You’ve heard about the Standard Obstacle Course (SOC) that you’ll be going through while in Basic Military Training (BMT). You’ve seen videos but you still wonder what exactly entails in the process.
Here’s everything you need to know so you don’t seem like a blur sotong when training begins!
What is SOC?
The SOC is a physical test conducted to test your agility, strength and combat endurance. The obstacle course is done through progressive training over the course of multiple sessions. In BMT, you will slowly be introduced to each station obstacle by trainers. You would not need to complete the full course immediately.
There will also be different training attire as you progress through each training, up until the Standard Battle Order (SBO) with the SAR21 rifle.
What are the stations in SOC?
These are the following stations in order and what they consist of:
- Low wall
- Stepping Stones
- Dodging panels
- Low rope
- Balancing bridge
- Apex ladder
There is an introductory session in which trainers will demonstrate how to properly land from a certain height. This is necessary for safety and you will practice this on a small platform. Typically, they will focus your introductory training on the Low Wall, Low Rope and Apex Ladder. This is where the recruits tend to have the most issues overcoming them.
If you are posted to a combat unit after BMT, SOC becomes the Vocational Obstacle Course (VOC). It is a team-based version of the same course, with added gear and a rundown distance required. Every single team member would have to clear the finish line within the given timing. Despite the added strain on requirements, working in a team means you can help each other clear obstacles such as the Low Wall and Low Rope.
What is the passing timing for SOC?
Timings for SOC are not as important in BMT as compared to VOC in a combat unit. Having gone through BMT myself, my trainers did not require us to complete the course by a specific timing. The focus was to ensure that everyone was able to clear all obstacles together.
At the end of the day, BMT trainers simply want to prepare soldiers for the next stage in their NS life.
You can find out more about the BMT schedule here.
How do I train for SOC?
Strength and stamina are important for clearing the obstacles. Outside of the routine daily training, you can train for SOC by doing various exercises during your admin time. There are pull-up bars at the coyline to train your upper body strength. If you are not tired at the end of the day, you can also run around the courtyard to train your stamina.
In BMT, practising on the SOC grounds on your own time is not allowed. However, you can try asking your commanders if they will allow a group of recruits to train at the grounds under supervision.
Commanders would be more than willing to help everyone for SOC, especially if your section mates are keen to train together.
At certain camps outside of Pulau Tekong, you should be able to find the practice equipment for the Low Wall and Low Rope.
These are some tips to clear the more challenging obstacles:
The Low Wall can be challenging due to the strength required to pull yourself up and over the wall. Pulling up your own body weight with the SBO and rifle slung behind you is not easy at all! However, you can train for this in two ways. You will need to train your upper body strength to be used to pulling your body weight and more. Also, being able to jump higher means less energy is spent trying to pull yourself up the Low Wall.
By doing pull-ups and squat-jumps, you can increase your upper body strength and vertical jump explosiveness.
This station can be quite unfair to the shorter soldiers as they would need to jump higher. Mentally prepare yourself to go over the wall, instead of simply climbing up the wall. Using this mind-over-body approach can help you subconsciously use compound muscles, instead of isolating your strength from just your arms and legs.
As most physical training instructors will tell you, the Low Rope can be cleared by technique. If you have strong arm muscles, you can simply pull yourself up all the way. If not, trainers will show you the technique of wrapping the rope around your boots to rise up the rope. This method is about using your core muscles to tuck your legs up, grip the rope, and proceed to ‘stand up’ on the rope. Repeat this a couple of times to reach the top.
Remember to conserve your strength for the remaining obstacles.
The Balancing Bridge tends to be more of a mental difficulty than a physical problem. Being so high up on a single plank can make you worry you will fall. As you ascend and descend the beams, make use of your boots’ treads to grip onto the ridges provided. When you are on the top, look straight ahead and simply keep walking.
Practice will help you gain more confidence on the beams and soon it will be muscle memory.
This station is another scary obstacle recruits may have difficulty completing the first few times. As the Apex Ladder’s steps are made of cylindrical timber, your balance will be tested. Carrying extra gear might make it seem difficult, but you can use that to your advantage. Use the weight of your SAR21 rifle as a balancing stick so your centre of gravity is in the middle.
Soon, carrying that much gear will be like second nature.
Hold your rifle lower while ascending and higher up while descending. This balances out your body weight so your legs can do all the work.
The SOC is part and parcel of BMT. It can be one of the more exciting physical training when compared to the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT). It is a fairly quick physical training exercise, yet useful as you will use these obstacle clearing skills in urban operations such as climbing through windows.
You will also significantly train your balance with the weighted gear.
As you experience more ‘conducts’, your confidence will build over time. Before you know it, you will breeze past each station and all you’ll need is the stamina to push through!
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