to nine weeks, followed by seven weeks of On-JobTraining (OJT) which will conclude a total of 16 weeks to become a basic driver. After one year, the driver will go on for another sixteen weeks of advanced training which includes ten weeks of OJT. After a year, for the final or third course, the driver will also undergo a 16week programme which includes ten weeks of OJT. He or she will be ranked as a Section Commander (SC) after successfully completing all three levels. The SC will have to manage a section consisting of five vehicles.
AT: What type of training is conducted at PULMAT for truck drivers? AHMAD: Each driver that comes out of PULMAT is combat ready, and will be to handle tactical situations. For instance: How to avoid and overcome accidents, selfprotection, white area protocol. An example of training is the Decision Point exercises which includes petrol point, troop lifting and maintenance. The driver will be put through these exercises to be combat ready in the event of a war. At PULMAT, the course outline is divided into two: Simulator test and Real test. Drivers must achieve a score of 80 percent and above to pass the course. 73rd Battalion of the Royal Army Service Corps The 73rd Battalion at Terendak Camp in Melacca is one of the four logistics hub in the country besides the ones at Sungai Besi, Taiping and Kuching. Asian Trucker got acquainted with their truck drivers, Sargent Roslan Saidi and Lance Corporal Che Nur Shaleda Che Othman to get glimpse of their everyday life of an army truck driver.
“I have been with the army since 2003 and it has been a great 16 years of service. I have learnt a lot during my time here at the 73rd Battalion and I have valuable experience with my company. One of them was the MASINDO exercise where I drove a water and fuel bowser during the 3-week stint. A joint-exercise involving assets from Malaysia and Indonesia,” said Sargent Roslan. “It was a support exercise for the frontline where we learned various techniques in safety and supplying fuel. Other than that, there were drills such as convoys, explosives, changing tires and also a workshop.
Sargent Roslan, does not simply idle during his spare time, he constantly checks his vehicles and equipments. “During my free time, I usually do maintenance checks on the vehicles and also check my equipment” “I am still considered new here as this is my fourth year with my company. Many believe that female drivers are not competent and are not on par with our male counterparts. On the contrary, here at Terendak Camp, we have a lot of accomplished female truck drivers in the corps. We go through the same regimented training course and are on par with our male counterparts. In the army it is never male vs female. We are all equal regardless of gender. This is ingrained in us from the start as we are the defenders or front-liners to serve and protect. Therefore, it is not a big thing if you are a female military driver, says Lance Corporal Shaleda.
On her experiences as a driver, Lance Corporal Shaleda says she is always learning new things and is eager to improve further as it is sometimes challenging to drive a truck given if there are obstacles along the route. “I drive a three-ton truck called the DRB-Hicom Handalan II. It is a challenge sometimes if there are obstacles but as a trained driver we must find or anticipate the problems and find ways to overcome it.”
“During our specialised training, we are put through various drills such as: distribution set-up, fuel point as well as helping with deliveries. On the safety aspect, we learn ways to drive safe at a good distance and speed, proper cargo loading, added the 24-year-old.
The 4th Royal Transport Service Company (Mek) The 4th Royal Transport Service Company (Mek) in Kuantan, Pahang is the only mechanised company in the country. Their focus is transporting goods and vehicles to designated drops. Asian Trucker got acquainted with their truck drivers, Sargent Abd Rahman Wahap and Sargent Farouk Salehhuddin to get a glimpse of life as an army truck driver.
“Driving a tank transporter can be very challenging from driving any other vehicle. When the prime mover hauls the trailer, one has to make sure that the turning radius is right when taking corners. It is very challenging when taking corners and especially reversing the vehicle,” says Sargent Abd Rahman.
The IVECO Prime mover is quite special as it is retrofitted with a dual winch system. “I have been attached with the military for about 15 years and I have experienced a lot in the corps. Apart from getting honours for outstanding years of service, nothing can replace the valuable experiences that I have learnt on the job – various assignments. “Some of the assignments are: The delivery of the PT91 tank from Port Klang to Camp Gemas in 2010, ammunitions delivery from Batu Kontomen in Kuala Lumpur to Camp Gemas, helicopter delivery.”
Each assignment had its own risks and challenges. Firstly, the delivery of the PT91 had accidents along the journey, hence we had to detour and find the next best alternative. For the delivery of ammunitions, the journey to Camp Gemas was hilly and had plenty of twists and turns and for transporting the Agusta helicopter, the challenge was keeping the cargo secured and finding the best route which is clear from traffic.”
“I have been a truck driver with the mechanised company in Pahang for about 16 years. It has been an eventful journey as well as humbling – especially during our assistance during the floods,” says Sargent Farouk. “The seven ton TATRA truck is pretty exceptional as not only does it carry equipment such as food and medical supplies it can also be used to fit the army boat during a crisis when the need arises. An example would be during the major flood in Kelantan and Terrenganu where we fitted the assault boat before heading out to the affected area. “Another specialty of the TATRA is the ability to drive with 1.2m in depth. This is especially useful during floods as water levels during that time can get pretty high very fast. “We usually do not carry personnel before reaching the drop point, instead we will maximise the tonnage and carry as much equipment to set up shop at the affected areas, such as field kitchens.”