Editor’s Note: The following story was told by a US Navy soldier stationed in Singapore in 2002.
In 2002 the John C. Stennis battle group was steaming towards the Middle East. We stopped in Changi Naval Base Singapore for a few days of port call. My duty day was the last day. That morning when I reported to watch I pulled bus rider for 8 hours. My watch was to ensure that everybody riding the bus from downtown Singapore had military ID and the proper sticker on their ID Card. I could only get off the bus at the Naval base and had to stay on for the entire ride into town. I did however get to wear civilian clothes (khaki pants with a polo shirt tucked in wearing a belt, lucky!!!)
The Bus route took us to someplace downtown where we would park for about 30 minutes and pick up Sailors and Marines. Everybody getting on the bus had to show proper ID.
This happened at the half way point waiting for Sailors and Marines.
Middle eastern bus driver wearing full Arab garb sans Keffiyah, “My friend, why don’t you go use the bathroom or get a drink.”
Me with headache needing to use bathroom and probably thirsty, “No, I can wait. Thank you any ways.”
For the 30 minutes we were parked, he would ask me once or twice if I was ok and if I needed to get off the bus. My response was always what I had just said more or less. This continued for my entire watch.
Anyways, it’s my second to last ride with the same bus and we are parked at the rendezvous. He asks me again if I am ok and I respond I am good.
At this point a guy tries to get on the bus. He is dressed like any other Sailor and has a backpack, he looks like he could be Filipino. I ask for his ID and he just looks at me. Doesn’t say anything. I ask him again, same thing.
Bus driver, “It’s hot outside, let him on?”
Me, “I can’t let him on without ID. Hey man, did you lose your ID, go tell Security, cause I can’t let you on.”
Again nothing, this guy is outside the bus, just looking at me. That’s when the bus driver starts speaking Farsi or something to this guy and he takes off his back pack and shows it to the bus driver. He walks away and sits in the shade. At this point my heart is beating like crazy.
Bus driver is quiet and starts smoking. I remember I wanted to get off the bus and find a CDO or something but I can’t, nobody comes by while we are parked. I was worried that guy would get on the bus with his bag.
Sailors start coming back and getting on the bus. I check all their IDs in turn. We fill up and the bus driver takes us back to Changi. I get off the bus and find a CDO and tell him everything.
Angry CDO, “You’re just paranoid!” He said something like that, I remember walking away nonplussed.
So I confided in the other bus riders. And they all told me that had also happened to them during their watch. At this point we were really freaked out and told the CDO who in turn said this.
“I can’t wait to get off this watch, all of you shut up, you get off watch in an hour and a half!” He walked away pissed off.
I remember telling all of them to make sure they don’t let anybody on the bus without ID and to never leave the buses. Also we all agreed to pass down what we had all talked about.
We finished the last bus ride without incident and upon returning to the ship I saw the CDO talking to another Khaki doing passdown. I remember he was angry when he saw me I actually felt embarrassed.
The next day they secured liberty and we set out to sea as normal. I was sitting in the shop telling my shipmates about the crazy bus drivers for a while.
We were watching CNN when it broke the headlines a few days later that something like 27 people were caught in Singapore in a foiled plot to commit terror while the John C Stennis Battle Group was in port. All the bus drivers were arrested along with some of the security. They confiscated maps and explosives.
No one ever came to talk to me. I never saw any paperwork, I was never talked to or thanked. I never even got to see the guys I stood watch with and congratulate them cause our crew was so big, I was night check. We spent another 6-7 months in the gulf dropping bombs in Afghanistan. It was in the back of my mind what we had did, but I was so busy working I never really had time to talk to anybody else.