The Opera Song

During my NS, we had this 9D8N summary exercise in Taiwan and we usually had 3-4 missions per day. I forgot which day was it but we were doing section night ambush. It was spring in Taiwan and the sun set at 5pm+. We broke up into sections and headed over to our training area. Each section had 10 trainees and 1 commander/instructor with a signal set.

We needed to simulate an actual 7-men section. Thus 2 trainees were tasked to be the enemies and the last trainee followed our instructor as signaller. For a night section ambush, other than forming a section formation, we needed to set up a tripflare (which would light up the area when triggered) and a claymore mine, both of which were dummies but we still diligently set it up according to SOPs.

The above was each of our location and the terrain. We were on the higher grounds and were supposed to ambush the enemies on the dirt track on the lower ground. Bear in mind that it was a forest and as our training area was large, the space between each trainee was quite far but we could still roughly see the trainee next to us.

We waited for nightfall and for our PC to tell our instructor to begin the mission. I don’t recall what time was it exactly but it was pitch black when the signal set crackled and we could hear our PC telling our instructor to begin the ambush as sound traveled well at night. We then prepared ourselves and knew that our 2 fellow trainees who were tasked to be enemies would then made their way down (near trainee 7) to the dirt track.

We were not far from the dirt track, maybe 20-30 metres away. So the enemies needed only probably less than 1-2 minutes to get to the right side of the dirt track to begin the mission. Trainee 1 and 7 had night vision goggles so that they could see where the enemies were coming from. We waited and waited for almost 10 minutes but nothing.

This was when my instructor got frustrated and shouted “wtf, so short distance and how long you guys need to get to the tracks?”. And nope, we didn’t hear anything from the 2 enemies. It was at this moment when the signal set (which was connected to our platoon HQ) started crackling again. A lady’s high pitch voice singing an opera song came from the signal set! You can imagine how our balls froze!

We didn’t know how to react as we thought it might be someone playing a prank on us or something else. This went on for a good 5-10 seconds (I couldn’t remember exactly how long). Then we suddenly heard our PC over the signal set saying “All instructors, abort night ambush mission immediately and get back to platoon HQ now!”.

Our instructor shouted at the top of his voice for all of us to pack up (the dummy tripflare and claymore mine) and also to check where were the 2 enemies. Now thinking back, what happened next was actually quite comical. We switched on our L-torches and ran to the dirt track to retrieve the dummy tripflare and claymore mines.

For those who had been trainees, you would know that we would always pack everything nicely and accounted for them as we wouldn’t want to risk signing 1206 or being confined in camp. However for this situation, it was vastly different. A few of us held open our uniform top and dumped the dummy tripflare and claymore mine (with wires and pins etc) onto our uniforms and carried them like carrying babies with both our arms and started to run.

Just as we were about to run off, the 2 enemies suddenly showed up by walking from the downhill area towards us and said they wanted to share something incredible with us. My instructor told them that mission had been aborted and we talk when we get back to platoon HQ.

When we got back to platoon HQ (and also saw how trainees from other sections carried their dummy tripflare and claymore mines on their uniform top like us, it was a comical sight), PC asked all instructors to gather for a debrief and for us trainees, we packed the dummy tripflare and claymore mine into the bags and took a break. Our instructor then came back and asked the 2 enemies where did they went. The 2 enemies said they went down the path towards the dirt track as instructed but they didn’t see the dirt track at all even after walking for 5 minutes. They knew that it would take only 1-2 minutes for them to reach the dirt track and when 5 minutes had passed, they knew something was wrong but they continued walking downhill.

This was when they suddenly came upon a small old wooden hut and they stopped. Just when both of them wanted to discuss what to do, they suddenly heard a lady singing a high pitched opera song and they ran back the way they came from. After running a short while, they saw lights from our L-torches and the commotion we had, and they were relieved to be back with our section even though they expected to be scolded by our instructor.

Our PC then gather our whole platoon for a debrief and said “Well, I guess everyone heard what happened over the signal set and I’m sure all 4 sections heard it. That’s why I decided to pull everyone back just in case. This may be signal interference or other things. I will report to coy HQ for further instructions.”

We had a technical break that night – meaning we did not have to stand guard and could shine our torch lights, cook and sleep etc. None of us could sleep that night and all of us were just discussing what happened. We were deep in the forest and there’s no civilization nearby, how could it be signal interference? After much discussions, we realized that some sections heard the singing very loudly and some were softer. We didn’t know why.

Even today when I meet up my section mates (I still keep in contact with a few of them), we still talk about this incident. Balls really dropped man.

Next story is not a first hand experience but it happened to my seniors who told me the story about our coy line when I was posted back to BMTC to be a commander/instructor. I still have 3 more stories (including 1 which happened at Dogra bridge and 1 that happened near Pigeon Hole). Will share the stories 1 by 1.

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