NSmen and our hair

A pretty interesting letter that was sent to the Straits Time forum. It is about NSmen’s haircut. Read on before I start to comment.

Can NSmen keep their hair during 1-week ICT?

I ATTENDED my first reservist In-Camp Training (ICT) last week. I trimmed my hair before the ICT, making sure it did not reach my collar and ears, and my fringe did not reach beyond my eyebrows.

On the very first day, to my bewilderment, a warrant officer ordered me to hand over my civilian IC. His reason was that my hair was ‘not in line with SAF standards’. I was then told to join the long queue to get my hair cut.

When my turn came, the barber went through every strand of my hair with the shaver and left me with a crew cut, not much different from a recruit’s.

During the next few days of the ICT, I was surprised to see many NSmen with long, sloppy fringes. Then there was one NSman with dyed golden-brown hair.

Were the barbers instructed to trim every NSman’s hair so that they look like fresh recruits, when trimming the sides and the back would suffice?

If the warrant officer was there to check NSmen’s attire and hair, how was it possible that many with floppy and even coloured hair managed to escape his notice?

During ICT, shouldn’t the focus be on refreshing the NSmen’s skills to make them effective soldiers, rather than on the length of their hair?

How about those NSmen who have civilian careers which require them to keep their hair? Can they obtain permission to do so when they go for their ICT?

Even as we fulfil our national obligation by going for ICT, we have wonderful civilian careers where our physical appearance plays an integral part.

Take the media and entertainment industries. An actor may get to play certain roles based on his looks and appearance, and this would determine his career path.

In the competitive corporate world, where first impressions matter and we are more likely to do business with people we like, one’s looks may just make or break a deal.

Do we have to sacrifice our looks just because of a one-week ICT?

Lim Chin Yuen

This won’t be like my typical answer style where I scold the poster, as this guy makes much sense. In fact, when I was in National Service, I do see some cases of people booking in for ICT. Indeed, they are allowed to have decent length hair and by decent I do not mean bald or recruit-style hairstyle. By decent I mean its the normal kind of hairstyle outside for civilians. After all, a ICT just lasts for a week or so for a low key ICT. My impression was formed that it is ok to have such decent hairstyle for ICT.

However the above letter made me realise that the SAF is still as rigid. Alarm bells are now set in my mind to automatically cut my hair before any upcoming ICT. However if you were to surf the forums you will see a comment that states that there was a guy who trimmed his hair before he booked in, and yet, is still asked to go to the barber in camp to cut a recruit’s hairstyle.

To me, this is really unacceptable. What is even more unacceptable is that there is bias and unfairness in the system. If you ask 1 guy to cut a recruit hairstyle because that is the only acceptable hairstyle, then I feel that you should get everyone to sport the same hairstyle. If you ask one person to cut it like that but allow others to have longer hair, what are we trying to show? Would that guy be loyal to the unit and would that guy be happy for his duration of his ICT?

In war we fight like brothers, but yet, some brothers are more equal than others in terms of hair?

Wayang has always been part and parcel of life. Even in the corporate world, there is wayang. People want to be promoted, so they wayang. However, when they wayang they cause so much distress to everyone. In our 3G SAF (which coincidentally does not allow 3G handphones), our military capabilities have improved. However, is our rulebook still stuck in the 1980s?

Should there be a decent revision to our rulebook regarding NSmen’s hairstyle? I believe if its neat and tidy, we should not penalize our NSmen. Our NSFs are allowed to have non-recruit length hairstyle. Surely our NSmen, who have done more than our NSF’s, be allowed to have the privilege to sport the same hairstyle?

If Mindef wishes for Singapore citizens to be patriotic and serve their ICTs with pride and honour, maybe we should not damage their own personal pride and feelings. Asking one person to cut but allowing others not to is really stupid. If this continues, maybe we should call the SAF a Stupid Acting Farce.

I hate wayang. Especially when your wayang gives me trouble. That, I cannot forgive.

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