Mon, 22 Dec 2003

Army to parade new special unit on special day

Muninggar Sri Saraswati The Jakarta Post Jakarta

The maiden public appearance of 10 battalions of Raider combat troops will highlight the Army Day celebration in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta on Monday.

Comprising around 8,000 soldiers the new strike force have completed six months training and will face a baptism of fire in Aceh, where they will fight Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels.

Army chief of staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu said the celebration would be the biggest one ever.

"This will be our greatest celebration so far," he said on the sidelines of a rehearsal for the commemoration on Friday.

Ryamizard said the celebration would convey the message that the Army could hold its head high despite its low budget.

"We have always fought for the country despite our poor condition," he said, dismissing allegations that the celebration was related to next year's elections.

The Army Day, called Hari Juang Kartika falls on Dec. 15, and is observed to commemorate the battle between People's Defense Soldiers (TKR), under the founding father of the Indonesian Military (TNI) the late Gen. Soedirman, against Allied troops in Ambarawa, Central Java 58 years ago.

TKR managed to fend off the Allied troops, albeit briefly between Dec. 12, 1945 and Dec. 15, 1945, but it was considered monumental due to the fact that the Indonesian soldiers lacked weaponry. The TKR was the beginnings of the Indonesian Army.

Ryamizard will inaugurate the Raider battalions on Army Day, the third time it has been observed with a huge military parade.

He said the Raider unit was created to be a mobile unit of the Army, which is able to respond rapidly to acts of terrorism and to fight in long-term battles.

"The soldiers have been selected from members of regional military commands (Kodam) across the country. They have undergone special training for six months, similar to the training of Kopassus soldiers," he said, referring to the Army's Special Forces.

Ryamizard said the establishment of the Raider battalions cost the Army some Rp 50 billion.

The new battalions are equipped with SS1-VI rifles, a modification of the SS1 produced by state-owned weapon producer Pindad.

During the celebration, the soldiers are expected to perform some maneuvers on two Russian-made Mi-35 helicopters, which were bought recently by the government.