CPL (NS) Bryan Chng: Going the Extra Mile for ATEC
Would you volunteer to extend your National Service? Corporal (CPL) (NS) Bryan Chng Chee Keong did, extending his Operationally-Ready National Service (ORNS) by another three years under the ROVERS (Reservist on Voluntary Extended Reserve Service) scheme. He did this to follow his NS unit, 702nd Battalion, Singapore Guards (702 Gds), through to their final Army Training Evaluation Centre (ATEC 2) evaluation. This was an unusual decision since most NSmen dread the tough ATEC evaluation. CPL (NS) Chng served his final In-Camp Training (ICT) in 2014 – undergoing his 6th and final ATEC at the age of 39, long after his peers completed their ORNS and transited to the MINDEF Reserve (MR).
The First ATEC Experience
The ATEC evaluation is a rigorous assessment for Army units, putting them through a series of realistic missions for up to a week, with little rest. This meant that as a Commanding Officer’s Runner (CO runner), CPL (NS) Chng would have to walk very long distances with his Battalion CO while carrying a full combat load with additional communications equipment.
Reminiscing about his first ATEC experience as a Full-Time National Serviceman (NSF) in 1992, CPL (NS) Chng recalled spotting enemy troops sneaking up a hill towards them shortly after capturing an objective. Realising that victory was about to slip from their grasp, CPL (NS) Chng immediately reported the sighting to his CO, who ordered a counter attack. CPL (NS) Chng’s quick thinking allowed his unit to take the enemy by surprise and complete the exercise successfully.
“Although ATEC is physically tough, I enjoy the realism of the exercise,” says 41-year-old CPL (NS) Chng.
ATEC evaluations are carried out to assess the combat proficiency and operational standards of an army unit. These exercises, which are physically and mentally demanding, are conducted to ensure that every army unit’s operational readiness and fighting capabilities are maintained to respond effectively to potential threats.
An old hand
CPL (NS) Chng’s performance during that first ATEC exercise set the tone for the next two decades, as he continued to serve as a runner with various COs over the course of his ICT cycles. CPL (NS) Chng’s experience and reputation as a good CO runner meant that he was always a top pick for the job.
“Coming back as a CO runner every year, I became more and more seasoned, and developed tacit knowledge that made my job easier,” says CPL (NS) Chng, adding that the COs he worked with quickly appreciated his experience and enthusiasm for the role.
When he transferred to a new battalion after his first NS unit stood down, CPL (NS) Chng had wanted to try out a different role. “I wanted to experience the sense of camaraderie that the rest of the guys did,” said CPL (NS) Chng, adding that many of his friends enjoyed ICT because they got to serve with the same group of friends every year, whereas his role as a CO runner limited the number of people he would interact with regularly.”
Despite that, CPL (NS) Chng continued to support his commanders, who would request for him to come back as a runner for each ICT because of his ability to perform well in the role.
It was an old friend and former commander, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) (NS) Melvin Quek, who convinced CPL (NS) Chng to extend his service. The duo had known each other since their NSF days when LTC (NS) Quek was a Platoon Commander.
“The commanders are my old friends, and I’m happy to help them out once a year during ICT,” said CPL (NS) Chng.
Although CPL (NS) Chng enjoyed his ICTs, it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
The father of two, who has an eight-year-old son and six-year-old daughter, initially faced opposition from his wife and mother when he wanted to extend his national service.
“They protested and said, why do you want to go back even after you have completed your NS training cycle? But I told them I want to help support my officers where I can, and eventually, they came round to my point of view and became more agreeable to my decision.” says CPL (NS) Chng, who works as an art director in the advertising industry.
In years to come, when it is his son’s turn to serve, CPL (NS) Chng hopes future generations will continue to carry out their NS and ICT training with gusto.
He says: “As an NSman, I know I am contributing to something bigger than myself and my family when I report for ICT. As a Singaporean, I take pride in taking part in defending Singapore, and I hope that when the time comes, my son will be just as eager to serve the nation. Going through NS is valuable because it does not just improve one’s physical condition, it also allows you to improve mentally and conquer any hardships life may throw at you.”
Last update: 28 Mar 2018