Serving to protect the country

Hakim Hayat

The men and women who serve under the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) for the protection of the country are annually honoured in the Sultanate on May 31.

RBAF, formally known as Askar Melayu Brunei or Brunei Malay Regiment was officially formed on May 31, 1961, a year following Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam’s ascension the throne as the 28th Sultan of Brunei Darussalam.

On May 31, 1965, the Brunei Malay Regiment was bestowed with a royal title and was later known as Askar Melayu Di Raja Brunei (Royal Brunei Malay Regiment).

During the coronation of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam as the 29th Sultan of Brunei on October 5, 1967, His Majesty proclaimed to continue sustaining policies of his father, in preserving peace, tranquillity and the utmost effort for the prosperity and preserving the good name of the country.

As the Sultanate gained independence in 1984, the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment was renamed the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, with His Majesty taking over as the Minister of Defence ever since.

Under the leadership of His Majesty, the RBAF underwent tremendous transformation that enabled it to strengthen its military capabilities, and improved defence diplomacy, to safeguard Brunei’s economic, political; and security interests.

RBAF personnel during a march-past. PHOTOS: BAHYIAH BAKIR & RBAF
Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) personnel rappel from a helicopter during an arena performance
ABOVE & BELOW: RBAF personnel assist mosque congregants during Friday prayers; and RBAF and Royal Brunei Police Force personnel during a joint operation

A personnel stationed at the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex (CIQ) screens the body temperature of an individual entering the Sultanate
Personnel loading luggage for individuals returning from overseas to quarantine zones

59 years of progress

As the armed forces marks its 59th anniversary of establishment this year, the RBAF are continuously committed to evolve in line with fast-paced global trends and an increasingly complex geo-political landscape, particularly in conducting defence policies, improving defence capabilities, enhancing defence diplomacy and contributing to national development.

This is in line with His Majesty’s titah at the 58th RBAF anniversary celebration last year, where His Majesty stressed that amid a peaceful and harmonious environment, we must not be complacent and remain vigilant with rapidly evolving dynamic global and cross-border threats.

“Our level of vigilance must be stepped up from time to time. It must be consistent without any break. Certainly, the RBAF is the main role player here,” His Majesty said.

As they carry out their collective mission in defending the nation, the RBAF are also strongly focussed in maintaining high standards of discipline and the implementation of its core values ​​of taqwa (faith), loyalty, courage and professionalism among its personnel.

The RBAF will continue to inculcate strong spirit and patriotism in establishing and building effective operational capacity in supporting the wishes of His Majesty in developing a strong and capable armed forces.

The RBAF have accomplished a string of significant milestones made on a sustainable basis for a positive impact on its mission, roles and responsibilities for the country’s security.

Under the leadership of His Majesty over nearly six decades, significant developments were achieved, including the development of the armed forces’ human resources, capabilities, defence diplomacy cooperation, involvement in regional and international operations, as well as the establishment of several enablers to operational support.

The tireless dedication within the RBAF to increase defence diplomacy efforts and build rapport with other nations within several bilateral and multi-lateral platforms have garnered milestones.

Themed ‘Together Accomplishing the National Vision’, this year’s anniversary, in tandem with last year’s theme, symbolises RBAF’s continuous efforts in helping the country achieve its national vision.

Looking back at some of its recent milestones as it reaches 59 years of establishment, several positive transformations and developments were achieved, based on guidelines from MinDef and the RBAF Commander 2020-2021 directive.

The directive serves to deliver the aspiration and as a guide to all levels of the RBAF to ensure they continue to exercise their role and responsibility in upholding the peace and sovereignty of the nation.

Among the key messages in the order include the importance of upholding the SEPADU; which comprises values of Sekuriti (security), Efisien (efficient), Piawaian (standards), Agama (religion), Disiplin (discipline) and Upaya (capability); so that all personnel are unceasingly alert and smart in safeguarding security as a whole, boosting the efficiency of work management towards achieving an efficient organisation, competent in maintaining and achieving high standards, observing religious teachings based on the Ahli Sunnah Wal Jama’ah and understanding Masaqid Syariah to achieve a balance between work and religion.

RBAF’s crucial role in Brunei’s fight against COVID-19

As the country ramped up its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic that gripped the country early March this year, the government worked in coordination to ensure the containment of the disease in the community.

During the pandemic, several RBAF personnel, under the RBAF Task Force Support COVID-19, along with health frontliners and other enforcement agencies relayed assistance and support.

In support of the Ministry of Health (MoH)’s precautionary measures to prevent the importation of cases into Brunei, RBAF deployed its personnel to scan body temperatures at the Sungai Tujoh Immigration and Customs Control Post on February 15.

Over 500 RBAF personnel were involved in the frontline of the COVID-19 fight since the activation of the COVID-19 Operation Room on March 12.

The RBAF Task Force Support COVID-19 was activated on March 18 to provide logistical and administration support to the MoH. The task force is responsible for providing transport services and the coordination of human resources and administration.

The men and women of the task force worked tirelessly to provide liaison officers at the MoH Emergency Operations Centre (MOHEOC); workforce for logistical management of donations at the Health Promotion Centre (HPC); workforce and clerical support at the Sports Village Quarantine Centre; workforce support at Immigration Control Posts and support at the Department Emergency Operations Centre (DEOC), MoH.

As the COVID-19 situation gets under control, the task force focusses on transportation operations. Over 500 deployments were made and over 3,500 passengers were transported by the RBAF since March 19.

In ensuring that all its drivers are qualified, the RBAF is working closely with the Land Transport Department and the Training Institute, RBAF.

The Mobile Admin Support Team (MAST) also helped coordinate the entry of passengers into Brunei via land, sea and air and logistical support to designated self-isolation centres. The MAST was also deployed to assist Immigration and Customs Control Posts at Sungai Tujoh and Labu. Since March 20, 12 tasks were successfully carried out.

As mosques, suraus and religious halls across the country re-opened for Friday prayers after 10 weeks of closure, the RBAF in collaboration with the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) and mosque, surau and religious hall Takmir Committees also deployed its personnel to ensure the smooth flow of congregants and welfare.

Since April 20, the Security Task Force COVID-19 was also jointly established between the RBPF and RBAF to prevent illegal entry into the country through mouse trails at Kampong Bebuloh, Kampong Lumapas and Kampong Junjongan in an effort to prevent unnecessary and uncontrollable spread of COVID-19 within the country.

Apart from land surveillance by the Royal Brunei Land Force (RBLF), maritime and air surveillance by the Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAirF) and Royal Brunei Navy (RBN), especially in Brunei waters also stepped up to ensure no foreign boats or ships enter.

Those found entering Brunei’s waters are given stern warning and escorted out.

In line with the whole of government approach, the RBAF has established a temporary lab at the Brunei Agricultural Research Centre (BARC), Kampong Kilanas to support the MoH in combating the spread of COVID-19 infection and as part of their capability contingency plan.

The lab is manned by seven RBAF personnel and equipped with a Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) machine.

Cooperative measures seen with the setup of this lab includes training of the military personnel by Scientific Officers from Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) as well as the Department of Laboratory Services, MoH. This falls in line with the COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan and to support Brunei to overcome the pandemic.

Seven RBAF personnel, comprising officers and other ranks completed lab revision training in March. RBAF personnel are also deployed at the Virology Lab of the MoH.

The RBAF also provided financial support to the COVID-19 Relief Fund. The donation is part of their commitment and social responsibility in helping the MoH handle the COVID-19 fight and ensure the welfare of frontliners.

A different celebration this year

As the country is still facing threats from the pandemic, this year’s RBAF anniversary celebration will be different from previous years, where the annual main highlight would usually be the grand parade, arena shows and static exhibitions.

Despite the pause to the usual celebrations, religious and community activities will still be conducted, while adhering to guidelines issued by the MoH.