Summer break has started in New York. Every day I followed the same routine of waking up to my summer classes, with nothing to look forward to. As I was getting ready to bed one night, I got a surprising call from our Head of Scholarship Section, Ms Susie. She asked if I wanted to join the 12th BSDSDP 2022 (12th Brunei-Singapore Defence Scholars' Development Programme 2022). I was stunned as I was given a delightful chance to reunite with my fellow scholars, especially Zharfan and Liessa who are going to enter Officer Cadet School (OCS) soon. I immediately called my whole family and broke the surprising news to them. They were already setting a one-week menu to welcome my return (which was full of different variations of Buttermilk Chickens, my favourite food). At the same time, they were also blasting my phone with items they wanted me to bring back from the US, haha!
For the next few days, the DA Office kindly assisted me with my return home requests i.e flight ticket although my decision to return was last minute. Eventually, we all had our first virtual meet-up through Zoom. It was nice to see familiar faces and be introduced to new friends through the screen. The purpose of the Zoom meeting was to use the Wheel to determine our group members and colour. I got the yellow team with Asyraff, Elizabeth and Wayne! The rest were either in blue, green or red. Our teams were set to consist of two Bruneian scholars and two Singaporean scholars. I felt excited already just by being introduced to their names!
While I was busy planning on what to pack for my eventful trip to 3 countries (Brunei, Singapore and the USA), my friends in Brunei were also occupied with designing 2 books: 12th BSDSDP Brunei Phase Handbook and the Reflection Book. I was only able to see pictures of them gathering for discussions and training. I felt bad for not contributing but they reassured me that it is understandable as I was literally 12 hours behind them and that there would be more ways to help in the future. Nonetheless, I was thrilled with the idea of meeting them again! From their texts and pictures, I could see that they have been going to the Scholarship Section and even went to Ezy Printing to print a rough sample of the SDP reflection book by liaising with Abel.
It was finally the day for me to board my flight! I had a slight worry because I have had chills and fever previously but I have been testing myself every day for a week and I always got negative results. My flight journey would be from New York, San Francisco, Singapore and finally my beloved homeland, Brunei. My family told me to maintain a safe distance just for precautions. I literally sat in the trunk when my brother picked me up in the airport.
The minute I stepped in the house, I did another Antigen Rapid Test (ART) and was tested positive. It was really saddening to learn that I had to spend a few days of my return just isolating in my room. I remember just communicating with my mom and grandmother through my door whenever they left food outside my door. My diet also consisted of Vitamin C and cloves, as they were considered the most effective remedy for fast Covid recovery. Cloves tasted so bad but I had to make them into a new snack.
All in all, I was very lucky to have my Covid died down by the 4th day, reaching a single testing line on the 5th day and eventually got a green BruHealth code on exactly the sixth day at 0400 HRS! I was fully elated to immediately join them on the second day of their training at 0630 HRS. The five days of isolation were the longest days of my life! I just spent the time rotting away with Korean dramas and movies. I wasn't even able to unpack with the fear of contaminating my imported items. It was so bad as I was also battling the disease with an insane jet lag! I would sleep at noon and wake up at 1700 HRS and continue to sleep at 1900 HRS until 0300 HRS. It was so unhealthy!
I was away for the first day of the introductory training, I was really bummed about it. Listening to the other scholars' accounts, I learned that they had a very memorable day. They arrived at the Royal Brunei Malay Reserve Regiment (RBMRR) Camp in Rimba, Gadong at 0630 HRS.
First off in the agenda, a physical training session with PW2 (R) Herman from RBMRR, Tuan Dzulkhairi and SSjn Mursyid from Performance Optimisation Centre. The high-intensity interval training (HIIT) was really tough, especially for Liessa who just recovered from Coronavirus infection. The "menu" for the workout session consisted of multiple shuttle runs with nine stations of strength exercises. The participants did variations of squats, shoulder presses, farmer's walk with medicine ball, and agility training.
After the workout, the scholars were ushered to the dorms where they did the daily ART test, assisted by military medical personnel. Then, they moved to the RBMRR Headquarters for a health and safety briefing. The briefing was delivered by Captain (AS) Wardatul. She explained the map of the camp – something that we needed because it was our first time there. The exposure to the RBMRR was really nice as we only had limited knowledge regarding this Regiment.
My friends were the most excited when receiving their jungle kits for the upcoming programme. The Quartermasters very kindly handed us a set of the Digital Disruptive Pattern (D2P) uniform alongside a beret, a jungle hat, a cap, Physical Training (PT) shirt, socks and jungle boots. Each of us received the uniform of our chosen service. I got myself a Royal Brunei Air Force uniform. The same goes to Zharfan and Raziq, whereas the rest received their Royal Brunei Land Force uniform. To embrace the full military spirit, the male scholars and scholarship personnel took the initiative to shave their heads. I was so shocked to see Raziq bald! Definitely a new sight to see!
The first day ended on a high note. It was a new experience for everyone. I was eager to get a negative ART test result so I can join in with the fun.
Our second day began slightly earlier, by 0545 HRS we arrived at the RBMRR to first do our ART at 0600 HRS. By 0630 HRS, we were ready at the Padang Kawad for our morning Physical Training (PT). This time, we did upper body exercises, utilising medicine balls and TheraBands (banded pull apart, deadlift, bent over rows etc). This session was led by Tuan Dzulkhairi. After a couple sets of back rows and sit-ups, we were finally released to proceed with the rest of our day of course after having to change into our D2P uniforms in the blink of a second.
Following lunch, all booted and suited, we once again gathered at the Padang Kawad, this time for the Kawad (marching) itself. An introduction was delivered by SSjn Zul, and Sjn Pg Osman. They first taught us the boys how to properly fold their uniform sleeves, which was very thoughtful of them. They introduced us to the military commands that will be used during Kawad. In this session we learned to become active listeners, to focus on obeying commands, no matter the distraction. On top of that, we were taught to deliver the commands ourselves as well, at the same time building confidence by projecting our voices so loud. This whole time SSjn Zul, Sjn Pg Osman and Inche Yan along with Sjn Salla patiently assisted and guided us where needed.
5 scorching hours later, we were finally escorted to our bunks where the instructors emphasized the importance of cleanliness and tidiness of our area. Additionally, they learnt how to properly make our beds, arrange our kits (boots, uniform, sock, etc.) so that they look presentable for visits. I was so tired after marching that I slept on the floor.
On Wednesday, July 27th we started our day off with morning physical training in Bolkiah Garrison from 0630 HRS onwards. Once we finished with our interval runs, we went straight to RBMRR as our main task for today was a cleaning campaign.
Right after reaching RBMRR, all scholars were required to do the ART first, in accordance with Covid-19 safety protocols at Rumah Makan before having our brunch. The heat was unbearable. But we had to keep going.
Afterwards, all eight scholars got together to clean the boy's dorm, the girl's dorm including the toilets, chaperones' rooms and 'Rumah Makan' toilets. There was a huge lizard in the girls bathroom which Liessa managed to kill. We dusted & wiped the cabinets, bed frames & ceiling fans, swept and mopped the floor. Also, we scrubbed the mirrors, walls and floor in the toilets using high quality equipment and detergent.
In the afternoon, the scholars and I had such a fantastic lunch that we restored our lost energy from all the cleaning. We rested a bit before we continued the cleaning at 1400 HRS.
At first, when we looked at the enormous building that we had to clean, we did not think we could complete it on time. Eventually however, we finished all the cleaning before hi-tea. All thanks to the strong camaraderie and teamwork amongst the scholars.
Last but not least, Ms Susie told us to consume Malaria pills at night as preparation before entering the jungle for the upcoming 12th BSDSDP 2022. These past few days have been memorable because each day was filled with new experiences that I never had before.
Overall, I was really excited to work with my friends again! It has been a really positive experience so far, from learning the Kawad instructions and goofing around doing the cleaning campaign.
I cannot wait for the upcoming weeks to come! Rather than being stuck alone in my dorm for the Summer, it is way better to surround myself with the people I love, undergoing a program full of opportunities that are not open to everyone. I know I will definitely enjoy my summer break :)
Nur Alya Irdina binti Awang Harun (2021 SCRBAF Scholar)
Haziq Zharfan bin Haji Awang Hasbollah (2014 RBAF Scholar)
Ak Muhd Asyraff Haziq Iman Pg Asmali (YSHHB Sultan's Scholar)
Abdurraziq bin Abdul Aziz (2021 SCRBAF Scholar)
Richmon Lee Edward (2021 SCRBAF Scholar)
Siti Aisyah binti Salim (YSHHB Sultan's Scholar)
Nurliessa binti Md Daliz (2015 RBAF Scholar)
Dk Fathiyah Amanina bte Pg Roslan @ Dk Hanan Syafiqah (2021 SCRBAF Scholar)
12th BSDSDP 2022 Participants
Aiman Abdullah Tee