I received an email from one Zulfatah Ibeni who claimed to be the son of a soldier i.e. 19803 Cpl Ibeni @ Zakaria bin Othman who served with me when I was the Commanding Officer (CO), 9th Battalion Royal Malay Regiment(RMR) based in Alor Star, Kedah. That was back in 1981, and I served the battalion for only 17 months. Zulfatah Ibeni had found out that I was with his father serving the same battalion from reading some articles in my blog.
Being a toddler then, Zulfatah says that he hardly remembers his childhood days being the son of a soldier living among the families of soldiers of the battalion. He had asked me if I could write something about the battalion that his late father had served.
Firstly, I must admit that the late Cpl Ibeni @ Zakaria must have been one of my loyal and active soldiers. I say this without the slightest doubt because throughout my tenure as the CO, I was never troubled by ill disciplined and disloyal soldiers. Yes, there were some naughty ones, but they being young; I could understand why some got into petty problems, like returning to camp late, being absent for the morning physical training parade and some others. As the CO, petty issues do not bother me, but what concerns me most is that soldiers mustn’t lose sight of their soldierly ability and skill.
The battalion being located closed to the Thai-Malaysia border was the battalion of choice for any military operations conducted astride the border area. Sintok, an area that was once a communist terrorist hot bed in the late 60’s and early 70’s was to become the usual operational area for the battalion. The battalion would be deployed for a period of 3 months at a stretch, and would usually be replaced by 9th Ranger Battalion based in Penang. I remembered the CO of the battalion was then Lt Col Harchand Singh. The operational roulement between 9th Battalion RMR and 9th Rangers was to go on throughout my tenure with the battalion.
My joyous moment with the battalion was when we won the finals of the Sultan Abdul Halim football championship played at the Alor Star stadium. I think we played against 7th Battalion RMR and we won by just a goal margin. I remembered too that the Chief of Army then i.e. General Zain Hashim who was on an operational visit was late in arriving, and this was a cause of concern for me, since the Sultan of Kedah was to be present at the football match.
One particular incident that I wish not to remember was when a senior officer who had come from Army HQ, Kuala Lumpur to attend the football tournament had slapped my young officer at the Officers Mess. The reason was that this young officer whom I had appointed to be the Master of Ceremony at the football tournament made a wrong announcement on the arrival of the VIPs. I was told about the incident when I got to the Officers Mess, and I called up the senior officer to meet me for an explanation. He was visibly upset to be called by a subordinate, but I thought I had the right to be told of the incident involving my officer. A minor argument ensued but being a subordinate; I had to control my temper. I think, had he been of my rank or a junior, I would have bashed him and I do not mind being court martial. The reason is simple i.e. he had abused my young officer, and what right has he to lay his hands on a young officer knowing full well that the young officer could not retaliate. Following the incident and my encounter with the senior officer, I knew my career would not be a smooth one. Throughout my service, I had constantly avoided the senior officer.
HQ 12th Infantry Brigade had just been formed at Kangar, Perlis, and the battalion was placed under command of the Brigade. Prior to this we were under the command of HQ 6th Infantry Brigade located at Sg. Petani, Kedah. Being the only regular infantry battalion under command of the newly raised Brigade HQ, the battalion was constantly called to provide assistance in organizing the various activities of the Brigade. The other battalion was the Territorial Army Battalion manning the border area, with its Battalion HQ located at Bukit Kayu Hitam. Being deployed throughout the year, there was little that the battalion could do to assist the Brigade in its activities.
My next posting was announced sometime in June 1982. I was then on operations at Sintok when I received the news of my posting to HQ 4th Infantry Brigade at Temerloh, Pahang. I was to take over the appointment as Chief of Staff, a similar position that I have held when I was the Brigade Major of HQ 6th Infantry Brigade. I wondered why I was given a similar appointment whose only difference was in the rank structure, but the job specification remains more or less the same. I knew then that there were many other officers of my seniority who never served with a Brigade HQ, and my posting to an Infantry Brigade was to be for the third time.
I had send a message to my Commander requesting that I be relieve of my command only after I had completed my tour of operational duty. Earlier, I had received a message from HQ 4th Infantry Brigade ordering me to report for duty without delay, and it was because of this message that I had requested from my Commander to allow me to complete my operational duty first. My request however was not agreeable to HQ 4th Infantry Brigade, and I had to hand over the battalion while on operational duty to the late Lt Col Istama Teguh, who had just been appointed the CO of the newly raised 31st Battalion RMR. I bid farewell to all those at the Battalion Tactical HQ and departed without ever meeting and saying farewell to the troops that were deployed in the jungle areas. This was to be the saddest moment of my entire military career.
I hope the above brief write up of my tenure with 9th Battalion RMR is sufficient to satisfy Zulfatah Ibeni. Being the CO has made me to realize that with command comes a host of responsibilities. That responsibility is not confined to the officers and men that I command, but it also extends to their families.
Finally, I would like to also say this to Zulfatah Ibeni that it was not only your late father that I cared for, but that I also cared for you and your entire family members.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION