DEAD OR ALIVE
The talk of the day now is non other than the magic ‘MERDEKA’ as 31 August is fast approaching. To see the Father of Malaysia shouting ‘MERDEKA! MERDEKA! MERDEKA!’ on tv is a nostalgic experience. Of course, this leads me to reminisce my small contribution in making this beloved country of mine free from communist threats.
Nuri pilots.....we should be honoured and flattered that the communist terrorists (CTs) had put a price on our heads during counter insurgency warfare (CIW) those days! Just like the cowboy films in the wild wild west then. The difference was that we, the heroes, were on the wanted list of the crooks, not the other way round. Why the CTs went all out to incapacitate the pilots, even willing to give monetary rewards? Simply because we were NURI pilots...!
To the CTs, the nuri helicopter was the CRITICAL CAPABILITY (CC). CC is defined as a characteristic or key element of a force that if destroyed, captured or neutralised will significantly undermined the fighting capability of the force (your guess is right....it’s too academic and of course, not mine, OK). That explains why the CTs were always trying very hard to shoot down the nuri during the CIW. The nuri was the life line to the Army. Without the nuri, their mobility while conducting operations in the jungle, would be greatly hampered, if not jeopardized. They depended on us, the nuri pilots, for their food, movement, casualty and medical evacuation, etc, etc. Because of these critical roles of the nuri, these faithful workhorses of the RMAF became the No 1 target of the CTs. Of course, this threat put the lives of these daring young pilots in danger (masuk bakul angkat sendirilah....).
How did we know of the CTs' mission? Well, a friend of the same era e-mailed me reminding that the CTs distributed leaflets in Kroh offering RM3,000 rewards for a pilot's life. As for me, I still remember seeing a leaflet showing sketches of the CT aiming specifically at the pilot, not at the nuri itself, while approaching to land at the LP.
I’m not speaking on behalf of anybody or any organisation, but my perception was that 27 April, 1976 was the blackest day for the RMAF (I hope they share my sentiments). On that day the CTs were successful in bringing down one nuri. I mentioned this incident in my second blog – Pengalaman Ke 2. Now I’m able to furnish you with the complete list of those heroes. They were:
• Kapt (U) Choo YB - 7 Skn
• Kapt (U) Mustapa Kamal - 7 Skn
• Lt (U) Chang MT - 10 Skn
• Lt (U) Wan Munsiff - 10 Skn
• Sjn Leong (AQM) - 10 Skn
• Mej Haris Rejab - RAMD
• Kapt Sulaiman - RAMD
• Lt Ibrahim - RAMD
• Sjn Kamis - RAMD
• L/KPL Kamarulzaman - RGK*
• L/KPL Suandi - RGK*
I was then undergoing a nuri captaincy conversion course at No 10 Sqn; no operational flying for me. If my memory doesn't fail me, nuri support for the CIW operations were temporarily halted for a few days. Most of the nuri were deployed for the funeral arrangements.
For the benefit of the current nuri pilots, the feeling of being shot then was always in our heads. We were sort of waiting when our nuri would be shot whenever we carried out our duties in providing air support to the ground forces, especially at the Malaysian/Thai border. To know more, read my blogs under 'Unforgetable Flying Experiences'.
The nation recognised our sacrifices by conferring bravery awards, namely PGB, PTU and KPK. Yours truly was awarded PTU in 1979; few received posthumously, eg, PGB for the late Capt (U) Choo YB and PTU for the late Lt (U) Chung MT.
It’s a real pity that the recipients of PTU and KPK medals do not receive monthly allowance as their SP and PGB counterparts. The proposal by MINDEF in supporting that we, too be given allowance was rejected by the government recently (see my blog entitled ‘Pengiktirafan Negara....Nyawa Atau Nama’).
To the young Malaysians especially, I'm proud to say that our sacrifices, loyalty and dedication in defending this beloved country of ours contribute to the prosperity you are enjoying now.
Dedicated to my colleagues, the nuri pilots. Remember my friends...... we are a special breed of patriots. OUR PATRIOTISM IS BEYOND DOUBTS!
Note: * The two heroes were from RGK - not from RAMD as posted earlier. The mistake was brought to my attention by 'Abah' who was at the CTs' camp when the nuri was shot. Thank you Abah.