Confession by Shawn
I was posted to SISPEC (School of Infantry Specialist) back in 2006. As part of the BSLC (Basic Section Leader Course), there was an Exercise called Exercise Wanderer. In groups of 5-7 with full battle order on, you were made to navigate almost the whole of Pulau Tekong to find Checkpoints (Symbols and code words tied to trees in which you must shade/copy them to prove you actually found them.) The exercise was split into day and night.
For day, each group/sub section were to find at least 2 out of 4 given checkpoints. The area was limited to Tekong Main Land. Time limit was about 5 to 6 hours (IRC). For night, it was limited to the Reclaimed Land portion of Tekong, and it started from 7pm to 11pm. Target was finding at least 1 out of 2 checkpoints. My story begins during the Night Portion of Ex. Wanderer. My team managed to obtained the first of two checkpoints, and were proceeding to the second one. We checked our maps and compasses and proceeded to the area which we believed was where the second checkpoint was. We walked a slow pace and soon passed by a training shed that was being used a BMTC company which were having their field camp.
At this point, 2 of my section mates were exhausted; one had carried a signal set for the whole day, and another was visibly strained. We made a decision to split the section up, two of them to rest at the training shed, while the remaining 4 of us to proceed on, to find the last checkpoint. Now according to our maps and directions, the checkpoint was located in the middle of the forest some 100meters away from the training shed, hence the 4 of us immediately set off. Out of the 4 of us who went it to the forest were 1 malay guy (Lets call him A) and 3 chinese (including myself). It took us less than 5 minutes to enter the outskirts of forest. Upon entering the forest itself (we were able to differentiate the outskirts from the forest itself as the forest had shorter grass as compared to the outskirts which were above ankle levels). I remembered that I was first to enter and the forest wasn't as dark as I thought. The air was slightly "thicker" but I paid no attention to it as all i wanted was to find the damn checkpoint and return back to base camp.
The layout of the forest was very orderly. Trees were planted in rows and they were quite short. Simply by tilting your head up a bit, one could see the portion whereby the main trunk separated into the thick brunches. I was fast approaching one of the trees to see if the checkpoint was tied to one of them when I heard A shouting my name. A: "Shawn! Eh, I go back first to the training Shed ah!" And with that, he "Doubled" out of the area. Almost running at his full speed. Without waiting for us to reply or for us to give any approval. I was puzzled. I turned to looked at my other 2 section members. "A" wasnt the kinda of guy to give up halfway, and I was sure he wasn't exhausted or injured. Now, at this point there was a slight breeze blowing in our direction. On hindsight, I should have treated it like a "warning" as when we first entered, the air was "thick", so where would there be a breeze coming suddenly? I looked at my two remaining mates, and one signaled to me that he would go out and see if "A" was ok. He was afraid that "A" might get lost.
Just as he was about to leave, he give me a long look. But in my exhausted state, I merely nodded and proceed deeper into the forest with my remaining buddy on my left. 3 minutes later in the forest, both my buddy and myself were frustrated and exhausted. We failed to find the checkpoint. We wanted to move in deeper but suddenly my buddy told me that we should leave. "Eh why sia? Just a bit more la. We already here, another 5 mins" i mumbled, irritated at the notion that the forest had defeated us. " Shawn, lets go. I don't have a good feeling. The hairs on my arm are standing." half whispered my buddy. He looked spooked. I looked at him and nodded. We then left the forest.
Back the training shed, all 6 of us were resting. I looked at "A", he was paled faced and breathing heavily. A: " Shawn. I'm sorry. I thought that by calling out to you, all of you would follow me and get the hell of that forest." "Huh, what do you mean?" I replied. Turns out the moment "A" stepped into the forest, the hair on his arm stood. He wanted to dismiss it due to exhaustion but then he looked up. And his sight fell upon to the tree which I was very near to. He told us he saw a white figure with long hair covering its face looking down at me. Thats when "A" called out to me, saying that he will leave the area first. He did not want to alarm us and that figure and hoped that we would leave immediately with us. The other section mate who left before my buddy and myself also felt uneasy, which was why he signaled to me that he would leave to see if "A" was ok.
Hearing this, I looked towards my buddy and asked him if he saw anything, since both of us were in the front of the pack and nearest to the trees. He shook his head and said he did not see anything but feel his hair standing as we ventured deeper. The group was spooked and remained in silence. After awhile, we said our own prayers and left the area, moving back to our base camp.
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