Before I write something about my first working experience in the RMAF in Kuching Air Base between Oct 81 and April 83, lets read the history of the base itself (this article is abstracted from RMAF website)."Pangkalan Udara Kuching telah ditubuhkan pada tahun 1964 dengan dikenali sebagai Pangkalan Tentera Udara DiRaja British (RAF). Ianya dilengkapi dengan sebuah pesawat Twin Pioneer dan empat buah helikopter Alouette III. Setelah pengunduran Tentera British pada 1967, Kerajaan Malaysia telah mengambilalih pengoperasian Pangkalan Udara ini dan bertukar nama kepada Pangkalan TUDM Kuching. Squadron Leader Arthur Cheah telah dilantik menjadi Pegawai Memerintah yang pertama pada 1 Julai 1967. Pada tahun 1968 dan berakhirnya konfrontasi dengan Negara Indonesia, No 7 Skuadron telah ditubuhkan di dalam Pangkalan ini dan dilengkapi dengan 5 buah helikopter Sikorsky S61A-4 (Nuri).
Bagi mendukung sasaran TUDM untuk menjadi sebuah pasukan udara yang berkredibiliti, Pangkalan Udara Kuching turut menggariskan visi dan misi yang mendukung kepada pencapaian misi TUDM yang dihasratkan di kawasan ruang udara Wilayah Sabah dan Sarawak (di bawah naungan markas No 2 Divisyen Udara) dan memantapkan pengurusan Pangkalan yang berlandas kepada Total Quality Management (TQM).
Pada masa ini (25 Apr 2010) Pangkalan Udara Kuching diperintah oleh Komander Pangkalan berpangkat Kolonel TUDM walaupun perjawatan sebenar Pegawai Memerintah adalah berpangkat Lt Kol TUDM. Komander Pangkalan sekarang ialah Kol Suhaimi bin Hussein TUDM.
Pangkalan ini mempunyai kekuatan seramai 687 (termasuk 63 pegawai) dan dilengkapi dengan tiga buah skuadron operasi dan lima buah cawang bantuan:
- No 1 Skn dengan 8 buah pesawat CN235-220 (termasuk 2 VVIP version yang ditumpangkan (detachment) di PU Subang.
- No 7 Skn dengan 6 buah pesawat helikopter S61A4 (Nuri).
- Skn 331 Pertahanan Udara yang dilengkapi dengan radar RG605 Marconi.
- Cawangan Operasi
- Cawangan Kejuruteraan
- Cawangan Materiel
- Cawangan Tadbir; dan
- Cawangan Provos
Motto pangkalan ini sejak ia ditubuhkan ialah "BERGULAI KITAI BEKARAJA" yang diambil dari bahasa Iban yang bermaksud 'kerjasama dan perpaduan semua anggota melaksanakan tugas yang dipertanggungjawabkan' dalam memastikan misi Pangkalan khasnya serta misi TUDM tercapai. Semangat perpaduan, kerjasama, kemakmuran dan keharmonian di antara semua anggota menjadi nadi utama dalam memastikan kejayaan Pangkalan Udara Kuching dalam melaksanakan semua tugas yang diamanahkan."
Upon completion of my short Air Movement Training Module at ITU Kinrara, I was posted to RMAF Kuching effective from 21 Oct 1981. My appointment was the Duty Air Movt Officer (DAMO) Shift B. I went (reported) to Kuching together with my coursemate Lt (U) Zambri bin Ahmad
The Base Commander then was Lt Kol (U) Nagaratnam Ampalam and in 1982 he was succeeded by Lt Kol (U) Khong Kah Sing. My OC Supply was Kapt (U) Samsudin bin Sulaiman (retired as Major and he died in 2005) then he succeeded by Kapt Johari Rais (retired as Lt Col) sometime in Mid 1982. The other senior officers I could remember were; Mej Thiagarajah -OC 7 Sqn, Mej (U) Adnan Dariff - OC Admin (deceased), Mej Tan Chee Seang (SEngO) and Kapt Bashah Mohd Said (SEATCO).
List of RMAF Kuching's Base Commanders:
- Sqn Ldr Arthur Cheah
- Sqn Ldr Mohamed bin Ngah Said (Wg Cdr)
- Sqn ldr Ahmad Merican
- Wg Cdr Lawrence Phong
- Wg Cdr M A Theseira
- Wg Cdr Fauzi bin Hussein
- Lt Kol (U) Ahmad Merican
- Lt Kol (U) Lim Way Ann
- Lt Kol (U) Nagaratnam Ampalam
- Lt Kol (U) Khong Kah Sing
- Lt Kol (U) Agil bin Musa
- Lt Kol (U) Othman bin Sulan
- Lt Kol Mustaffa bin Zakaria TUDM
- Lt Kol Jamaluddin bin Tajuddin TUDM
- Lt Kol Stephen Ngiau Tai Kong TUDM
- Lt Kol Ahmad Repi bin Bunyamin TUDM
- Lt Kol Abdul Rahman bin Hassan TUDM (deceased)
- Lt Kol Jamal bin Abu Bakar TUD<
- Lt Kol Sabri bin Adam TUDM
- Lt Kol Johar Razali bin Hj Ahmad TUDM
- Lt Kol Shabre bin Adam TUDM
- Lt Kol Suhaimi bin Abd Kadir TUDM
- Kol Suhaimi bin Hussain TUDM
Air Movement RMAF Kuching
Air Movement Section is supposed to be the frontier of the base where all the visitors or guests first impression on arrival to the base. However, the location of AMS RMAF Kuching (at that time) was not really the base entrance. This because it was located at the opposite side of the base site and divided by the Kuching Airport runway. The distance was about 1.5 km.
The AMS was headed by the Senior Air Movement Officer or SAMO. My first SAMO was Kapt (U) Ahmad Ismail (or wellknown as Kapt Mat Komo) later replaced by Kapt Chin Hoong Shing (retired as Major) . Kapt Mat Komo was the Special Duty (SD) Commissioned Officer. Prior to his commission, he was the Air Quarter Master (AQM) for RMAF Dart Herald aircraft. He was married bachelor in Kuching, staying in the mess. Kapt Mat was very easy going man, amicable and all rounder. My last meeting with him was in 2008 while giving the last respect at the house of Allahyarham Lt Kol Baharudin.
Working as DAMO was an easy job. I have so many experienced staff led PW Ho, FSjn Yogeswaran, FSjn Kong, Sjn Mahin Moidu, Sjn Minhat, Sjn Francis, Kpl Kamal Bashah (retired PW), Kpl Rahman (rtd PW), LAC Zamri (rtd PW), LAC Cheah, LAC Sukran (rtd PW), LAC Yunus Yasin (rtd Kapt), LU Zainal Abidin (rtd Kapt), LU Simon, LU Fuad etc. I am so sorry, I couldn't remember all. However i was happy working with them, i.e cooperative and high morale.
We were divided into 2 shift. The other shift was led by Lt (U) Zambri Ahmad.
Ragging and Kuching Special
Tahun 70an dan awal 80an, kalau sesiapa yang berpangkat Lt atau LtM mendapat berita akan ditukarkan ke TUDM Labuan atau Kuching, ia merupakan satu berita yang amat buruk (hell) dan malang dalam kerjaya TUDM. Kira-kira, kalau mendapat berita tersebut, 40% dari 'morale' telah hilang.
Kenapa? Dua pangkalan ini amat popular dengan kes-kes 'ragging' Mes Pegawai yang amat menyiksakan dan 'sadist'.
Aktiviti 'ragging' oleh 'seniors' bermula sebaik sahaja pegawai baru tiba di Air Movement (AMS). Pejabat SAMO akan dijadikan tempat 'introduction'. Masa tu AMS Kuching bukan la macam sekarang. Hanya rumah-rumah kayu berlantai papan macam rumah panjang orang Iban sahaja. Semua pegawai yang 'in station' pada masa itu akan berkumpul di AMS menunggu junior dengan ghairah sekali.
Masuk sahaja ke dalam pejabat SAMO, bermulalah 'interogation' yang disertai oleh 'manhandling' seperti 'punching, kicking and slapping' unnecessarily. Selesai sahaja agenda 'introduction' pegawai baru akan menarik 'whatever luggage' yang dibawa ke arah Mess Pegawai (Mes Angkasanuri). Jauh juga, kira-kira 1.5km dari AMS melalui 'public road'. Bayangkan masa tu, dengan memakai 'Bush Jacket (No 2) ' pakai 'peak cap' menarik beg besar di atas jalan raya utama (jalan dari bandar Kuching ke Lapangan Terbang). ........
The newly reporting officer will be addressed as 'BUGI'. In Kuching, any officer with the rank of Lt and below will be entitled to be ragged. Regardless of your seniority!. Some ofhe common agenda of the BUGI were as follow:
- Half Body Shave. This is the symbol of BUGI. All the newly reporting mess member, must be shaved half of their body. Half shaved means, half of your eyebrow, half of chest hair (if u have), half of pubic hair and one leg hair. So, u have to go for work everyday with that kind of figure until all the hair grew back. Just imagine, how your staff look at you?
- Nite Compass Marching. It was a tough job. One of the senior will call the BUGIs about at 12 midnight. We (Zambri, Roslan, Shamsudin and I) were instructed to bring only a piece of kain pelikat and out BAT C 10. The senior in-charge that nite was Lt Revi Chandran. All the four were embarked into the car with our eyes covered with hankerchief. We reached one unfamiliar place, beside the small river. We could not recognise the place because very dark and furthermore, we just arrived Kuching 3 days ago. We were instructed to take off our 'kain pelikat'- naked. We were quite lucky, Revi was nice to us, he gave us 2 pieces of kain pelikat to shared with 4 of us (and off course our BAT C 10). The next instruction was, we must report to the mess before 6am and by 6am sharp must be crowing infront of Lt Sofian's room...............................Just imagine, 4 naked men hiking at the midnite. Everytime there was a car or bike passed by, we hide behind the bush. We reached at the mess about 5.30 am. We felt so hungry...so we went into the mess kitchen and ate something. Since we were so tired, and waiting for 6am, so we plan to take a short nab in the mess lobby. Very unfortunate, we were overshot by 7am...... the punishment was 1000 "STAR JUMPS"...
- Pond Cleaning. RMAF Kuching mess has 2 ponds, one infront the car porch and another one behind the ante room near to the takraw court. Cleaning the first pond was the must for every BUGI. Just cleaning was nothing, simple job. But while cleaning, the seniors would not let us doing the job in cool and calm. In between the cleaning time, we were asked to do various action such as forward rolls, slide rolls, press up, star jumps etc. The other pond was purposely not cleaned because of some reasons. The reason? wait until my mess commissioning parade night.
- Fabricate a Sword. Every officer in RMAF Kuching must have a wooden sword. If you did not have this, you would not be commissioned from the mess. Immediately after reporting to the mess, we were instructed to order the swords. We asked our base carpenter to fabricate for us. FOC anyway. How the swords look alike? Please see the picture under the Mess Commissioning Parade.
- Steal Road Sign. One of the tough task listed in BUGI checklist was to find a road sign!. The instructions was 'I don't how, by tomorrow 7am, I want to see the road sign infront your room!". The only way, we have to search at midnight. First, we have to book the transport, slow talk with MT. Perhap, they knew!. Second, do not straight away uproot the OK one. First alternative, search for the unused or damaged one. If you could not find one, then go to the second alternative. However, survey the location, do not ever-ever try at the open area, you will get hell. Look for the isolated area, park the land rover or 3 tonne to cover the sign board, and start working! Not easy mannnnn..... the foundation of the sign board itself! big and solid concrete. And, what you brought was only a shovel or cangkul!. At that time, if you visit the rooms in the Officers' Mess, everybody were keeping a sign board. Lucky only RMAF Mess doing it. If the Army followed us, no sign board left in Kuching area.
- Steal Picture from Chinese Cemetry. This is the toughest assignment. But I was very lucky, during my BUGI time, my senior forgot to give this task. According to my seniors, they were asked to pick out a lady picture (lady only!) from the Chinese grave!. I could not imagine how they did it.
- Tiger Show!. This was and easy but dirtiest assignment. I will not write in detail about this task. As a tiger you have to find the victim first. You will be locked in the room and perform a show. Pairs of eyes were outside the room waiting for the show..... Mohon maaf, perbicaraan dibuat secara tertutup.
- Commissioning Parade and Kuching Special. This was the happiest moment for the BUGI.. That night, all the suffers will end. After your dinner, you will be ready with complete No 1 Dress + wooden sword. One of the BUGI will be taking the command. Normally the most senior mess member will take the salute. During my time, the guest of honour was Kapt Hashim Hamzah (he was an instructor when I was in 2FTC Kluang). Immediately after disperse from the parade, you have to drink 'Kuching Special'. Do you know what is Kuching Specil? It was a mixture of many-many ingredients. the BUGIs will walk to the pond (muddy pond) and crawled in the pond from one end to the other end.
The title 'BUGI' will only removed after the commissioning parade held in the officers' mess. The BUGI will only be commissioned if the 'Chief Ragger' satisfied with the performance and 'no objection' by the other mess members.
Ragging 'Court' Case (1982)
The bitter history in the RMAF happened during my service in this base. The death case of LtM (U) Sugudev Dass due to overwhelmed ragging. This was the worst ragging case ever happened in the RMAF history. Anyway, this case had opened the eyes of the higher management in the RMAF even in the Armed Forces to look into the disgusted activities inherited from whom 'i don't know!. If we say, it was from 'Mat Salleh', I do not believe it because from what I know and I experienced, they are very gentlemen. Many good young officers were victimised by this kind of bad traditions.
Semoga Allah menghargai insan-insan yang telah berusaha menghapuskan tradisi jijik ini.
Trip To Historical Niah Cave
Adventures trip to Niah Cave, overnite at Rumah Panjang Niah, ngajat.
Well, that we call military 'espirit de corps'. We were trained to work as a team, cooperation, comradeship regardless of our skin colour.
Mess Life in Kuching
The ragging was very tough. It made the brotherhood or relationship among the officers very closed and adhered. The mess organised a lot of activities for the mess member such as family lunch, casino night, games etc. Almost every month we have disco. Girl friends! No worry at all, my boss (Mat Komo) was expert in supplying the girls. He went out about 7pm and within an hour, he would be back with his car full of girls. Do not have to ask him, where he got those girls.
Some of the mess members during my serve in RMAF Kuching between 1981-1983: Mej Thiagarajah, OC 7 Sqn- retired/died, (Mej Wong Ah Ngan, OC & Sqn- retired), Kapt Basah Said (SEATCO/PMC)- retired Lt Kol, Kapt Hashim Hamzah, 7 Sqn Pilot- left, Kapt Mustar Yunus, 7 Sqn- left, Kapt Rusdi, 7 Sqn- left, Lt Mohd Nor, 7 Sqn- left, Lt Ahmad Husaini- 7 Sqn (retired Lt Kol), Lt Mazlan Md Noor- 7 Sqn (left Kapt), Lt Latfi- left, Lt Azim Mustapha- left Kapt, Lt Baharudin- left Kapt, Lt Sofian- left Kapt, Lt Jamaludin (deceased) - ATC (left as kapt), Lt Saroni- left, Lt Jaafar-left, Lt Johan- left, LtM Nazri Dashah- HANDAU (now Kol and Commander of RMAF Regiment), Lt Mohd Shafeng @ Shafiq, Admin (now Lt Kol), Lt Rahman Maalip- Eng (left Kapt), Lt Mohd Noh Daim- Admin (now Lt Kol), Lt Rashid Ibrahim- ATC but later join Admin (now Lt Kol), Lt Roslan, ATC -left, Lt Shamsudin Mahadi, ATC (now Lt Kol), Lt S.Hamid -ATC (retired Lt Kol), Lt Sudirman- left, Lt Zakaria- left, LtM Ahmad Zaini, ATC- now Lt Kol (Mat), Lt Razak- Log (left as Mej and now Kept Maritime), LtM Ibrahim- Log (left Mej), Lt M Isa Mahrop- Log (left as Kapt).
- Sudirman - met again in RMAF Kuantan
- Nazri Dashah and S.Hamid were together with me in Squadron officers' School (SOS), Kinrara in 1990.
- Zakaria, I met him in ITM in 1987. He did his DBS(Transport) and we graduated together. He performed best student for that year.
- Muhammad Shafiq was my coursemate in Staff College, Haigate.
"to be continued"
One morning in PERSOPS
Towing Tractor Rammed Hornbills hanger
Free Driving Licence
Mess Public Phone- tapping line -- mystery call
- Driving School
- Follow the flight to Sibu, KK, Labuan, Tekajung dan Pontianak.