‘The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.”
– Ulysses S. Grant
3rd Battalion Singapore Guards – Where True Friends are Made
After Guard Conversion Course, together with a few others, we were sent to two months Platoon Sergeant Course, which also marks the end of my course during the 2.5 years National Service tenure. I rejoined 3rd Guards as the Section Commander for Bravo Company Platoon 6 Section 3, where I become the leader of 6 men under my charge.
I had the fortune (or misfortune) of inheriting this section of extremely tough soldiers whom we fought side by side for the rest of our NS cycle.
ANG TEOW BENG – My 2nd IC and the natural leader in the whole group. Charismatic and probably one of the fittest in those days. Unfortunately, he suffered some back injury during our NS time. Now boss of his own interior designing company.
ROHAIZAT – My group 2 IC and the silent worker in the whole section. Speaks very little but do a lot. The model soldier, whenever asked to do something, never question, just do. He sticks around until we “MR-ed” together this year. Glad to say that he is happily married with 3 lovely boys.
TAY WK – My 1st M203 gunner and the front scout. The brain of the section. Smart and alert, also takes good care of his weaker team-mates. Always very assured when he and SEOW HH is scouting ahead of the section. Unfortunately, he was injured due our NS time and subsequently downgraded and transferred out during reservist. Now (also!) boss of his own interior designing company.
SEOW HH – My 1st SAW gunner and with TAY WK, forms the front scout team of the section. The most reliable person around, typical Singapore boy, but discipline and tough. He served with distinction during our NS time and joined us for one or two reservist. He went to England to further his study and passed away after a tragic car accident there. He has been sorely missed by all of us.
LIM HB – ANG TB always call him the little man due to his slight built (2nd LAW Gunner). While he is small in size, he is definitely big in heart and commitment. Although physically the weakness in the whole section, he seldom gives up even in the toughest situation. To top it off, he and Rohaizat were the last person standing when our battalion MR-ed 16 years on! He is now happily married with two kids of his own.
NG YL – EMO guy of the section (2nd Saw). He never liked the army and the strict regime but committed to fight alongside his section mates. Nonetheless, finish his 2.5yrs with us and we have not seen him since then.
It has interesting that how we are of diverse background, language, habits and culture came together, bonded as a unit and performed above our capabilities by compensating for each other with our respective strengths.
Life at 3rd battalion Singapore Guards was tough, we were specially selected and trained to achieve good result. And we didn’t fail. The unit went on to obtain RECON 1 status in ATEC (Army Evaluation Centre) and our men got to march at the national day parade. of 1999. In between, we moved from the old mice infested camp at Kranji to the spankling new camp in Bedok. Boy, I was so glad to be out the that Kranji camp.
Remember one of the weekend where I was on duty, I went out the throw some rubbish at the rubbish point below each block. The rubbish point was literally a playground for mice, jumping around the dustbin, savaging for food – it was really quite a sight.
Guard duty at Kranji camp was fun, when you get bored, you can keep yourself occupied by counting the no. of lizards on the wall. Even better was that you can actually see them in action, eating the flies and mosquitoes flying around.
Bedok was a brand new building with lift inside and that is where I completed 2.5 yrs of my NS liability. And by then, we were a group of one of the toughest people around, both physically and mentally. But also because of that, the adjustment from a NSF to a civilian was not easy, we almost need to readjust as all of us when back to our normal life. Almost all the sergeants went on to continue our studies in the university.
661 Guards – Old boys fighting the battle
After we ORD in 2000, I thought that I may not have chance to see my army buddies , little did I know that the whole unit will meet up again during our reservist in 661 Guards spanning almost 14 years and numerous of in-camp training. People always have the misconception that reservist are easy, people just go in and laze around , play games. I can tell you that it might have happened to some people but definitely not people in 661 guards.
Because we did so well during our active time, the same high expectation was upon us during reservist. We were trained harder than others, because we are supposed to be tougher than others too. So the entire 14 years of reservist, we went through pretty much what we have gone through for 2.5 years NS life. Only difference is that the body of a 30+ years old vs body of a 18 years old differs a lot!
Nonetheless, I was grateful that my buddies are with me through this tough 14 years of reservist where they entertained me with their childish and stupid jokes (army has that effect on people), they listen to my problem …. then laugh about it, they shared my happiness. In short, they are an important part of my life that I cherish a lot.
To me, Army is a process that I have no choice but to go through, but the lesson and the training from the army benefited me greatly, to top it off, the great friends I made is the real parting gift Army has given me.
So many great stories happen along this 16 years journey, if I ever going to pen it down, this post will never end. Instead, the stories will be brought up everytime I meet up with my buddies where we talk about it again and again, laugh about it again and again , and never really get sick of it. Repeat 10,000 times
I was taking train home went I saw this marketing (advertisement) campaign all over the train cabin I was in. It got me intrigue that MOE spent these money placing advertisement on a train’s cabin to tell the commuters that they support the President’s Star Charity?
1. What sort of marketing mileage they are looking to achieve from these? I, for one, don’t care for this piece of information.
2. If money was spent placing this advertisement? Isn’t the money better spent on doing the charity work itself?
I just hope it is not a scholar’s project to do this to climb up his/her corporate ladder.
“Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.”
– Auguste Rodin
15 November 2013 marks a very important day of my life so far, it marks the end of a journey spanning 16 years and some of the best/worse time I have had.
It all started after my GCE A Level, I was enlisted into the army in July 1998. I was at Bukit Merah CPMB with my parents in tow to sent their second son into the army. I wasn’t in a very good mood that day, none of my close friends were enlisted on the same day and my then-girlfriend was busy working so she didn’t make it. Best of all, I was mentally and physically unprepared for what Army had in store for me, nobody had shared with me what was expected of me and what I should be expecting. It is on this wet morning the Boy in me started his National Service (NS) journey.
BMT – THE FIRST STEP
We all loaded up a bus that drove us to a industrial-looking area to pick up our equipments (boots, PT kits, helmet, duffel bag etc). It all seems rather fun when we have to walk down in line to grab our stuffs laying out there in the tables set out. Once done, we were driven to the Hendon Camp jetty (olden times, that is the jetty to go to for ferry to Pulau Tekong. It was chaotic there and all I remembered was a group of men in army uniform shouting out instruction to us, some people taking turns to have their head shaved and others were trying out the equipments that we collected earlier. In what seems a eternity, we were told to load up a small boat (nothing like the fancy fastcraft they have now) that bought us to my home for the next three month, Pulau Tekong.
I was enlisted in period where army was undergoing tremendous changes and the new BMT training centre was being built at that time. This also means that I was one of the unlucky few who served the BMT in the old Tekong BMT training camp or attap huts. For the benefit of those who have no idea how the attap huts look like:
Can you imagine how creepy it is at night, surrounded by dense jungle and scared to shit by evil instructors telling us horror stories of the past. Anyway, that is a story for another time. My time in BMT was really a discovery of myself and my ability to cope with physical and mental stress in BMT and life in general. My fitness and mental strength improved tremendously and before I know it, three months BMT was over and I was posted to the defining period of my NS life.
SISPEC – THE SHINING MOMENT
“Keep a good attitude and do the right thing even when it’s hard. When you do that you are passing the test. And God promises you your marked moments are on their way.”
– Joel Osteen
School of Infantry Specialist (SISPEC) – training to be a sergeant. Another group of new friends and a new environment at Pasir Laba Camp located in obscure western corner of Singapore. This is where I picked up advance military skills and various weapons proficiency, it is also the period when my ex-girlfriend left me for another when she started her studies in the local university. It was tough for me emotionally but what I lost, I found solace in the tough training and the new friends that I have made. As the training progresses along the way, I soon excel in almost everything we do. Don’t get it wrong, training was still tough as hell, I just cope with it much better than my peers. Halfway through the training, I was given a choice to crossover to Officer Cadet School (OCS) which I flatly decline for various reasons. So the training went on and I graduated top 5% of my cohort with the silver bayonet awarded for my performance.
Alongside many of my peers, I sat at the shed with my packed duffel bag, waiting for the next posting which I undergo the toughest training in my entire life and the fittest period of my life.
GUARDS CONVERSION COURSE – THE KILLING MACHINE
“Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte
The best of my cohort has the
misfortu ne fortune of posting to Guards unit as Guards leader where we undergo another(!) three months Guard Conversion Course (GCC) to “convert” us to Guards leader. So what exactly entails being a Guards leader? Well, you must be about to do 5km ( i believe) coastal swim, 10km run in under 50 mins , no fear of height as we are heli-borne unit that requires us to be proficient in heli-rappelling and posses a unbreakable mental strength as tough as iron. The first three attributes are easy, it just mean training , training and more physical training to be as fit as a fiddle.
The last one is the difficult one, how does one train the mental strength?
The answer: Exactly just like how you strengthen iron. You put the iron in smelting process and cool it as part of the differential process to strengthen the iron. And repeat it over and over again to obtain the toughest iron.
We were thrown into hell (quite literally) repeatedly; we were not allow to book out for the initial two weeks, activating us in the middle of the night to assemble and go for training without warning is a norm, we were frequently turned out just when we thought training has ended for the day, more often than not, a 24km route march becomes a 32km route march without warning, everyday we run at least 5km – 10km, fast march was so fast that most of us have to run to keep up rather than march. Nothing was routine as we were constantly on our toes on new missions, extended training. Throughout all these
tortures trainings, the instructors constantly encouraged us to give up and we can go back and rest or promised us dry clothes and fresh hot food. Proud to say where it is so easy to give up, not many did give up and many of them remain my close friends who shared these bonds.
The 3 months long training culminated in a 5-days mission trip at Pulau Tekong. 5 days of non-stop missions; trek to objective, attack objective, defend objective, evacuating casualties, repeat and repeat and repeat. We hardly have any food or time to rest/sleep. Heaven was not very kind to us too as it rained the moment we landed and continuously for the next two days of the mission. We were all drenched and our bodies were all full of abrasions and our fingers and feet were winkled from the continuous rain.
I don’t know how did I survived the 3 months but I did and I graduated a Guards specialist, got my khaki beret and posted to 3rd Battalion Singapore Guards.
[to be continued]
… and off we go to buy a million dollar home.
Just love the attire of the potential buyer/s as captured in the Straits Time. It is apparently taken at a showflat units at the Sky Vue project.
Another classic case of ‘you can have a lot of money but you cannot buy class’.