I RECENTLY attended the launch of the book In Pursuit of Quality Soldiering by General Tan Sri Borhan Ahmad. General Borhan is credited as the man behind the Malaysian Green Berets, our very own elite commandos. He retired as the 12th Chief of Defence in 1995 after an illustrious career spanning almost four decades.
I pondered on the book more than the event, realising this is military history, untold and simply relating a story of not only the career of a soldier but also of courage, morality, loyalty, dedication and the threats the nation has faced. The book gives an unusual insight to the humble beginnings of our Special Forces, the struggles to keep them relevant and what they are today – equal to any other similar outfit in the world!
The author’s exploits range from experiences in the Congo to the end of the communist insurgency in Malaysia. Interestingly, he also covers his experiences in our foreign missions as a defence attache, the highlight of which was the evacuation of the Malaysian embassy in Vietnam during the fall of Saigon in 1975 at the end of the Vietnam War.
He firmly expresses his belief that “You should not be afraid to say no if you know you are right”. Reading his book, I was enlightened about the challenges of command, leadership, comradeship and trust. Going from a leader of a small elite patrol of four people to the chief of the country’s entire defence force is no small feat, and very few people can achieve this. Now in his early 80s, General Borhan still looks sprightly and has a great sense of humour. I sense that “training the soldier to excellence” runs in his veins and was his passion.
I could see the pride in him when he declared that in his time the home of the commandos – Camp Iskandar in Mersing, Johor – was realised. The camp was officially opened in 2005 by the Colonel-in-Chief of the commandos then, HRH Sultan Iskandar, the Sultan of Johor. This advanced training facility for special forces is one of the best in the world.
My fervent hope is that memoirs such as this will be freely available in school libraries so that the youn-ger generation can be inspired by the sacrifices of the uniformed men and women who give their all for God, king and country.
I also urge more retired generals to put pen to paper and keep the history of our military alive and in perspective to educate the younger generations, to forge a resilient nation with courage, sacrifice and dignity.
MAJOR AR RAMACHANDRAN (RETD)