Why I joined the SAF

I have just came back from a 2 hour session of coffee talk at West Coast Plaza with two of my fellow colleagues and coursemates. The long course that we have gone through had only ended yesterday. I was feeling lost since yesterday, like there was a void within me, making me rather frustrated and angsty. But after the entire talking session, I felt so much better, as if some sense of normalcy had returned to my life. After spending so many months of life together with the guys, I had grown rather attached to them. This is an indescribable feeling that few could understand.

I made the decision to join the SAF last year in about February. It was not a hard decision to make for me. Many peers would probably face more emotional obstacles and end up not choosing this path as a career. It was naturally so, since NS was a concept hideous to many. You would probably face resistance in the form of your friends, asking you questions that reeks of madness and insanity. “Are you sure”, is something that would sound very familiar to those of us who chose to return to the organization many had bad memories in.

Sure, there are bad eggs in the organization. People who do not do what they are supposed to and leave a pile of shit for you to clear. But many times it was from your fellow peers, the NSFs who caused the problem. Granted, there are regulars who have caused huge problems too, but every organization would have them. The very friend who did that in SAF might work in a private firm and continue his hideous practice. Ultimately there are bad eggs in each company, and it is impossible to avoid. In the end, it is what you choose to do about it. I choose to see for myself what it is like in here, and I told myself I would change what is wrong and continue what is done well. I choose to accept it as a responsibility.

There are not many jobs in the world which could have given me the opportunity to have job rotation every few years. In the private sector, such opportunities are usually given to the scholarship holders. Here, however, we have a career with people planning our job rotations, from base appointment to staff tours, providing valuable experience in people management and policy making. We would even have the chance to work outside our field of expertise. Some would get a chance to deal with training and others, human resource, to quote a few. These are cherished opportunities which I found interesting.

My colleagues and I signed on for a purpose which we found meaningful. Given the current internet climate, many would declare that we had been brainwashed to serve our political masters, that there was nothing to defend in Singapore, that NS is for Singaporeans, jobs are for foreigners. But for the few of us who are here, we feel that it is something important. While we respect the right of others to have the above mentioned opinion, we also have a right to making our own judgements and not be thought of as brainless. We are here because we want to play a part, and there was this career that allows us to have both financial stability and job satisfaction. Why not then?

There are only a handful of jobs that group new hires together, people of your own age group, to train for about a year in matters relating to the company. We are fortunate to be able to learn and see for ourselves the functions of various parts of the organization and gain a deeper understanding in the roles we play. We are also lucky to be able to develop our own network of emotional bonds with our peers. Through thick and thin we finished the course together, feeling happy for each other genuinely. This is something that is hard to find outside in the private sector. It is this sense of satisfaction after every course that is addictive. It is this bond that you make and build upon that becomes so valuable, drawing me back to this organization and becoming a career soldier.

Eventually we all complete the course, eager to start a new beginning at our new posting, yet apprehensive about what is to come. Yet a sense of calm falls upon you when you see familiar faces once again, and you feel that even when the course has ended, the bonds remain. That each goodbye seems a little sad as we do not know when we will see each other again, but it comes with the anticipation of the next meeting.

I think I found the right job for myself. I’m a career soldier.

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