Royal Brunei Land Force
Months prior to the establishment of Brunei Malay Regiment (BMR) on May 31, 1961, three potential officers of the BMR underwent officer cadet training in Malaya. These three pioneers had witnessed BMR’s growth into respectable armed forces and reached peak positions in the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) and Ministry of Defence (MinDef).
The journey of the ‘three musketeers’ began in early December 1960 when the local newspaper published and radio station announced that there was an opening for officer cadets to be trained at the Federation Military College in Malaya for two years.
By mid-December, 17 brave young men turned up for the selection process at Tasek Lama where they were interviewed by a panel of four officers from the Royal Federation of Malaya Armed Forces at Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien (SOAS) gymnasium. Seven were shortlisted but only three were selected; and they were Sulaiman bin Awang Damit, Mohammad bin Haji Daud and Awangku Ibnu bin Pengiran Apong who read their oaths to the magistrate on December 24, 1960 and left Brunei the next day via Singapore.
During their first year as junior cadets, their training included basic military training such as parade drills, weapons handling, tactics, administration and the military code of justice. They were also given academic lessons to prepare them for Higher School Certificate (equivalent to GCE ‘A’ Level).
Their second year of training as senior cadets was tougher. By November 4, 1961, the cadets were temporarily attached to a battalion at Chepa Base in Kelantan and to Mentakab Base in Pahang to serve and gain more experience as part of the Royal Federation of Malaya Armed Forces.
On December 8, 1962, the three cadet officers successfully completed their training with a Sovereign’s Parade and were each promoted to second lieutenant. It was a significant day for the three cadets and a historic milestone for the BMR.
Over the years, the first three local officers were assigned important roles and posts and took over some of the responsibilities which were previously held by British Loan Service personnel.
Awangku Ibnu bin Pengiran Apong is now known as Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Sanggamara Diraja Major General (Rtd) Pengiran Haji Ibnu Ba’asith bin Pengiran Datu Penghulu Pengiran Haji Apong. His last post was as Deputy Minister of Defence from September 1986 until May 2005.
Meanwhile, Mohammad bin Haji Daud is now known as Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Dewa Major General (Rtd) Dato Seri Pahlawan Haji Mohammad bin Haji Daud. His last post was as the first local Commander of the RBAF on January 1, 1986 until August 10, 1990.
Allahyarham Pehin Datu Indera Setia Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Sulaiman bin Haji Awang Damit’s last post was the second Commander of the RBAF from August 10, 1990 until September 30, 1994.
As pioneers of the RBAF, the three officers have significantly contributed to the development of RBAF and MinDef which became a lasting legacy for their steadfast and wise leadership. Their continuous commitment and sincere sacrifices also motivate every RBAF personnel and will be forever remembered by current and future generations of RBAF personnel and Bruneians for their contributions to the country.