recently, there have been an online furore about some girls whom have made rather insensitive remarks about NSFs and especially about one particular NSF whom sadly passed on during training. I have also read a rather inspirational note written by an OC of an Infantry Regiment and I shared the same sentiments as him. Apart from him, there were also other notes written by ladies whom signed on and they fully supported us NSFs (NS-men included). So, I will share my two cents worth.
Much of the experience that I will be sharing is very much based on my Basic Military Training (BMT) at the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC), my Officer Cadet Course (OCC) at Officer Cadet School (OCS), and my current posting as an Admin Support Assistant (ASA) at SAFTI Military Institute. This entire experience will be shared through a series of blog posts because one blog post would definitely not be enough to document my entire NS experience. In this part 1 of my sharing, I would be focusing my experience mainly on the BMT Training I undergone.
I enlisted in Mid-September 2010 and was filled with much anxiety on my first day of enlistment. When I boarded the ferry at the Changi SAF Ferry Terminal with my parents, my heart sank because at that very moment, I knew that it would be a long time before I am able to set foot on mainland Singapore. During the oath-taking ceremony, I had an indescribable feeling. Every single word of the oath was meaningful and while I don’t remember every single bit of it now, I definitely remember the last 3 words, “With My Life!”
After taking the oath, I was expected to behave and train like a soldier. I was posted to BMTC School 3, Whiskey Company, and was assigned to a Platoon where our bunks were situated at the highest level! The feeling of being away from the comforts and warmth of my home was quite a depressing thought. Despite the fact that I was quite prepared for National Service due to my active involvement with the National Cadet Corps, I wasn’t entirely prepared to be away from home for such a long period of time.
Day by day, I trained with my fellow platoon mates and I was glad that my section mates were an awesome bunch of people to be with. As we belonged to the Physical Training Phase (Leadership) batch of trainees, we enlisted earlier and had more physical training than the standard BMT batch of trainees. But truth be told, we were glad we enlisted earlier because the physical fitness build-up was progressive and helpful in the sense that we became fitter and stronger.
During my BMT, I encountered many challenges.
My first challenge in the first few weeks of BMT was this; surviving a relationship break-up. I broke up with my ex-girlfriend whom cheated on me [more than twice] during the first few weeks of BMT. We were in a relationship for more than 3 years then. And though I was quite disappointed, I decided to just let it all go and focused on my BMT training. With the support and encouragement of my section mates and my really closed BMT Buddy [Meng Kian] [whom always jioed me out for drinks after book-out], I pulled through and continued to train extremely hard. Seriously, it is one of the worst things that could have happened, especially during my confinement in BMT.
My second challenge was overcoming an ankle injury. During a route march, I injured my ankle and though it hurt like crazy, I didn’t want to fall out and just pushed on as hard as I could. By the time I finished the route march, I was practically limping and unable to walk with two legs. I went to see a Chinese Sinseh [Siah Ah Cheok] and she said that my ligament was over-stretched and my bone was displaced. I went back to the Medical Officer [MO] and was given light duty for more than 3 weeks! Now, that wasn’t very good news. In fact, I could have been put out-of-training [OOT] and my hopes of getting into OCS would have been dashed! Because of my ankle injury, I wasn’t able to walk with two legs and had to drag my left leg wherever I go. But thankfully, because of my constant visits to the Chinese Sinseh, I was totally healed within a few weeks and was back in action. One of my bunk mate [Vanga] was vital in the healing process of my ankle. Because of his constant encouragement and help [he offered to help carry my fieldpack whenever we book-in/book-out], I was able to recover faster than usual.
My third challenge was surviving field camp. My field camp was without a doubt, the most shiong and the most terok one. Throughout the whole field camp, the weather was unrelenting and kept pouring and pouring. No matter how well we have built our basha and dug our drainage, we were literally still sleeping in mud. Our uniforms were wet, our boots were damped and clogged with water, and the most gao wei and demoralising feeling ever, was to wear our soaking wet underwears [trust me on this, we soldiers do not mind having our uniform wet but when our underwears are wet, it really demoralises us]. It was during this field camp that for the first time in my life, I experienced what is commonly known as heat rash- the needle pricking pain on my back! Having heat rash is unavoidable and it is not a pleasant thing at all.
After all the tough trainings and countless tekan sessions during field camp, we were given letters that were written by our parents and this literally broke all of us down as we sat there, read the letter, cried, and re-read the letter, and cried somemore. No, we were not weak. Rather, we cried because we knew in our hearts that no matter how tough the training was going to be, we would continue to train and fight hard just so that we can defend the ones we love so much. When we returned to the company line after the field camp, new recruits whom marched past us were in total shock as our uniform was muddy brown in colour instead of green. Boy, were we glad we survived field camp because the experience definitely made us mentally and physically stronger. Even today, field camp is undoubtedly one of the key highlights of BMT and I have to say, because of field camp, I have learnt to appreciate the little things in life more.
Soon, graduation parade drew nearer. We had the privilege [we were the 2nd batch of recruits to do the 24KM route march in mainland Singapore] of carrying out the 24KM route march right in the heart of mainland Singapore and had our graduation parade at the Marina Bay Floating Platform. This was rather significant to us because there and then, we knew what we were fighting and defending for- the sovereignty and independence of Singapore.
Overall, my BMT experience was a rather fruitful one despite the many challenges that I have encountered. And because of my stellar performance and my fellow platoon mates whom evaluated me quite positively, I made it to the top 10% of the cohort and was given the honour and privilege to continue the next phase of my NS training in OCS [details will be out in the next blog entry].
Pardon me if I have left out too many details or have somehow cut short the story. All in all, the main emphasis of my BMT experience is this; that we NSFs are humans and we face many challenging circumstances during NS. Though serving NS is mandatory and not a choice, we still serve with a passion and a clear purpose in mind- to defend the ones whom we love. Never mind the fact that we are two years behind in education/work experience than the ladies. Never mind the fact that we sacrifice our lives to serve. What we NSFs would really love to have, is to feel appreciated for the sacrifices and efforts that we put in to defend our country. All it really takes is to have someone saying just a simple, “thank you!” for serving the nation, and we can go on fighting and training hard.
Stay tuned for more updates from us.