Must wear helmet is it?

When I read about the article published in Channel News Asia on Red Berets win Best Combat Unit once more, it brings to mind the early days of National Service. As I learnt, Commandos usually wear the jungle hat during training whereas helmets are worn during live-firing exercises and at ranges, SOC (Standard Obstacle Course), parachute jumps, heli and cliff rapelling, all these being part and parcel of training safety regulations.

The helmet has come a long way since the early days of soldiering in Singapore. In the past, the helmets comes in three parts – the inner liner made of hard plastic material; the outer protective cover made of steel with the chin-strap; and lastly the camouflage cloth cover that is used as a wrapping cover over the steel pot to provide the camouflage effect. A thick piece of black rubber band is usually placed along the rim of the helmet to secure the camouflage cloth. It also serves the purpose of allowing you to secure leaves, lallang, and a wide variety of flora and fauna so as to break the outline of the soldier’s form inorder to blend in with the surroundings to remain undetected by the naked eye. Those who happen to accidentally have a flower or two, pinned on your helmet will probably earn you some push ups from the field instructor. A walking flower in the middle of the jungle is definitely a presentable target in the cross-hairs of your enemy.

Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore.

For those who served National Service before the kevlar helmet was introduced, you will probably have some stories to tell about the steel pot helmet. This humble helmet serves many purposes from the various army stories I gathered. Other than the primary objective of protecting the head, it can be used as a container to collect rain water; Act as a scoop to gather river water to bathe oneself; boil water using the outer steel pot in case if you forgot your mess-tins; a pillow for your head when you sleep, though it is sure to give you a neck ache in the morning; trench-digging if you forgot your changkul and spades; and perhaps many more purposes during your stint in National Service.

Who knows? The next generation of helmets will enable all the military purposes to be fulfilled and perhaps even come with a variety of added appplications. You may catch the latest movie when you pull down the sun-screen visor to view your favourite movie in the HUD (Heads Up Display) with built-in stereo as you stand-down while in the jungle. Just hope you don’t hear your Segeant screaming through the intercom “You soldier! Who say you can sleep. KNOCK IT DOWN…TWENTY”

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