7 August 2015:
I kid; I never went to pray for the 3SG rank.Although I was grateful for the opportunity of entering SCS, I wasn’t rank-hungry (like some cadets that I see currently 😒). From the start, it really was about doing my best regardless of my position (unless I am severely unrecognised despite my contributions – but that’s another story).
I went out-of-course around 130715 and it’s been about a month as a soldier-in-transit, the new fancy title that SAF came up to soothe those wailing about how humiliating ‘OOC personnel’ sounds (which I find perfectly alright, by the way). Within that one month, I was placed under my company sergeant major to help out wherever the company needed my assistance. This included admin work, manual labour in stores or even being paperboy or coffee boy.
Throughout this period, it was as if working in an office environment and with it came along office politics. It took me a day or two to realise back then but in retrospect I shouldn’t have been that surprised by how prevalent office politics actually is. Fortunately, as SIT I was largely shielded from all them arrows, since officially I am unable to actually do much. Nevertheless, this introduction to office politics has no doubt pre-empted me to what may come my way post-ORD.
At the same time, I have a newfound respect for the perm staff of the company (or any company, in general), which includes the ASA and storeman, amongst other positions there may be. I feel that these people have been under-recognised for their efforts, despite them having relatively low ranks.
I have seen how these perm staff work tirelessly and sleeplessly to ensure the continuity of a company – it is literally true that without them the company will cease. Unless, of course, PCs or PWOs are willing to be storeman and ASA, on top of their usual roles. As such, I have since defended these perm staff when being unfairly pressured by cadets, whom perhaps assume they are less busy and therefore should provide when requested.
And whilst on the topic of being unfairly pressured due to mistaken impressions, SITs have also suffered from something similar. There have been numerous times when I or other SITs were accused by cadets of ‘having the good life’, just because we were seen enjoying a rare break in between periods of work. Since then I have resorted to the standard reply of ‘You want ah, OOC lorh!’
But really: SIT life isn’t easy as well. Of course, disclaimer, it can never compare to a cadet’s training. However, our days are equally occupied with things to do for various people and not the carefree life that some may imagine it to be. In simple terms, we are the saikang warriors, doing all sorts of odd jobs that come our way. Most are indeed easy to complete, but what tires us out is the number of such tasks and those which are not easy to handle.
In fact, on certain occasions, SITs have slept later than cadets, simply because we have unfinished work (a bit like OT except there’s no OT pay). So indeed, the impression of SITs slacking while cadets train till they die needs to go. Once again I would like to state that I am in no way diminishing a cadet’s training, it’s just that SIT life is tiring in other aspects.
Lastly, something that has been bugging me recently is how some cadets absolutely do not deserve the 3SG rank. This may sound cliché but with great power comes great responsibilities. The 3SG rank is the first rank that differentiates commanders from Man, it is what tells others you are supposedly a cut above the rest and are able to lead them.
Sadly, some cadets are simply rank hungry. They desire to become 3SG not because they can lead, but only because the rank confers additional privileges that Man do not enjoy. Therefore, they only achieve the bare minimum required to pass out, so long as they can get the rank. At times like this I feel sad for those who have OOCed due to injury but are very much willing to continue if conditions permit. Those chaogeng warriors should’ve been the ones who OOC instead (but then again since they chaogeng they definitely would sustain less injury than those who genuinely chiong sua).
I feel worried for the men whom these chaogeng commanders are going to lead, assuming their plan to ‘fly low’ works and they pass out. What does it say about specialists if a 3SG is the first to rest amongst the section of seven? Where will the PTEs, LCPs and CPLs find the fighting spirit if their leader is the first to siam any work there is to be done? Further, on the field, will they trust such a leader?
Although I am no longer on the path to becoming a specialist, I still hope to see the legacy of specialists being maintained. Foundation term has imbued in me certain characteristics of an army specialist and I have every wish to become one.
P.S. Having been drilled in BMT about having high marching standards, I can’t help but tingle whenever I see soldiers that march worse than they walk. If I were a 3SG I would have easily barked at them but given my rank and status as an SIT that’s a no-go.
3 May 2015:
Advice for people enlisting soon.
Disclaimer: although I have completed my BMT, I am not 100% well-versed about it. My experiences may differ from what you would encounter subsequently, and different companies have different ways of doing things.
Remedy: suck it up. Seriously. You and I could go on and on about why NS is stupid / boring / waste of time and no one would win. Ultimately, if you choose to go in with the worst preconceptions of army, chances are, they'll all come true.
It's true that after living 18+ years as a civilian, 99% of people won't want such a drastic change in their life. But the fact is, you are a Singaporean and you have a duty towards your country. Instead of whining, try and appreciate the good of NS.
And no, that wasn't sarcastic. There are actually a few benefits of NS, the most obvious one being you get to meet more people (but sadly they're all males). During BMT, I got to interact with all kinds of people and shatter some stereotypes that I had.
For example, my BMT company had smokers and people with tattoos. The stereotype would be that these people are gangsters and whatnot. The fact is, those that I worked with have shown themselves to be responsible and well-mannered.
For me this was real-life experience. Also, you get to meet people of different temperament. One thing I can't deny is vulgarities are flying everywhere in the army so get used to it. However, even then those who curse a lot may actually be kind-hearted.
I worked with someone who was (or could be) rather foul-mouthed, where he shouted CCB from inside the armskote so loudly that so many outside turned heads. But, he is very cooperative, responsible and a fun person to talk to.
So you could use BMT to experience interacting with people from all walks of life. And for those planning to do business next time, hey, here's a god-given bunch of lobang for you (if you befriend them all).
There are many other benefits which I won't bother to raise. It's up to you to find out for yourself and experience, just like every other guy before you, father and/or brother included, what NS has in store.
That said, if you're still so hardcore against NS, then too bad. Because like it or not, you still have to serve. (Unless you go AWOL then I say what big balls you have.) The two years are fixed: what's left variable is your attitude towards it.
My BMT buddy was one such guy who never failed to look on the bad side of BMT. No matter how relaxed our BMT was compared to other companies (through word-of-mouth comparisons), he always picked on things to whine about.
And I dare say he enjoyed BMT less than me. Whilst it's true that BMT isn't a joyride the whole time, you can get good memories out of it. (Yet, there were days where I was so angry I vented it on my metal cupboard. Oops.)
Also: the more you think of ORD, the slower time passes. #truestory, trust me. So in conclusion, don't think too much, try not to hate NS and appreciate it.
Oh bother. Nothing says yay more than a bunch of clueless recruits on enlistment day, some parts scared and some parts blur. But fret not even if you are one of them. You'll still survive at the end of the day. Hopefully.
But here's the deal: be more proactive about things (without being wayang). Try to find out what's going on in advance, so that you don't act like a cock. Of course at the start commanders will babysit you but don't take it for granted.
Also, try not to be a burden to your section or even platoon. No one likes these people, that make the whole group get punished, especially if the mistake could be avoided. Usually what it takes is a bit more diligence and responsibility and all is well.
I'm not saying that such thoughts are wrong, but first ask yourself why you want to go there. Is it because of the rank, the prestige? If so, then give it up. People like these don't deserve OCS because they only do it for superficial gains.
Bear in mind that OCS (or even SCS) is a leadership school, i.e. it trains leaders and commanders. No doubt there are added perks or statuses but these should be subservient to what actually matters: leadership.
Also, there's really no point wayang-ing if you have no substance. Ultimately during peer appraisal your name will sink to the bottom and you'll still say bye-bye to command school. Due to your wayang-ness you may even get others punished.
In BMT my section had a guy who liked to wayang and show his capabilities. At first I got annoyed but later on I accepted his behaviour. Why? Because he really was capable. Despite his theatrics, he managed to get things done well.
So at the end of the day, if you want to wayang just so that commanders can notice you more, then make sure you have something to prove yourself with. They may purposely put you in the hot seat to test you, and if you melt then too bad.
Field camp will teach you well, *smirk*. But honestly though, nowadays I hardly scream when I see all sorts of weird insects. Except if they fly straight into my face, but that's more of fear of the unknown.
Nevertheless if you get stung by poisonous ones like centipedes please sound off, don't garang your way through. Otherwise, soon you'll be immune to beetles, spiders, ants and what not.
Sidetrack: during field camp I was made to prone by a tree. At its roots there was a whole empire of insects, crawling all about. (I think what I saw was only its customs checkpoint.) Instead of screaming, I was somehow fascinated by it and stared on ... until I nearly forgot to move off. But that when I knew I'm not that afraid anymore.
It's very true that rank is a piece of cloth and respect is what's needed to be gained from people. However rank exists for a reason in the army, no matter what. It still indicates the hierarchy of command and control.
During the first few days there'll surely be people made to drop 20 because they call their platoon commanders (i.e. lieutenants) as 'sergeant' not 'sir'. I think of it not so much of a malicious punishment, but just a simple reminder.
Basically, for BMT, just remember that you'll see a lot of three Vs, which are Third Sergeants (3SG). A roof over them Vs = 2SG, a 'legit' platoon sergeant. Then there's one (or two) bars, which are your (second / full) lieutenants. And three bars make a captain.
Other than these, take your time to familiarise yourself with the many other ranks along the way. But a safe rule of thumb is to call anyone you don't know as 'sir'. If he's really a commissioned officer then you nailed it. If he's a WO then you just made him feel shiok.
But whatever you do please don't call a major (with one crab) as encik ... #truestory (not to me though). The major didn't mind but it was embarrassing, to say the least.
1. Try not to lose your phone. Or wallet. Or any other valuable. Please. The standard protocol would be to conduct a stand-by-universe, which means emptying ALL your belongings to let commanders search through them.
Trust me, it's not a nice experience, especially since you weren't the one who lost the stuff.
2. Discipline is going to be strictly enforced in the army so live with it, especially if you've been a 'free spirit' all this while. For me I had a strict upbringing so there wasn't much issue but for others they certainly needed time to adjust.
3. BMT, like it or not, is like primary school. Therefore you are treated as babies, even though you may be older than some commanders. Just suck it up; they are bound by orders to do certain things as well, so as to ensure the welfare (or safety) of recruits.
Only after BMT when you move to units or command school that more freedom comes in. But of course that's when you prove that you have earned the added liberties given to you by showing basic discipline. And remember not to abuse it.
4. Never disrespect your commanders. Never talk back to them. Like it or not these commanders have gone through more tough training than you recruits, and therefore they deserve some basic respect as a leader.
Also, it's better to be safe than sorry but never get too friendly with them. (Especially since getting too friendly may cause you to be rude to them, hence disrespecting them.) Some don't mind but others expect a line drawn between recruits and commanders.
5. Throughout BMT you'll learn lots of stuff. It's your choice whether you want to remain as a passive student or active one. Probe actively: 'why is the weapon designed like that, not this other way?'
If you meet good commanders, they will be more than happy to share their knowledge with you, like what my BMT platoon sergeant did. Through this, you also feel a sense of accomplishment that you are in control of your learning instead of being force-fed.
I guess that's pretty much what I have to advise, based on what I've been through. I wanted to wax lyrical about how awesome my BMT company is (because it really is), but I guess such memories should be left personal.
You can't choose which company you end up with but from now till then, pray that you get a good company helmed by a good and caring OC. And a good buddy. Then BMT life should be a wonderful experience on the whole.
If you, who are growing up, do not understand that you have got to defend this, then I say in the end, we will lose. Other people will come, smack you down, take it over. -- Lee Kuan Yew, 1967.
29 April 2015:
I haven't heard such words in quite a while.Today I was again accused of being gay, 'You must be gay!', after a very long while. For at least the time in JC, I was spared of these remarks which I previously received. However, today those familiar remarks came again.
It first started when I was talking to CK about theatre, since we both were interested in it. Then R decided to add that theatre was for gays, which were people 'like him', i.e. me. And yep, that was the first blow of how thespians are gay, with specific reference to me.
Then M decided to draw upon his knowledge of digit ratio and checked the ratio of my ring to index finger. After which, he declared: 'That's it! You must be gay!' To be honest, by then I was pretty depressed. Maybe you may think I'm just sensitive but it brought back memories.
I just hope that people realise that sometimes their words may actually hurt. And that they could refrain using bigoted language and generalisations such as how theatre is only for gays. Now I'm better but just now I was honestly upset.