Sultan visits Sandhurst as Prince enrols for course
By Waleed PD Mahdini

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam consented to visit the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) in Surrey, United Kingdom, as His Royal Highness Prince 'Abdul Mateen enrolled for the one-year-long Commissioning Officers' Cadet Course.

His Majesty, together with HRH Prince 'Abdul Mateen and HRH Princess 'Azemah Ni'matul Bolkiah, were greeted by Major General P C Marriott, Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and his wife, as they arrived at RMAS's Government House. To record the moment for posterity, His Majesty signed the Visitor's Book before the royal guests mingled with those present. This was then preceded with a briefing on the gruelling 44-week-long Commissioning Course that HRH Prince 'Abdul Mateen would be undertaking, which the monarch was no stranger to having successfully graduated himself from the hallowed halls of RMAS in October 1967.

His Majesty was then taken on a tour of the military academy's most famous and beautiful building, the Old College, which houses very distinct memories for every alumni of the RMAS, as it is on the very steps of the Old College that every officer cadet marches up to receive the commissions into the Regular Army when they successfully graduate at the end of the prestigious Sovereign's Parade. Following the tour, the royal guests were then shown a closer look at the accommodation provided for HRH Prince 'Abdul Mateen.

Enrolling under the Academy's 102nd Intake at the age of 19, His Royal Highness's 44-week-long course officially began on Sunday, May 9 and will end on April 15, 2011. Having successfully completed his secondary education at the Jerudong International School, the trials and challenges that the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst will inevitably pose to HRH will be a true test of character that cannot be emulated at any other academic university in the world. Successfully 'graduating' from Sandhurst carries with it the entrusted reputation and recognition of leadership, responsibility and duty.

Each new intake number approximately 270 cadets, each of whom joins a company. The commissioning course is split up into three terms, each lasting 14 weeks, and on each course cadets are put into one of three companies. There can be as many as 10 companies within the RMAS at any one time, each commanded by a Major and named after a famous battle in which the British Army has fought.

The company names vary but are currently Blenheim Company, Inkerman Company, Waterloo Company, Gaza Company, the Somme Company, Ypres Company, Burma Company, Normandy Company and Rhine Company.

According to the RMAS's official website, the purpose of the 44-week Commissioning Course is to develop an Officer Cadet's character, intellect and professional skills. At the end of the course a newly-commissioned officer will have been rigorously trained and qualified to lead and manage soldiers while at the same time upholding the British Army's core values of selfless commitment, respect for others, loyalty, integrity, discipline and courage.

The training syllabus at RMAS covers military, practical and academic subjects and while it is undoubtedly mentally and physically demanding, there are also plenty of time set aside for sports and adventurous training, which will no doubt be a welcome break for the young prince who is a keen sportsman, in particular football.

In the first term of the course, the officer cadets acquire basic military skills as they transform from civilians into soldiers as they are introduced to leadership, tactics, map reading, living in the field, weapon handling, parade drill, physical training and personal administration such as ironing, polishing boots and room layout. The focus is on teamwork and building confidence. Lifelong friendships are often forged as the individuals become a team, helping each other through the pressured early weeks of training.

At the start of the second term, HRH with his other colleagues will be spending more time in Faraday Hall, the academic wing of RMAS, studying subjects such as conventional warfare, international affairs and leadership psychology, on top of the accompanying tough, demanding field exercises.

The final term is where the focus for the officer cadets shift from learning about conventional warfare to different kinds of operations, such as counter-insurgency and peacekeeping. They will be taking part in demanding and realistic field exercises, which include live firing.

The final event that every successful officer cadet looks forward to is the Sovereign's Parade. It is the grandest day in the Sandhurst calendar as friends, family and VIPs gather before Old College Square to watch the cadets take part in their final challenge.

During the ceremony, the Sword of Honour, the Overseas Sword and the Queen's Medal are awarded by the Sovereign's Representative to the top officer cadets. The parade traditionally ends with the Adjutant riding his horse up the steps of Old College as he follows the graduating officer cadets through the Grand Entrance.

After a formal lunch with friends, family and Regimental Officers, the day concludes in spectacular and celebratory fashion at the exclusive Commissioning Ball, where, at the stroke of midnight, the newly commissioned Second Lieutenants proudly display their rank insignia for the first time. - Borneo Bulletin (11th May 2010)