Life in Butterworth was not much different from that of Kuantan. My husband was still doing a lot of flying. The first thing that came to my mind when he told me of his posting to Butterworth was that there would not be any more detachments to Butterworth since he would be there all the time. I was so wrong. They had detachments at Kroh instead. After the Gubir incident, I was constantly plagued by the fear that something equally tragic would happen again.
I was more relieved than happy when he was chosen for the Qualified Helicopter Instructor (QHI) course at Alor Setar. This meant that there would be a break from operational flying for him throughout the entire duration of the three-month course. It also meant that I, too, would have a break from worrying about his safety. Little did that I know, at that point in time, that this course would leave an indelible mark on his career. One which would haunt him AND me, as a wife, for a long time to come.
He would come home on weekends and I would ask how he was faring at the course. I was quite concerned, of course, because I was not there to coach him like I did for his Cats, like I wrote here. But, he proudly announced that he was doing fine. However, there was something else he told me that made me quiver uncomfortably inside. There were no written assessments as far as ground school was concerned. So, it was purely subjective was my mental conclusion. While written assessments are simple and clear-cut, a subjective assesment would require a certain amount of integrity on the part of the examiner. I know, because as a teacher, I had a tendency to be biased when evaluating my students subjectively. It was so easy to be swayed by emotions.
When he got news, just a few weeks into the course, that he would be posted to the Helicopter Training School in Kluang, Johor as one of the OCs (Officer Commanding) on completion of the course, it was like sending him to the gallows. It was a Major’s appointment and this meant that he would be promoted when he reported for duty in Kluang. In an organisation steeped in rank rivalry, the good news stayed with him only for a few days before it was cruelly snatched away. He flunked the course, never got to be posted to Kluang AND not promoted. (He passed his Captain to Major exams when he was in Kuantan)
It hit him hard but it hit me harder seeing him so frustrated and depressed. For the first time after joining the Air Force, he started talking about leaving it. He even sat for the Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) test soon after he failed the QHI course. While he started to pick up the pieces and resumed life back at the squadron, I turned Sherlock Holmes to try and unravel the sudden mysterious decline in his performance AFTER the posting order came.
I made some shocking discoveries which led to my husband’s early dismissal from the course. Suffice to say that he was a victim of circumstance. He was at the wrong place the wrong time. He might not have been a straight-A student but I know he could have passed the course. He was not that dumb and silly. It was so unfortuate that he was at the mercy of those also vying and eyeing to be promoted to Major. Remarks like “Don’t be too sure of your posting” and “I’ll make sure you don’t attend anymore QHI courses” were proof enough of their extreme animosity towards my husband AFTER he got the posting order. Had they been the ones chosen to be the OC at Kluang, my husband would have passed the course AND WITH FLYING COLOURS, TOO.
To be continued………