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Lifting the Lid: Of Teammates and Brothers in Arms
We follow ERT Foxtrot of Tanglin Police Division as it sharpens its skills during Training Week.

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ERT units comprise small teams of highly trained officers. Since they are based at SPF’s land divisions, they have a faster response time and are more familiar with the ground than other units. PHOTO: Fatris Bin Jasmin

Under the blistering afternoon sun, the balaclava-clad gunman fires his weapon into the sky, shattering the silence. More gunshots ring out as he enters a mall, followed by cries for help from those inside.

A Singapore Police Force (SPF) vehicle arrives at the scene, its siren wailing. Alighting in tactical gear, Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Justin Loh of Team Foxtrot directs his officers to form up. He gives the hand signal to advance and the team storms the mall, subduing the gunman.

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Team Foxtrot prepares to storm a mall besieged by an armed gunman. PHOTO: Fatris Bin Jasmin

This simulation was part of Training Week, a bimonthly refresher programme for SPF Emergency Response Team (ERT) officers. 

The ERT is a dedicated unit that acts as the first wave of responders to terrorist incidents in Singapore. Handpicked from within their respective land divisions, ERT officers must have exceptional physical fitness and marksmanship skills.

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ERT officers are equipped with HK MP5 submachine guns in addition to their standard-issue sidearms, for added firepower. These weapons are meticulously maintained to ensure readiness. PHOTO: Fatris Bin Jasmin

“ERTs also have a smaller structure that decentralises leadership and empowers every officer,” explained Staff Sergeant (SSGT) Ruzaini Kosini of Team Foxtrot from Tanglin Police Division. “Our Team Leader has complete faith in us and, in return, we have confidence in his leadership.”

To sharpen their marksmanship skills, ERT officers undergo frequent shooting drills with their sidearm and HK MP5 submachine gun. This particular session also happens to be their Annual Classification Shoot, during which officers are graded.

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Shooting for greater heights: SGT Nabil (left) takes aim at the range. PHOTO: Fatris Bin Jasmin

Under the sombre lighting of the indoor shooting range at the Home Team Academy, Sergeant (SGT) Nabil Rosli shares pointers with his teammates for the static and dynamic shooting drills. The officers nod as they prepare their gear and weapons.

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SGT Nabil’s jovial nature belies his reputation as one of the best shooters in the ERT community. PHOTO: Fatris Bin Jasmin 

“Steady your breathing; focus on the target,” SGT Nabil reminds his teammates over the sounds of snapping buckles and velcro straps being adjusted.

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SGT Jovi Wong gets feedback on his shooting from an instructor. PHOTO: Fatris Bin Jasmin

Every officer of Team Foxtrot achieves a marksman rating, with SGT Nabil falling a single point short of a perfect score. The officers vow to score higher for their next shoot, reviewing their performance to see how they can improve. “Perfect shooting accuracy will allow us to take down assailants faster and save more lives,” explains SGT Nabil.

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ASP Justin (left) and SSGT Ruzaini (second from left) listen intently during a pre-exercise briefing. PHOTO: Fatris Bin Jasmin

The team proceeds for its next training component – exercises involving a rampaging gunman. The only information the officers receive are brief text messages replicating panicked “999” calls, and they’re expected to react on the fly. Their task is to take down the gunman, or an “armed adversary,” in ERT lingo. SGT Jovi Wong takes the lead.

As Team Foxtrot’s newest member, SGT Jovi was initially worried about adapting to his new role. “I was serving as a lock-up officer, supervising offenders who’d been arrested,” he said. “I had limited patrolling experience before joining ERT.”

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SGT Jovi (right) and SSSGT Jia Jun (taking cover and looking out for signs of gunmen. PHOTO: Fatris Bin Jasmin

Understandably, SGT Jovi also had concerns regarding the ERT course, which requires exceptional physical fitness and marksmanship. “However, I received constant encouragement from Team Foxtrot the moment I was slated to join it,” he said.

In particular, SGT Jovi often received helpful text messages from Senior Staff Sergeant (SSSGT) Cheu Jia Jun. “Having undergone the same course, we gave him as many tips as we could,” explained SSSGT Jia Jun.

This sense of unity informs Team Foxtrot’s every move. Working together, they rapidly corner the “armed adversary” and subdue him.

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ERT officers take aim. Good coordination is vital given the dynamic scenarios that ERT officers face. PHOTO: Fatris Bin Jasmin

The next exercise took place at an abandoned office block. Arriving at the scene, the officers were greeted by gunshots from inside the building, followed by desperate pleas for help.

Taking up their positions, the officers formulated their plans quickly. “The terrorists are shooting; people are dying!” shouted the exercise coordinator. 

This was a powerful reminder of a motto that ERT officers live by – “Stop the killing; stop the dying.” In an emergency, their mission is to stop assailants and prevent the loss of innocent lives.

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A member of Team Foxtrot establishes the situation inside a besieged building. PHOTO: Fatris Bin Jasmin

As this exercise involved the use of simulation rounds, the officers have donned masks, for safety. An ERT officer’s equipment easily weighs up to 20kg, and under his mask, SSGT Ruzaini’s glasses soon fogged up due to his exertions and the humidity.

This particular Training Week was made even more challenging for him as it coincided with the fasting month of Ramadan. “I was concerned that it would affect my performance,” he said, “but was heartened by the support shown by my teammates.” 

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Preparing to clear a room. PHOTO: Fatris Bin Jasmin

The team’s non-Muslim members refrained from drinking or eating in front of their Muslim teammates, even during breaks. “We try to support everyone as best as we can,” explained ASP Justin.

SGT Jovi would occasionally fast with SSGT Ruzaini and SGT Nabil, as a show of solidarity. “Fasting alongside my Muslim teammates wasn’t easy, and it definitely increased my respect and appreciation for them,” he said. 

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Team Foxtrot enters the dark. PHOTO: Fatris Bin Jasmin

For their final exercise, Team Foxtrot was tasked to clear a series of narrow corridors on multiple floors in order to find an armed adversary. The catch? The officers would have to do so in near darkness.

The officers utilised close teamwork and coordination to navigate the corridors, moving as a single unit and covering one another’s blind-spots. “When entering a closed room, we have to react fast to subdue gunmen while also taking care not to harm any bystanders,” explains ASP Justin.

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Team Foxtrot arrests the gunman. PHOTO: Fatris Bin Jasmin

Their teamwork finally pays off – the team corners the gunman and subdues him without further loss of life.

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Band of brothers (from left): SSSGT Jia Jun, SGT Jovi, ASP Justin, SSGT Ruzaini and SGT Nabil of Team Foxtrot after concluding their Training Week. PHOTO: Fatris Bin Jasmin

With another Training Week behind them, the officers took stock of what drives – and unites – them. “By now, our camaraderie is such that there are very few factors that negatively impact how we work together,” explained ASP Justin, speaking for Team Foxtrot. “We’re more than a team; we’re a band of brothers.”

 


  1. by Fatris Bin Jasmin
  2. 17 June 2019
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