The feeling few men can forget is the cool, compelling weightiness of holding a gun for the very first time.
For those of the opposite gender, it’s a feeling a handful can relate to.
Holding the MP5 submachine gun in my two hands, it felt dangerous. It felt powerful.
But the nervousness I felt must have been nothing compared to what members of the Emergency Response Teams (ERT) feel, with the responsibility of protecting citizens on their shoulders.
On Mar. 6, the media was invited to attend a demonstration by the Singapore Police Force’s Special Operations Command in the lead up to Exercise Northstar XI on Mar. 22.
The multi-agency counter terrorism exercise, which will be held on Jurong Island, will showcase the Singapore’s capabilities in handling major crises and possible threat scenarios.
Emergency Response Teams
“The terror attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015 and Jakarta on Jan. 14, 2016 have demonstrated a shift in the modus operandi of terrorists, which is to indiscriminately inflict as many casualties as possible in the shortest time, with no intention to capture hostages or negotiate for their release,” an SPF spokesperson said.
In order to mitigate such threats, the SPF developed the ERTs in June 2016.
Officers of this fast responding force are tactically trained and equipped with higher firepower, to swiftly neutralise attackers and minimise casualties.
They undergo arduous trainings, both tactical and physical, to prepare them for their role.
Because this job requires high levels of mental resilience, good physical fitness, and the ability to perform under intense pressure, only officers with exceptional physical fitness and marksmanship are selected for the ERT.
One recent case where the ERT was deployed was on Jan. 9, 2023, where a woman was held at knifepoint at Yishun Ring Road.
On any given day, patrol teams of four officers are deployed around the clock at places with high footfall, with at least seven teams are on the ground at one time.
To gain better insight into the ERTs operations, reporters were invited to participate in a live-firing exercise and hostage scenario.
Although I was firing blank rounds, holding a 3kg gun for the very first time made my heart race.
Donning 8kg worth of ballistic protection did nothing to calm my nerves either.
Before the demonstration, we caught a glimpse of what firing actual live rounds looks like.
As a person who had never been in the vicinity of a gun, let alone use one, the deafening sound of rounds being discharged was shocking even through ear mufflers.
The officers who did the live-firing stood 15m away from the target and did not miss a single shot.
I was once told that shooting while kneeling down is harder than shooting while standing, but the officers were able to execute the firing drills perfectly.
Keen to try the weapons out for ourselves, we suited up with ballistic vests and helmets, which were heavy and difficult to move in.
Peering through the red dot scope a mere 5m away from the target, I was instructed to position the dot at the top of the target.
As expected, the recoil, albeit less than firing actual rounds, still took me aback, literally.
I quickly emptied out the 10 rounds given, glad to not make a fool of myself any longer, and leave the shooting to the professionals.
We were then shown a scenario of tactical movements during an operation in a HDB-like setting.
The scenario started off with a officer posing as a gunman running into a flat in an attempt to hide from pursuing officers.
Before he could point his gun at the approaching officers, he was disarmed and taken down — all within seconds.
The officers then surrounded him and apprehended the gunman.
The next scenario demonstrated a hostage situation, where another officer posed as a gunman, but this time, he dragged an innocent civilian into the firefight.
The gunman then threatened to shoot his hostage if his demands were not met.
He subsequently threw his hostage onto the ground and attempted to bolt. That was when ERT officers seized the opportunity to subdue the gunman.
They shot the gunman and after he fell to the ground, ERT officers moved in to cuff him and cleared the area.
As the hostage scenario ended, I hoped that we would not have to face such scenarios in our lives, even though I was amazed by the preparedness of our troops.
We can be assured that help is just around the corner.
Top photo via Mothership