As you enter your unit after Basic Military Training (BMT), you are briefed that you will go through the Army Training Evaluation Centre (ATEC) evaluation stages during your two years in National Service (NS).
But what exactly does it entail?
Here’s what you need to know:
What is ATEC in SAF?
The ATEC evaluation is a form of assessment by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to test a unit’s combat readiness. This consists of various mission-based exercises by an external body. Trainers from ATEC will be following your group as you train.
Additionally, an Opposing Force (OPFOR) from another unit will be the “enemy” during these exercises to test your battalion.
Typically, a National Serviceman Full-time (NSF) in a combat unit will go through the full evaluation stages.
However, not all units in the SAF go through the ATEC evaluation. Only combat units such as infantry, guards, commandos and armour units will have to be evaluated.
ATEC evaluations officially begin after your unit’s physical and vocational training. It is split into multiple rotations typically labelled from ROT1 to ROT5.
Each rotation signifies a different stage of evaluation, ascending from a section level to a battalion level.
Units do go overseas to train for the evaluation. However, battalions in the previous years did not get the opportunity to travel due to the pandemic. Depending on the rotation and availability, your unit may execute these overseas. Overseas exercises typically happen in Brunei and Taiwan.
The grading system is based on the combat readiness of the unit at each stage level. REDCON 1 being the highest awarded, all the way to REDCON 3.
Sometimes, a mission is repeated until the Commanding Officer (CO) is satisfied with the REDCON status achieved.
Reservist units also go through another round of ATEC evaluation during their In-Camp Training (ICT). This is also to test the reservist battalion’s operational readiness.
If you’re wondering how to check your reservist unit, you can check out this guide here.
How many stages are there in ATEC?
There are up to five stages as part of the unit’s ATEC evaluation. This will occur progressively as your unit trains, whilst carrying out SAF duties such as National Day Parade or security trooper operations. These are what usually happens for each ATEC stage in both conventional and urban operations:
You will start your ATEC evaluation as a section. External ATEC trainers will be training your platoon through many outfields. This is to brush up the fundamentals on a smaller level as your unit builds up to each stage.
Do get comfortable with going outfield as you will be going through them with much more equipment and weapon systems!
For most units, ROT2 is conducted in Brunei. This happens over the course of three gruelling weeks in an overseas camp, and in the Brunei jungle. Most soldiers dread going there due to the experience.
The terrain is vastly different from Singapore forests, where many terrible stories about Brunei come about from previous NSFs. You will hear stories about the infamous thick jungle, which not only blocks movement, but also how the steep terrain tires you out quickly.
NSFs have also mentioned that it is hotter there as compared to the already humid Singapore.
There are also many additional roles within the platoon as technology in SAF advances. Drones are now used in some units, with soldiers trained in using them.
As your platoon slowly advances into their second year, ROT3 is all about fighting at a company level. Personally, I feel your individual role gets easier as you progress through these stages. As you also get used to your role in the section, you may gain a little more privilege to operate freely.
This is because the trainers now focus at a higher level on how the entire company cooperates.
Moreover, the unit companies will take rotational turns to carry out their various duties. These duties include security for key installations in Singapore, such as Changi Airport and Sembawang Wharves.
ROT4 is about battalion-level mission exercises. If you are lucky, your unit will go overseas once again. This is different as you may be training in the cold weather of the Taiwan mountains. At this point in your journey, you would be seasoned in the field, and this can seem like a holiday. It is like having a camping journey with your buddies in another country!
While the steep mountains are still physically challenging, the cool climate and scenery of the training grounds are beautiful. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the views you will get up in the mountains at night. The food from the camp’s cookhouse was also one of the highlights during my time spent in Taiwan.
There will also be a short Rest and Recreation (R&R) at the end of training to explore Taiwan as a tourist with your buddies.
ROT5 also consists of another battalion exercise. This is the final mission exercise for the battalion to be evaluated. Also, it is the final outfield of your two years in NS. Feelings will reach an all-time high as you and your buddies finally approach your Operationally Ready Date (ORD)!
Not everyone completes the full ATEC evaluation within their two years in NS. Personally, I reached my ORD halfway through ROT2. I was only posted to a combat unit as a section commander to train the troopers from BMT until another commander took over as I ORD’ed.
What are some of the abbreviations used during ATEC?
In NS, there are many abbreviations and ATEC is no different. Here are some commonly used terms used:
|OPFOR||Opposing Force (aggressors)|
|PME||Platoon Mission Exercise|
|CME||Company Mission Exercise|
|BME||Battalion Mission Exercise|
|SOP||Standard Operating Procedure|
ATEC might seem like a long process. It does take up a majority of your two years in a combat unit.
There will be physically and mentally tiring moments during the many outfield training sessions. However, there are also multiple breaks in-between outfields to rest before the next one.
Completing the full ATEC evaluation can be a proud moment for you and your buddies. Having accomplished a tough journey together is something that not every NSFs get to do.
Hopefully, with each stage taken one step at a time, it will get easier and you will definitely have some stories to tell at the end of it all!
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