Valour and Courage: Lieutenant Colonel Linus Lunsong "The Little Iban Warrior"
Death or Glory
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In A Foxhole
“When you're left wounded on

Afganistan's plains and

the women come out to cut up what remains,

Just roll to your rifle

and blow out your brains,

And go to your God like a soldier”

“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,

for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .”
“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.

“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.

“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

The Soldier stood and faced God


Which must always come to pass

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He hoped his shoes were shining

Just as bright as his brass

"Step forward you Soldier,

How shall I deal with you?


Have you always turned the other cheek?


To My Church have you been true?"


"No, Lord, I guess I ain't


Because those of us who carry guns


Can't always be a saint."

I've had to work on Sundays

And at times my talk was tough,

And sometimes I've been violent,

Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny

That wasn't mine to keep.

Though I worked a lot of overtime

When the bills got just too steep,

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said

And I never passed a cry for help

Though at times I shook with fear,

And sometimes, God forgive me,

I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place

Among the people here.

They never wanted me around


Except to calm their fears.


If you've a place for me here,


Lord, It needn't be so grand,


I never expected or had too much,


But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was silence all around the throne

Where the saints had often trod

As the Soldier waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you Soldier,

You've borne your burden well.

Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,

You've done your time in Hell."

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Lieutenant Colonel Linus Lunsong "The Little Iban Warrior"
Friday, February 23, 2007
MY LIFE IN A NUTSHELL

I was the Commanding Officer of 22 Para Komando Rejimen (parachute regiment) based in Kuala Kubu Bharu, Selangor when I left the Army after almost 20 years of service. That I thought was a commendable achievement for a ‘little Iban’ who hails from Sibu Sarawak

I grew up in a longhouse at Tuai Rumah Nyala, Sibu about a kilometer from Bukit Aup, a place famous for offerings or niat, in the Iban language. Every weekend we could see people from all walks of lives come to the hilltop making offerings to appease their gods. We were part of this mystical mountain.

Growing up as an Iban kid was fun. We had rivers to swim and jungles to roam. We never once worry, for we had plenty of food to eat and water to drink. We had no refrigerators but that was never a problem since there was no electricity. Everything was available fresh from the jungles and the rivers. We learned to trap birds, animals and catch fish. Our parents and the longhouse’s elders would teach us basic hunting skills which we perfected as we grew up. They would take us into the jungles and taught us how to identify birds by sight and sounds. And we thoroughly enjoyed these gifts of Mother Nature.

Many of us graduated, in our own rights, some became farmers, some teachers, some professionals, one or two became bomoh (shamans) and few, like me, ended as solider boys. Anyway, I did make them proud when I graduated as the best cadet in my intake, Short Service Commission Intake 12, Royal Military College, 1968.

In 1959, I bade farewell to my longhouse folks to study in Sacred Heart School, Sibu. I did come back occasionally during the school holidays to savour the wonderful time I had as a kid. Things were slowly changing as time past by. We could no longer run and swim naked like before. Fish became rare, so were the animals and the birds we used to hunt. I had to read books and do my homework at night, things unheard of during my childhood days.

I finished my Senior Cambridge in 1965 and got a job as Technical Assistant Grade 11 in Post and Telegraph. It was to please my grandpa who could no longer afford to send me for further studies. I had to work hard to get through the ranks and was ready for a diploma course at the Telecom Training Centre, Gurney Road, Kuala Lumpur in 1967. I turned down the offer and chose to join the Royal Military College as a cadet officer instead.

I was commissioned to the Third Battalion Ranger Regiment in 1968 based at Kuala Kubu Bharu, Selangor. I was given the opportunity to switch to the Air Force but the Ranger spirit was too great to resist. No regrets though, 3 Rangers was a great infantry battalion, perhaps one of the best then. I served with many great soldiers who were not only brave but were dedicated and hard working. There were Ibans, Kadazans, Muruts , Kayan, Kenyah, Chinese, Malays, Indians and others. All of them subscribed to the great Ranger spirit of Agi Idup Agi Ngelaban (As long as there is life there is fight).

In 1970 I applied to attend a commando course at the Rejimen Para Komando Angkatan Darat Indonesia in Bandung, Indonesia. I was the only officer among the few hundred applicants selected for the course. I left Taiping with a note to my orderly saying,only my body will return. I‘ll pass the commando course(hanya mayat sahaja akan pulang, saya akan lulus dan berjaya di kursus Komando ). Yes, I did. I qualified for both the Red Beret and the Green Beret, at the same time. All the skills I had acquired as a kid were put to good use. I survived and passed the course with flying colours.

I am proud till this very day to be one of the four commandos of the Malaysian Special Service Regiment (MSSR) who were trained for one year, in Bandung and Sg Udang, and had the dubious honour to don both the Red and Green berets. And in spite of such rigorous training schedule, I sat and passed my Lieutenant to Captain Examination - both practical and written. The following year, I was posted to Bandung as Liaison Officer with the rank of Captain - super fast!

In 1973, the MSSR sent me to the Special Service Regiment, Perth Australia to attend the Shallow Water Diver Instructor (Demolition) course. Two years later the regiment sent me to the British Royal Marines, United Kingdom for the Swimmer Canoeist course. I became a ‘complete commando’ and was among the ‘elite’ after five gruelling years - the toughest part of my life.

I was awarded the Pingat Kepujian Perutusan Keberanian (Mentioned in Despatch) by DYMM Agong in 1973 for the success in wiping up the infamous 5th Assault Unit under Chong Chor in Pahang. My troop killed one communist terrorist, wounded a few and captured two. A month later, the entire group was annihilated. Our eventual score, one terrorist killed, two captured, 16 died of starvation and two surrendered - Chong Chor and his wife. One of the most successful campaigns in the MSSR annals.

In 1976, I was posted to Sibu as a Military Intelligent Officer (MIO) attached to the Special Branch (SB) at the Rejang Area Security Command Headquarters (RASCOM). I had the best of the Border Scout personnel (the elite of the Iban fighters) trained under my direction. Three months after their covert operation training, we had our first kill, our first baptism of fire, so to speak . Months after that we killed a few more. Within the next 18 months we killed nine more and almost wiped off the entire Oya Muka Tatau Group operating in the 3rd Division and a splinter group operating in the 4th Division of Sarawak. These two groups were remnants of the North Kalimantan People’s Army, which was active during the Confrontation years of 1960s.

Unfortunately though, the Military and the Police Field Force were not very happy with my successes. Instead of rejoicing over my achievement, they accused me of being traitor. I was blamed for acting on my own and not sharing the information with them . I became an outcast to friends and foes alike. I was advised by the Head of Special Branch to pack my bags and leave RASCOM for good. I returned to the MSSR base at Sg Udang Camp in 1977.

At Sg Udang, I was assigned to the Special Warfare Training Centre as Officer Commanding Amphibious Wing. Besides training we also conducted beach survey of the coast of Peninsular Malaysia stretching from Tumpat to Sedili Kecil in Johore Bahru. We explored the beautiful islands of Perhentian, Tioman, Langkawi and Rawa, to name a few. We parachuted into Kelantan, Terenganu , Pahang and Johor. We did what we were ordered to do.

I served as a staff officer and did a stint at the Ministry of Defence and the Army Corps Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. I was also an instructor at the Officer Cadet School in Port Dickson. I had a wonderful time in the Army and experienced the best in the Military. I am no stranger to the Army neither the Navy nor the Air Force. I am proud to be dubbed an “officer and a gentleman”. Fine qualities which I have acquired from my military training.

In 1984, I was awarded the Ahli Mangku Negara by the DYMM Yang DiPertuan Agong, Sultan Iskandar of Johor. That was my most defining moment.

PRE-CADET TRAINING AT SG BESI CAMP

On the evening of the eve of my departure from my longhouse, we had a small gathering consisting of my immediate family members to pray for guidance and protection from the Heavenly Father. We could not start early because my father was still missing, making his way back from a neighbouring longhouse and bringing along the pengaroh’(talisman) from my uncle who lived a few kilometres from where we were.

My grandfather, an ex-teacher and a strict disciplinarian, was furious. He could no longer hold his anger. “What?” he shouted, “How many pengaroh does he need?” He stood up and went straight to the wooden box underneath the bed, opened the case and took out a bundle of taring babi (wild bore tusks). He placed them on a small plate and said, “These will be enough to see him through his army days. They had done a great job for me before and will continue to do so”.

I was silent throughout the prayer session not knowing what to say or do. My thought was running wild, wandering and thinking how I would survive in a foreign land and having to leave home for the first time. Would I be able to make it, only God knows!

The next day, as I was about to depart, we received news that one of neighbours had died. Bad omen to a few but the majority believed that it was a good send off for me. I could not be bothered. I could not wait much longer and was looking forward to don the green military uniform. I gave my parents a big hug and said goodbye, wiping off my tears as I boarded the rickety old bus to the airport nearby.

A few days before I was doing the same, bidding farewell to my colleagues at the Post and Telegraph office and my kampong mates in Sibu town. It was a sad occasion. I would not know whether I would be seeing them again.

I had to transit in Kuching before departing for Kuala Lumpur the following day on a military aircraft. There were a few others who were headed for the military college on the aircraft. The plane landed at the Royal Malaysian Air Force, Air Base, Sg Besi and we were taken straight to the Royal Military College (RMC), about an hour and half journey through the busy streets of Kuala Lumpur.

We reached the college at about 7.30 pm, tired and hungry. Instead of heading to the canteen, the military truck stopped right in the middle of the square or parade ground, considered sacred to the military fraternity. Suddenly all hell broke lose. We heard people shouting for the vehicle to move. Dirty words and curses resonated from every nook and corner of the walled-up square. Not comprehending what in the world was happening, we disembarked cautiously from the truck, frightened and dishevelled.

Suddenly a man in a full uniform came. Shahir was the name on his nametag He was the Duty Officer. He shouted for us to “fall in“. We could not understand a word he was saying because we had, until then, had not heard any military words of command. He was furious and was bent on giving us hell. Sharir was expressionless and did not show us any sympathy. “Ten push ups and ten ketok ketampi,” he shouted, as he continued picking on us one after another. It was real torture, an ordeal that lasted for almost an hour.

We were relieved when told to move to the First Artillery Regiment Camp about a mile away from the college. Along the way the driver was apologetic and was feeling bad for being the cause of the unpleasant experience. A bit too late, I guess. The damage was done.

Upon reaching the camp, my friend David Foo from Sibu was inconsolable. He had a nervous breakdown and wanted to catch the next flight home but we managed to persuade him to stay. That was our first baptism of fire, of sorts. In the weeks and months to come we were to experience more. Although our bodies and limbs ached our spirits were never broken They had been hardened, as we took the punishments in our strides.

The next day more trainees arrived at the artillery camp. Soon our barracks were filled. I no longer felt lonely as the long weekend brought in many more new recruits. I could see excitements written all over the faces. Everyone was eager to start afresh. We could not wait for Monday to begin.

That was the beginning of training for army cadets of Short Service Commission Intake 12. We would be at RMC for the next six months before graduation.

We did our basic military training for a month at the artillery camp. This was to prepare us for life at RMC. We started the day with physical training (PT) either running, log PT or assault course and followed by foot drills. The programme was repeated every other day. It was monotonous but was fun to see how clumsy and uncoordinated some were when marching on the drill square. On alternate evening we played football and volleyball. This provided some forms of entertainment for many of us. It was also time to interact with my new-found friends. The rudimentary living conditions were seemingly much better than the conditions in our kampongs and longhouses. At least we got to eat four square meals a day. I was satisfied and had no reasons to complain.

It was tough at the beginning but enjoyable. Every one of us was having problems trying hard to digest the words of command, figuring which foot to push forward, which arm to swing and which side to turn the head. Cadet Hardev Singh suffered the most. His near comatose brain failed him miserably.

But surprisingly a month later, Hardev, together with the rest, were able to march in unison and in harmony not only in steps but style, much to the delight of our drill instructors who had spent tirelessly ensuring that we were ready for RMC. They had worked magic. Kudos to these unsung heroes who had taught us the ropes in spite of the many shortcomings.

Unfortunately for me on the second week of the training, I dislocated my ankle and my right foot was swollen. The blue black lasted about three days but the pain was excruciating. I was sent to the Casualty Receiving Centre or CRS nearby for treatment. I could not lift my entire foot and was almost bedridden. Suddenly a friend came. He was Rahim from Penang. “ Tonight when everyone is asleep, I will massage your ankle but don’t let anyone know otherwise I’ll be in trouble’, he said. Rahim made me promised to keep his offer a secret till the end.

At around mid-night Rahim came as promised. He started with a short jampi (payers) and touched my foot. I did not feel any pain right from the moment he touched my right foot till the end. He massaged for about an hour. When it was over so did the pain. It was puzzling. Rahim had worked miracle. My foot was healed with his magic touch. I was inquisitive and asked him how he managed to take away the pain? “Shhh”, was all he could muster, his finger to his lips. With that he left leaving me more puzzled than ever. Rahim, a bomoh urut so famous up in the north. I had no way of ascertaining the truth till today. It was simply amazing.

The next day I was back on my feet again. Everybody including the nurse who treated me was surprised. I could not give them an answer but smiled and chose to remain quiet to the very end. I had given Rahim my word.

A month later we had a passing out parade, a mini graduation of sorts, marking an end to the pre-induction training. This pre-training was moved to Port Dickson with later intakes. The parade, as anticipated, went on smoothly. We had accomplished our mission and had benefited from it tremendously. Our physical fitness and proficiency had been boosted and we were ready to face the rigorous challenges at RMC. The pains and sufferings we experienced bind us together and our comradeship remained strong to this very day.

The evening on the eve of the passing-out parade, I was adjudged the best dressed gentleman of the intake. It was flattering indeed. An achievement, nonetheless. I felt honoured.

Lt-Col (Rtd) Linus Lunsong served with a Ranger battalion and the Malaysian Special Service Regiment during the height of the Second Emergency (1972 to 1989). This is Part One of the serial from his book, “The Little Iban Warrior.”
posted by D.Swami Gwekanandam @ 5:49 AM  
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