BRUNEI-MUARA – The Defence Academy of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) is central to the country’s efforts to strengthen defence diplomacy with its international partners, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah said on Thursday.

Speaking at the 17th Sovereign’s Parade, where 57 officer cadets were commissioned after a gruelling 52-week course, the monarch said by facilitating bilateral training and professional development between friendly nations, the academy has become a symbol of progress in the RBAF.

“It is hoped that relations between friendly defence forces in the region will be closer, with interaction from the higher level to the lower level.”

Academic exchanges and the presence of international students at the Defence Academy continues to boost Brunei’s efforts to promote friendly relations with countries, he said.

The sharing of education, knowledge and experience is an investment, His Majesty stressed, adding that sharing best practices would also help improve the standards of the RBAF Officer Cadet School, where Brunei’s future military leaders are groomed.

Technology and state-of-the-art equipment is no longer enough to guarantee national security, he added, but the country’s military leaders must also be strategic thinkers with keen intellect.

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As the Defence Academy approaches its tenth anniversary, the monarch said he was confident the academy would continue to gain prestige and become a centre of excellence for military education.

The newly-commissioned officer cadets from the 17th intake of the Officer Cadet School, Royal Brunei Armed Forces. January 17, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Harun/The Scoop

Cadets seek higher purpose through military career

The annual Sovereign’s Parade marks the passing out for the yearly intake of the Officer Cadet School (OCS).

This year, 40 male and 17 female officer cadets were commissioned, with 13 posted to the Royal Brunei Air Force; 10 to the Royal Brunei Navy; and 34 to the Royal Brunei Land Force.

The sultan, in his role as Supreme Commander of the RBAF, presented the “Sword of Honour” to the best in class, Lieutenant Muhammad Hidayatullah Sunazul Fikar Suip.

The cadet, who has two degrees from Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali and Al-Azhar University in Egypt, said he intends to become a religious officer within the armed forces.

“My intention in joining RBAF was to instill Islamic values, because I want to be a teacher and imam,” he told The Scoop. “We need to be very knowledgable in order to defend our country, both spiritually and physically.”

“But I think the most important quality to have as a cadet is humility. We need to be humble in everything we do, regardless of rank or level of knowledge.”

HM the Sultan awarding the Sword of Honour to Lt Muhammad Hidayatullah Sunazul Fikar Suip on January 17, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Harun/The Scoop

For Lieutenant Dk Noorul Aqilah Pg Ishak, the physical demands of the course were the most challenging aspect of cadet training.

“We would wake up at 3am every day, go to the prayer hall, and after that start training before breakfast and class. Then repeat.”

“Most days I would only get two to three hours of sleep, but your body gets used to it.”

“Everyone had to be at the same level of fitness – both male and female,” she added. “We had a lot of different challenges and one of them is something called the combat fitness test. We have to complete a 12.8km course under two hours, while carrying a 10kg bag.”

Dk Noorul, who will be posted with the Ministry of Defence’s public relations unit, said her decision to quit her desk job in the oil and gas industry to join OCS was about finding purpose.

“I feel like I wanted to do more, and I feel this is an organisation that lets you develop yourself in multiple aspects.”

The physical demands of OCS also presented another cadet, Lieutenant Izzati Jalil, with one of her biggest challenges.

“By nature, the army can be a violent profession and the expectation is that all service members are capable of fighting and moving in combat.

“So for someone who isn’t as strong or fast, I must say that although the course is also mentally demanding, I struggled most in the fitness department, especially combat fitness.”

Lt Izzati Jalil (4L) marching during the Sovereign’s Parade with her fellow officer cadets from the 17th OCS intake. Photo: Hazimul Harun/The Scoop

She added that there were no special allowances for female cadets — they were expected to train at the same fitness level as their male counterparts.

“I believe that physical tests should have both gender and age-neutral standards, which we do have. This is simple because the enemy does not specify who they’re going to shoot and not shoot. Combat is combat, that’s just how it is. Over the course of my training in OCS, I never felt limited by my gender.”

Izzati said she will be posted to Depot Logistics, which handles the full range of logistic activity for the military, from rations and supplies to weapons and transport.

“I’ve always tried to be a leader, someone who understands what soldiers’ needs are, what soldiers concerns are — and at the same time to uphold the RBAF standards and be the best example of what an officer should be.

“After a year in OCS, I learnt a lot more about the bigger purpose of why we are doing this. My goal as an officer is to make the RBAF as meaningful as I can for the men under me.”