Each infantry battalion has only one scout platoon to depend on for its intelligence gathering operations. As a result, infantry scouts are arguably the most specialized and highly trained troop formation in any regiment or battalion.
Scout platoons are relatively autonomous units: once a mission is given, the scouts are given almost total free-play in the way they conduct their operations. The various scout team commanders decide how the mission should be carried out within designated time constraints, and scout teams are not subjected to the authority of the other rifle-company commanders. The nature of their jobs demands that the average trooper in the scout platoon be much fitter than any other infantry rifleman. At the same time, a scout has to be able to work under pressure for long hours. Most importantly, a scout has to be an accomplished navigator.
There is a common saying in the SAF that scouts are often the "first ones in and last ones out" in any battalion operation, reflecting the long, hard operational hours these elite troopers are subjected to. In addition to reconnaissance and surveillance work, scout troopers are required to be able to analyze and interpret information before reporting them to the higher commanders. The average reconnaissance trooper therefore needs also to be a thinking soldier.
The men from Scout Platoon, 3SIR were hand-picked for their vocation. After their Basic Military Training (BMT), they were initially posted to infantry rifle-platoons in 3SIR for their Advanced Combat Training (ACT). Towards the end of ACT, the battalion conducted a selection process for potential scouts based on the recommendations of ACT instructors. The selection process consisted firstly of a series of military exercises intended to test the candidates' combat and (especially) navigational skills. Next, the candidates were subjected to physical fitness tests, ranging from the army's standard Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) to running the Standard Obstacle Course (SOC) in full battle gear. At the end of the selection process, about 40 out of 56 men were left for the next phase of training.
Heliborne Ops (operations)
Infantry reconnaissance troopers are trained in a variety of operations
[Picture courtesy of CyberPioneer, an electronic publication by Mindef]
The 40 men were then sent to the School Of Military Intelligence (SMI) where the actual reconnaissance troopers' course was conducted. This phase of training lasted about 6 months, during which the candidates learnt the basics of reconnaissance drills. Military and navigaton exercises were conducted almost every week, some exercises lasting as long as 10 days at a stretch. Trainees had to get used to fatigue and stress early on, and it was not uncommon to see instructors yelling at trainees in the heat of battle simulations if only to stress and confuse them further.
In addition, trainees were taught how to handle optical equipment like thermal-imagers and night-vision devices as well as the use of the SAF's new 940 series signal set. Training at SMI got progressively tougher, and at the end of the SMI course, only 32 men were left in the platoon, earning the right to be called reconnaissance troopers.
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