National Service

In the past couple of days, we have seen fellow Singaporeans get all riled up on various matters like the increasing numbers of mrt breakdowns, the underaged sex case involving 48 men, and the responses of a member of the female population on whether they appreciate guys serving National Service upon them. The last one struck me the most considering how I have always felt about the topic.

I feel that I do not require the random female on the street to appreciate what I have done for my country as a former NSF. After all, what I have done cannot be felt, and it cannot be talked about in greater detail. However, at the very least, do not belittle the many efforts that Singaporean men have put in over the past many years in order to build up a credible defence force capable of applying that sufficient amount of deterence so that we can all sleep peacefully at night. Do not, for once profess to understand the sacrifices each one of us made for our nation. Even operationally ready NSmen might not get the full picture of the real work the SAF does.

The SAF is a highly complex organization with many roles and responsibilities. Each person contributes in his way to ensure the smooth operation of the organization. Everything that is being done has its own reasons, and even those who served might not really understand higher intent. Besides, we comprise of citizen soldiers who might have encountered a bad experience with lousy commanders. Else, it might be that they thought they were right in certain opinion but there might be a different reason that exists, which might change their opinion if they know. Hence sometimes the Nsmen vent their frustration online and with friends. This is normal and can be expected. What we should do is to understand.

Additionally, even if such grown men whine, it does not mean that they are weak. Behind that mask might lie someone who never once ran away from any challenge. They might be men who you trust enough to go to war with. I do not know how to explain the feeling when you have people whom you can trust enough to go to war with. Sure, there might be people who try to keng and escape work and duties, but there are also men who finished their service without giving up. For the people who worked hard and didn’t complain, we owe it to them to give some basic formof respect that you would accord to another human being.

After 4 years of university, I rejoined the SAF as an engineer. There are about 19 of us who graduated before signing on. We are about 25 years old and we had to endure through tough, regimental training to be an officer. Sure, there were times we complained as a means to endure, but we all made it through. These are people who, despite complaining, manage to accomplish what is needed. This shows one simple thing, we may complain, but we still get the job done. Social media just made it easier for you to see our complaints, but that doesn’t make us any weaker than our forefathers.

I once saw a quote that goes like this: “No one can make you feel inferior other than yourself”. No matter what others may think of you, as long as we stand firm with our principles and values, no one can make us weak by claiming we are. Let us show them that as matured men, we are able to take the criticisms in our stride. Let no one ever feel that we are weak. Let them know, “I contributed to the safety of this country. What have you done?”. And one day in the future, perhaps we would manage to crossover from being neutral to being truly appreciated and respected. But first, we must not look down on ourselves.

My iTouch arrived

I bought my iTouch 8GB on Sunday 26th June 2011 through the Apple online store. It is a refurbished unit sold at $248 nett, and I bought it because I needed a non-camera phone due to my working requirements; the Air Force is a military organization hence information is sensitive there. It arrived yesterday, 28th June 2011, which is quite fast since it took them only one working day to send the iTouch out for shipping. DHL Express ensured I received my iTouch first thing in the morning at 9:15am.

You didn’t read wrongly, I bought an iTouch whose purpose is to replace my iPhone. In the next few days, I would get the CPeel adapter that would “convert” my iTouch into an iPhone by giving it sms, phone and GPRS capabilities. It might not be as great as an iPhone, but at least it can still be used.

I wanted a phone that I can use my whatsapp on, since it makes no sense if my friends send me whatsapp messages but I can only read them on the weekends. The other possible contender is the Blackberry phone, yet it does seem that you require a Blackberry plan for most of the functions. Since I am unable to purchase a Blackberry plan, I might as well do this modification so my iTouch can serve the same purpose as my iPhone.

The refurbished iTouch is nicely wrapped and secured to the iPod box through film wrap.

The contents inside the box are shown above. Since I have the USB cable already from my iPhone, I kept it as a spare in case the existing one gets spoilt. The earphones are also kept since I have my in-ear phones that I bought for my iPhone.

When I buy the Cpeel Adapter, I would then take more photos to show everyone.

Becoming a Guardsmen III

I realized it has been a long time since I carried on writing about becoming a Guardsmen. I was surfing some forums today and I realized that there were just a batch of ASLC graduates who were being posted there. Some of them were worried and decided to ask about the Guards Conversion Course. In fact, an analysis done on the search terms that led to my site being read yielded a significant amount of people searching about the Guards Conversion Course. I remember being one of them myself when I was newly posted in.

The Guards Conversion Course for me lasted a few weeks. I forgot if it was 5 or 6 weeks, or was it longer. I hope through this post, one can gain an idea of what is going on.

There is this myth going on that GCC is the only time you can tekan the officer when you take up appointments. This myth is partially true as not every batch of GCC comprises of officers and specialists together. Furthermore, it is very childish to think that you can finally tekan officers, because once they graduate from GCC, they become your officers and then you might be in for a hard life if they are people who bear grudges. I think it is better to treat everyone like a fellow trainee, with respect as and when needed. If you forget a sense of brotherhood with the officers, your life might be better off.

I was in the batch with officers in it. However the officers were for 3GDS whereas the specialists were trained for 1GDS. This might mean that we do not have anything to do with each other once GCC is done, but as luck would have it, my ICT PC was from that very same GCC.

GCC comprises of many things, but the main core components include the 12km Fast March in FBO where you have to walk 6km per hour as opposed to 4km per hour in a normal route march. This component is the toughest to me, and it is indeed mind over body as you endure through the pain to meet the timings.

Next is the 2km coastal swim component where one has to train swimming in the normal swimming pools first before going to the sea. It is very safe and you wear the life jackets while swimming. It is one of the best parts of the training.

Thirdly, the heli-rappeling component which some might say is the best part. It is the most exciting as you get to come down to the ground from a real life super puma helicopter, feeling the downwash of the blades in the process. It is not difficult and is quite relaxing unless you have a fear of heights. However you will soon get used to it and start to love it.

Lastly, the summary exercise. It was a hellish 5 days, but it was bearable. We were basically deprived of proper sleep, only getting some naps in between missions. At the beginning it was still quite easy, but fatigue sets in afterwards. I still remember how we had normal conventional missions as well as OOTW (Operations Other Than War) like peacekeeping missions to carry out. It was a new experience. Mistakes were made and lessons were re-learnt. At the end of the 5 days, we were very happy to return all the ammunition, and we embarked on a journey back to camp in the 5 tonners, but it was not to be.

Midway throughout the journey, after every one of us fell asleep, we were awakened and asked to alight in FBO. They forced us to carry out a new mission, that is to route march back to camp. However we did not directly return, but routed past the camp location just to clock the distance. We believed we walked an additional 16km while being half asleep. I also remember walking with my head by the fence whenever a fence was present. We were that tired. By the time we reach back into camp, our feets are sore. Some of us were so tired that they scolded the RSM unknowingly as they were just highly irritable. Thankfully our commanders were all very understanding people. One of us still fell asleep halfway throughout the parade and we heard a loud thunk on the floor.

We were very proud to get our Guards tab and khaki beret, the feeling that we earned it with our sweat made it all worthwhile. It is more of a character building experience than a tekan session. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, hearing nonsensical stories from the past soldiers.

Those 4 tasks above were compulsory for us to pass through GCC. There is another event that wasn’t “compulsory” but we had to do it anyway. That was the beach PT. After learning all the drills for beaching, we were told to put our equipment down and then thrown off the craft. We swam to shore and began this intensive tekan session that involved leopard crawling. Those who were too slow had to do it again. We had to be in push up position whilst each and every one of us had to leopard crawl below each other. It was a test of endurance as our arms are sore. Not to mention the idiotic questions that come to test your mental power in harsh times. I remember my question was “How many ‘Guards’ are there in the Guards creed”. Thankfully I guessed correctly.

The Guards Conversion Course is not a sick course. It is something that every one is able to do unless you are medically unfit. I am a very skinny person and I weigh no more than 50kg. Yet I am able to complete the training without additional help given. Everything is merely mind over body. The GCC had given me character building lessons that I cannot find elsewhere, and its values and spirit has guided me through my entire life since then. It is something to be proud of, and not something to be shunned away.

If any of you have more questions, leave me a comment and I will reply ASAP. I would only have trouble replying you if I am currently in OCS being trained. 🙂

With Pride we lead, SISPEC

On my way home today, I saw that CyberPioneerTV has uploaded some videos about Basic Military Training (BMT) onto YouTube. Hence I took the opportunity to watch the first two videos, with the first being the theme buddy and the second being the IPPT taken during BMT. It brought me some chuckles and I smiled as I watched the videos. It sure brings back plenty of memories. The video is titled “Every Singaporean Son” if I remember correctly.

For one, I remember that I went to bathe before I headed down to Pulau Tekong for my enlistment on that fateful day in 2005. I remember crying as I felt so helpless because I have to head down to such a foreign place with nobody else but other enlistees. I had no idea what was in store for me other than what was written in the forums. That feeling of helplessness is not what anyone could ever imagine. You have to be in my situation to understand.

Thankfully I managed to adapt quite well although I sure missed my family during the weeks in BMT. I am glad that I completed my NS and became one of Singapore’s sons. It was a great learning experience that you will never get elsewhere. I am sure glad I ended up in SISPEC after BMT, and even though the going went tough, I did not quit.

With Pride We Lead, SISPEC!

ICT of 740 GDS

I’ve just completed my first ICT of 740 GDS today and I must say that ICT is not slack at all! ICT for Guards is a very sick thing even though there were some periods of time we were waiting for things to happen outfield. Just on Thursday alone, we went out at 7.30am and reached camp on Friday 1am!

The men had more rest time in between activities, and they can lie on their bed and sleep for periods of time but I have been going for meetings and taking instructions and doing a lot of things. But overall it was not really that physically draining. However, who goes for an 8km combat march in the first ICT?

All along we heard stories of how the ICT is a very slack event. People playing cards in the bunk etc. But it’s totally not like that especially for commanders.

The 8km combat march is the most physically draining affair. After about 2 and a half years of not doing army related stuff, I was plunged into full battle order and we walked for 1+ hours just for 1 km. I seriously do not believe that it was 8km. It may be 8km on map distance, but the physical distance you walk up slope and down slope just means we walk longer. Plus for the first 4 km we were walking near fast march pace.

Overall I’ve learnt that we all were seriously unfit, but the reason why we could all continue on without dropping out is because we’ve been conditioned not to. Lennard, who from the day I knew him wanted to OOC from GCC and fall out from ICT, didn’t OOC and didn’t fall out. The 84 cmdrs, KH, Jasper and Kwa also walked on with their 84 guns and manpacks and completed the whole march.

The company ended up being the best in every segment possible, but we weren’t rewarded with anything from our superiors at B HQ. In fact, the B HQ didn’t seem to understand the men at all, and I think they all should try a section commander stint to get to understand what the men and specialists want in reality. Despite all the nonsense from HQ, I think we all will come back again even though we said we wouldn’t want to. This is because of the deep friendships we have forged over the years, and will continue to forge. A relationship that isn’t just about being acquainted with other people, but about knowing that they will walk the distance with you, complaining together, but still walking, and supporting you along the way. Knowing that they truly care and will want the best for you. Knowing that you will want the best for them.

It’s the little things that says so much. How my previous section took lunch for me even though I am no longer their sect comd but their Plt Sgt. How we just laugh at simple things. How we will just go the extra mile to take the 100plus for our men even though we are already very shag out. How among the ba long long-ness we all managed to survive well. How that when someone’s feet swelled, he still continued to walk and kept on going. About my section 2ic who stills calls me sgt kenneth during civilian days, and how he actually bought a can of 100 plus for me and his section when we were out for training. How we did not care that there’s no distinction between specs and men when we sit down during field training. How a very special group of people just took the bedsheets down without me needing to assign duties.

I have changed my opinion about many people during the ICT. I was very impressed with my group of specialists, my co-ps and the section commanders and my MG cmdr. We’re all different, but we make a great team. I think I learnt a lot this ICT, and I’m glad I was there.

What will you defend?

That’s the total defence day tagline for this year, and I think it’s a good question that we should all think about. If we seriously ponder, there are many things that each and every one will defend.

Just yesterday when I met up with Nelson’s other friends for badminton, I found out that they are also from Guards, except that they were from 3 Guards and I was from 1 Guards. Different batch too. One of them commented that Guards is sick. I said no.

Personally Guards is a tough unit, but all the more I’m proud to say I graduated from the conversion course, endured my whole NS journey with my fellow Guardsmen, and grew up together with them. It is this pride that keeps you going, that keeps me saying proudly, “Yes I am a Guardsmen”.

But back to the question. What will you defend?

I’ll defend Singapore because this is my home. I don’t care who is running this country, whether it is this government or any government, because to me, Singapore is this geographical entity bounded by the hearts of each and every single Singaporean. No matter which political party takes over, Singapore is still Singapore and this is still my country. So don’t comment and argue about how could I love a country that [insert your ideas here].

I’ll defend my family because that’s where my life is.

I’ll also defend my ideas on freedom and my rights.

There are so many things I will defend for. What’s yours?

National Service isn’t slavery

I read a blog through The Online Citizen just now, and the blog is talking about National Service and how it stands for slavery. For more details, here’s a link to the blog.

Basically I disagree with the author. Why do we call National Service slavery? In a skewed way, yes perhaps it does seem like slavery. You spend 2 years of your life having sweat and tears grinded out of you and you get paid miserably for each hour spent in camp. But however, if we recognize the basic intention of national service, perhaps it is a sacrifice that is worth it?

The purpose of National Service cannot be summarized in a single sentence. National Service, primarily, is for conscripting soldiers for the citizen army, in such a way that when there is a time of need, we are able to fight and defend ourselves. Critics argue that a bomb can destroy Singapore and there is no hope in defending. But I ask, should you ever give up without a fight? Or give up totally because you feel the odds are against you? Or are we a nation of sissies that are so cynical that we assume the worst will happen?

The author seems to hint that National Service is slavery, but titled in a nice way called “National Defence”. He asks “How is buying coffee and breakfast for the Company Sergeant Major or Regimental Sergeant Major considered national purpose or even national security. How is being called names like cheese pie and kuniang and f**ers considered good for defence?”. However, let’s not kid ourselves. How many of us actually bought coffee and breakfast for the CSM / RSM? Most of the people who end up doing the job are those who have medical problems. They are either those that truly have some problems, or those asshole keng-sters who want an easy life out of NS. The rest of us toil and sweat in our training for purposes that are intended for defence.

What i’m trying to say is that we should not generalize. Perhaps it is the way in one unit, but it isn’t in the other units.

I think the author of that post is seriously bias. He fails to consider alternative viewpoints, but launch into attacks of the system with no strong support. He only talks about parts like area cleaning and gardening (???) as if that is all we do in National Service. I believe even at home, we do our own area cleaning. How can we live in a place that is dirty? Without area cleaning, can we have a better and more hygenic place to live in? If we don’t even take care of our own camp, can we blame mosquitos from biting us?

The truth about National Service is that there are many different people inside holding different jobs with different viewpoints. National Service is intended to be for the defense of the nation and the author fails to show how it has not succeeded in its aim.

The author laments about the possibility of getting charged within one day, but how many people actually get charged within one day? Unless the offense is serious enough, most of the time we just end up with extras. Anyway, what is the point of bringing up Mas Selamat anyway? Appeal to fear?

I don’t deny that there are some parts of the SAF that is screwed up. The recent incident of a blog post about this guy who is ending up half blind because of the SAF. Assuming it is authentic and true in all his words, then the SAF has to revise its own system on how they treat their manpower.

However, from the 2 years that I have served in the Army, I think that it is not so bad after all, at least in my camp.

The author says “I believe conscription is increasingly a tool for the State to emasculate the male citizenry, to impose its will to develop a compliant male population who is ever so quick to kowtow to authority figures all in the name of duty, honour and country.”

But is it? It seems to be more of an assumption. The SAF now is different from the SAF in the past. There is less vulgarities. I do admit, there are vulgarities, and I am at fault for spewing them out of my mouth when I was angry with my men, but those are just part and parcel of army life. Am I compliant? I don’t seem to have changed. I think by myself and I know when something seems wrong or right. Just note that we do not kowtow to authority figures in the name of duty, honour and country. In the name of duty, honour and country, we fight, but not to kowtow as if worshipping a God. If National Service is intended to force our citizens to be compliant to that extend, I must say it is a total failure. Why then, is an ex NSman so un-compliant?

Let’s just remind ourselves that Singapore is not the only country that conscripts its own male citizens. South Korea is another such country. Why do we keep whining about losing out to the females of our own age? Certainly we wouldn’t be competing everything based on age are we? Besides, many of us have gone through this process and I am going through it now. My female classmates are two years younger than me, but is that such a big deal?

If we consider the possibility that we may end up subject to another country’s rule, then perhaps these two years spent is time worth spending if we could prevent that possibility from happening. Whatever happened to a sense of feeling to our country, regardless of the political party that is governing it? I am asking you to love Singapore, not the PAP.

If we ourselves cannot put in our part to defend the nation, then who can? Our country is already flooded with foreign “talents”. Can we trust them in times of need? If we can’t even put in our own effort, then this country is doomed.

After my two years of National Service, I emerged a much better person overall. I made friends and gained many brothers. I have brothers that gone through thick and thin with me, something that I can never gain if I had not gone in for the two years. I must say I have gotten plenty of work experience, just that my work experience is in terms of building relationships with my own men. I also emerged physically fitter. The gains are there, but it is up to us to face it. We can always deny and shrug it off, but the truth remains.

Whether we end up as good men or not, it is up to us. National Service is merely a process where we all grow up. It is Singapore’s identity and culture and should not be abolished. It is also not slavery. If we criticize National Service, then can we give a viable and better alternative? After all, criticism is just talk and no action. What’s the difference between this and calling someone a f***er in the army? It’s just talk.

My ex PS is a regular. Now I have his MSN and I keep in contact with him. His latest nick says that “There is no greater honour than serving the nation”. He has his beliefs, we have ours. But let us respect him for the path he chosen. The SAF may have its faults, but it has its uses.

Basically, I am supportive of National Service and I think it should continue. Perhaps it should be improved upon, but it should continue. I had some of the better times in life in there, with my friends at 1 Guards. 1 Guards taught me never to give up, to challenge myself and give my best. My brothers also supported me through my NS. NS is a great chance, and it depends on how you make use of it.

On a lighter note, I find it ironic that the author is so angry with the army, but uses it to maintain a blog about the army.