I woke up this morning before 6am to read a text message from one of my former recruits, Sgt Ridzuan (formerly known as Lambirtus bin Hendrikus) from RMAFB Kuantan on the passing of a squadmate of his, Jamiah binti Sardan, in Madinah, Saudi Arabia. She died of complications arising from an advanced stage breast cancer. I don’t remember much of Jamiah because she was among the quieter ones, always minding her own business, but I think I do remember what she looked like 18 years ago. I Googled her name just now and found out that she had sought for advice from other breast-cancer victims; her entry dated 22nd April 2010.
Recruit intake 16/92 was the only recruit intake that I had manage to train from day one until the day they graduated, which is why I can remember most of them, and vice-versa. Wifey witnessed how several approached me, even after more than 15 years of not seeing them. I did not get to witness the graduation of intake 17/93 as I was posted out to take command of the No.107 Squadron in Alor Setar. I was on short attachments to Ipoh for intakes 13/90 and 14/91.
Of course there are those whom I would really remember, either because they were the Block Leaders, or because they were helpful, or because there was something unique about them. For example, Ridzuan’s former name was Lambirtus bin Hendrikus. He hails from Sabah. What was unique about him is the fact that while his whole family were Muslims, he was a Christian, until he converted to Islam in the mid 1990s. His block leader, Kurniawan, was a tall guy from Sipitang. These two were in Alor Setar to do their OJT and with them and a few other airmen, we formed a band until they were posted out. Ridzuan was also a former logger (or lumberjack, if you’re from the States or Canada). And because he was used to retrieving the bodies of other loggers, I roped him in to assist my squadron in the search and recovery of the body of a pilot and of the aircraft wreckage in 1993.
There’s also Rahman Nasir, another block leader, who is a Captain now based in Labuan. He was an athlete and always had this drive for excellence. Upon attaining a degree, he applied to join the Officers Corps and made it to where he is now.
There’s also Ghani, who is still a Corporal for some weird reason. He had unique features, much like the Wayang Kulit character Wak Long So, the instructors under me nicknamed him Phra Kedelik a/l Bah Dol.
I would say Ghani is the most bumped-into of my former recruits, the last was during last year’s Ramadhan when I browsed through the stalls at the Ramadhan Bazaar near my place. I also bumped into several more there – those whose name I cannot remember but they were familiar faces, and they all greeted me first.
Among the female recruits, I had two block leaders: Aida and Azizah. Aida I last saw her when I was still flying in 2000, and she was a technician at the No.10 Squadron, while Azizah I last met at the Strategic Communications Regiment camp in Sungai Buloh, already a Flight Sergeant in 2004. Aida was a silat exponent at national level and I can still remember the sight of her holding one of the male recruits up against the wall by the throat after the latter harassed her.
Then there were the three stooges: Haminah (now a Warrant Officer at the Air Force HQ), Faridah (also a Warrant Officer based in Kuching), and Hasnah (last I heard was in Butterworth). Haminah was the oldest; Faridah’s nickname was (and apparently still is, SENGET), while petite Hasnah’s nickname was KETOT or PENDEK. The former two are Air Quartermasters (stewardesses) while Hasnah became an Air Force cook. And to think that all of them are older than my wife is makes me feel real old.
There’s Fahimah, who is closely associated with the three stooges above. Fahimah’s son goes to the same school as my stepson, Ali. I found out that she saw Wifey and I standing outside the school to see if Ali board’s his school van when school reopened this year. Her husband, also an Air Force personnel, greeted Wifey and I one Sunday morning as we walked towards one of our favourite Mamak joints near our house.
Zilawati (nickname Kupang) was among the youngest and the baby amongst all. I last met her when I was in Alor Setar and did a demonstration freefall jump at the POLIMAS in Jitra, where she was doing her Diploma back in 1994. She had to quit service when she was in Kuantan because she married an officer. Her husband is now posted to Butterworth while she works for a defence-related company there.
There were a lot of non-Malays, be they from Sabah and Sarawak, or from the other races in the Peninsula. Among the female recruits are Jessena Anthony (not sure where she is now although she is in touch with her squadmates), and Chong Sig San (nickname, Ah Moi, for obvious reason) who was also an Air Quartermaster (stewardess) in the No.10 Squadron, but has since left the service. She is now working in the private sector in my former place of residence in Sungai Buloh.
There’s also Latifah Abdul Wahab, whom I think is a Flight Sergeant now, and is now at the Jugra base. What is unique about her is her love for cooking. So during her intake’s final jungle exercise, I assigned her to our Tactical HQ as our cook. And cook she did. She made about 5 types of dishes using the same ingredients 5 times a day throughout the week-long exercise, so I recommended her to become a cook. She also did her OJT in Alor Setar when I was there, and then she went to ITM (now University ITM) to do her Diploma in Hotel and Catering.
18 years ago they graduated from the Recruit Training Center – the same week that I got promoted and my daughter, Farhanah, was born, and in 3 years time they will all leave the service, except for those whom are now commissioned officers. And I am glad I am still friends and in touch with most of them. Of course there have been some that have left the service, but most of them are still there.
Intake 16/92 had their first impromptu reunion recently, and although I was invited to attend, I could not as I was warded at the National Heart Institute for a recurring old problem. I hope to attend their next reunion. Ridzuan updates me frequently on their status, so I have no problems keeping track of them.
Oh, Ridzuan had a nickname too!
Recruits Intake 16/92 with the instructors and I (seated second row 9th from left)
Intake 16/92’s Recent Union on 8th May 2010. Haminah is seated left most, seated right most is Zilawati and next to her in blue is Chong Sig San