27 February 2019

Zero-Ing In On A STAR Sniper

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By Hadi Hafidz (Photos: Special Tactics and Rescue)




In the northern part of Singapore, a forested area exudes calmness, with the grass and leaves rustling from the slight breeze. Camouflaged within this veil of calmness is a man in a prone position for the past few hours with unwavering focus, while remaining as still as a statue. He takes a deep breath, holds it in and pulls the trigger. With pinpoint accuracy, he takes down a hostage-taker from a distance away.


Such are the scenarios that our Special Tactics and Rescue (STAR) Snipers from the STAR unit are professionally trained for. They specialise in long-range shooting as they provide both armed support and conduct situational observation from afar. In this final instalment of the STAR trilogy, Police Life interviews Sergeant (Sgt) ‘K’ who has been in the STAR unit for the past three years, as he shares insights on the motivation and challenges of a STAR Sniper.


The journey began when Sgt ‘K’ was serving his National Service (NS) with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), where he gained exposure in long-range shooting and began developing an interest in it.


Reignited Passion




After completing his NS, Sgt ‘K’ worked as a first-aid trainer for about a year. He came across the STAR recruitment advertisement on Facebook one day, which rekindled his interest to pursue a career in this specialist field. More importantly, he believed that he had the physical fitness, mental resilience and weaponry skills to contribute to the SPF’s fight against crime.


Sgt ‘K’ applied directly to be an officer for the STAR unit, with the ultimate ambition of becoming a STAR Sniper. He pushed through the mental and physical rigours of the initial eight-month course to be certified as a STAR operator. He then spent two months in the Basic Air Diving course and the Basic Oxygen Diving course, which all STAR operators had to go through.


After completing all the courses, he was selected for the month-long Advanced Sniper Course (ASC). Different from the 10 initial months of training, Sgt ‘K’ shared that the course presented a more mental than physical challenge.


“During the ASC, we were regularly trained in long-range shooting while remaining still in a prone position for hours. It was extremely challenging to remain focussed. When your whole body began to feel numb after hours in prone position, you could only relieve the numbness by stretching without moving abruptly and attracting attention. Staying awake was another challenge in itself when the trainings were conducted through the night,” shared Sgt ‘K’.



As STAR Snipers are required to remain ‘invisible’, they are also trained in cover and concealment. Usually deployed some distance away from their target location, a STAR Sniper is also trained to select the best route, and move stealthily using their camouflage skills towards it. All of these are executed while having their standard assault gear of about 20 kilograms (kg) on. Depending on the situation, they may even be required to carry an additional 30kg of equipment to aid in observation and concealment.




The Grand Finale


The final hurdle - before Sgt ‘K’ could officially be called a STAR Sniper - was the test of a simulated STAR Sniper mission, in which these operators applied what they learnt during the ASC.


“I recalled being dropped off and navigating my way through to the target location. A few hours later, I eventually arrived and set up my post. My job then was to get in position and be ready to shoot the distant target upon receiving the command through the communications set. The toughest part of the mission was that the wait for the command took more than 12 hours!” exclaimed Sgt ‘K’.



Despite the extreme focus and patience required throughout the ASC, Sgt ‘K’ eventually completed the course. However, training does not end there. To further enhance their adaptability based on terrain, STAR Snipers go through additional courses overseas. For example, STAR Snipers have regular trainings at the field firing ranges in Australia, allowing them to fire up to a kilometre.


The terrain also allows them to train in strong winds – whereby firing an accurate shot requires the analysis of several environmental variables including wind direction, temperature and altitude. Furthermore, training in different terrain improves their adaptability to varying weather conditions, as the STAR Snipers would need to acclimatise themselves from Singapore’s tropical weather to cold weather such as in Australia.


Sgt ‘K’ also shared that, to constantly improve on his ability, he initiates his own training on his days off. Sgt ‘K’ recently picked up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu which helps a lot with his endurance and agility. He also does weight and endurance training where he had to load up a 20kg backpack and embark on a 10 kilometres endurance run-walk.



The Motivational Factor


Due to the risks involved as a STAR Sniper, his family members are understandably worried. But Sgt ‘K’ continued to receive their continuous support as they know the unwavering passion that he has for the job.


“Regardless of whether I have to report for training or activation, my family would always hug me tightly when I return home safely. This motivates me to perform my utmost best during training so that when on missions, I will be able to help ensure that the victims of crime can go home and feel the embrace of their family members like how I have always felt with my own,” shared Sgt ‘K’.


STAR Snipers require an extremely high level of patience and focus, as the wait for the split-second moment to pull the trigger is unpredictable. Their roles are critical as they provide the necessary armed and observational support to their fellow STAR operators, to ensure that the STAR unit continues to provide the highest level of tactical armed response when called upon to safeguard Singapore’s every day.


*This article is the final part of a three-piece profile feature of our STAR officers in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the STAR unit.


The first and second part of the three-piece feature on the STAR operators and the STAR Main Course can be found in the previous two issues of Police Life magazine.


For SPF officers who aspire to be part of the STAR family, the STAR unit will be recruiting officers for the 20th batch of the STAR unit from November 2018 to January 2019.


For members of the public who are interested to apply directly to the STAR unit, do visit our Singapore Police Force’s Facebook page to sign up for the STAR selection course.


Last Updated on 27 February 2019