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All the about Pkchukiss's life in the Singapore Armed Forces

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Scout course begins!

My shoulders took a camel's load the whole of this week. My vocation course (Infantry Scout Platoon Course) started this Monday, and being a stay-in course, I wasn't able to get out of camp to get access to the online world. That's what happened to me. Shut off. From the outside world. It is just the great outfield, and me. Not to mention the commando mosquitos which apparently love my scent.

I was chosen to be a signaler (probably because I am among the bigger sized people in the whole platoon), and so had to carry the extremely unwieldy signal set. Not only did I manage to get sore shoulders after a week of carrying that bulky load (on top of my full battle order!), I also managed to whip a few of my platoon mates with the whip antenna in the process of getting my field pack (which had the signal set inside) on my back.


My platoon sergeant made full use of our newly acquired driving licences to ferry our bikes and jeeps over to the school (the School of Military Intelligence). It was quite a cool sight, a few guys inside the jeep, tailed by two bikes moving out of the company line in full view of the rifle companies. I felt generally good riding the bike, even as the eyes fixated on me, obviously out of awe.

Once there, the famous unofficial SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) motto came into play: "rush to wait, wait to rush". We hurried to get all our luggage and vehicles settled into the accomodations, and double-fast marched into the auditorium, only to find an hour's wait while the other two course platoons took their time reaching the place. Talk about waiting! We even sat erect in the chair, wanting to make a good first impression on the instructors!


Memory of Information is a module in which they ask us to do a set of exercises (called Power PT), after which they give us a few pictures to memorise, before they ask us questions on the pictures. It was very tiring, I am sure you will agree:

  1. ? counts of 4 (Diamond push-up)

  2. ? counts of 4 (Scissors kick)

  3. ? counts of 4 (Spider push-up)

  4. ? counts of 4 (Flutter kick)

  5. ? counts of 4 (Dive bombers)

  6. ? counts of 4 (Alternate leg thrust)

  7. ? counts of 8 (Burpees)

  8. ? counts of 8 (Psychomotor jumping jacks)

How we did the exercises? We went through each of them, changing to the next one, or retrogading to the previous one, as and when the instructor liked it.

The dry floor looked as if it had just been washed when we were done with it. Power PT anyone?


Even tougher training awaits. We had to slather on camouflage cream all over us, and do all sorts of infiltration skills in full battle order. Needless to say, I had to do leopard, worm and baby crawls, ghost and stoop walks with that signal set in my field pack. To add to the difficulty, we were supposed to be tactical, which means that we cannot be spotted by the any body. This meant that we could not make any noise, which was hard, considering that there were many dead leaves there. I ended up gritting my way through all the obstacles, and panting extremely heavily.

"Well, if I were to do that regularly, I would have no problems with my physical training test!" I thought grimly as my lungs screamed for more air. The exertion caused me to be in heavy oxygen debt, and I soon found myself staggering towards the end point. Movement too slow for the platoon commander, and we were tekanned (shouted and screamed at) all the way back to the waiting tonner, and back to the course accomodation. Oh well, at least there are no push-ups in full battle order. I was wondering how I would cope with it!


The overcast sky cooled the ground considerably to allow us to march effectively. We were doing the 6 km fast march, and I was chosen to be the rear scout (the rear group at the back to pick up drop outs). Amazingly, my field pack felt light enough for me to walk swiftly, even run. However, I could not say the same for some of my other platoon mates. They were visibly struggling with their loads, and some started to march out of line, which lead to the sergeants to shout encouragements at them. The whole chaotic mess reminded me of a thoroughly confused mess that resembled lemmings.

In the end, after much tekanning, we finished the whole route. The platoon commander seemed to be quite satisfied with the march, the grin was hanging on his face as if it were a permanent fixture.

As I was typing all these, realisation hit me. How could anyone possibly want to read all these details? It really is tough putting on hold to all those juicy details, but I can't expect anyone to read all my adventures from head to tail! I think I will bore you to death! What do you think?

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Demoralising Friday

It is one of my trashiest days, and what happened so far confirmed my suspicions.

I stood outside the Manpower branch of my unit, clutching the police report on my lost military identity card, awaiting my turn in front of the music. On my feet was a pair of slippers, the ball of my both feet having gone black from the broken blisters. The officer paused to size me up.

"What happened to your feet?"

"Sir, I have blisters on them."

"BLISTERS? You reported sick for blisters? Never mind. How many extra duties have you signed for losing your card?"

"None sir."

"None? Where is your commander?" At this point, my sergeant stepped into the office, looking as much the timid mouse as I was. "Yes sir?"

"Listen carefully. I don't care about your company, but I want him to sign 4 extras for me."

The walk back to the company line was the toughest, with the two sergeants flanking me sympathetically.

"Well, treat it as a lesson learnt, ok? Make sure you don't lose it again." Their words seemed like cold comfort to me, as I went into the sergeant major's office to complete the deed. Fifty dollars out of my pocket (actually, I had to borrow thirty), and a mini-talk session with the sergeant major, I signed the punishment book, and went outside.

My platoon was doing power PT (physical training). It is a tough session comprising of diamond push-ups, scissors kicks, spider push-ups, flutter kicks, dive bombers, alternate leg thrusts, burpees and jumping jacks, with an instructor choosing to go forward or backwards through the sequence as and when he likes. My PC (platoon commander) was going through one trial session with us before the commencement of the course. I watched intently on the thoroughly shacked faces on my fellow friends, determined as they were to finish the session. Finally, they were through, and PC gave a prep talk...

"Guys, I am not very happy about the report sick rate. I am not pointing fingers at people, but some of you report sick for blisters, isn't that too much? Did you know that the other commanders all grit through their blisters? I think this is too much, how am I supposed to tell the Commanding Officer if he asks?"

His words hurt me like a dagger through my heart. I strongly believed in doing my best in my whatever I did, and yet I was being singled out to be lamblasted. The pain in me was even stronger than the rawness in my feet.

Right before book out time, the 2 IC was reading the routine order to the whole company before we were to leave camp for our weekend.

"Private ***** has been awarded 4 extras for losing his identity card. Where are you, private?" I raised my hands, and replied weakly.

That about wraps up my trashiest Friday ever.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Hilarious spam

Well, spam seems to have taken a hilarious turn.

When I looked into the trash bin today, I found 6 new pieces of those time wasters hanging precariously to their existence -- literally. Apparently, spammers have taken the liberty to put jokes into their illegal advertisements, in the hope of escaping my bayesian filters. Sad to say, their desperate efforts were rendered futile by the very construct of the filters... They managed to zap and erradicate these bugging critters, and sent them to digital waste bin -- effortlessly.

(I guess I was being a bit dramatic with all that descriptives.. An attack of descriptive descriptions?)

Just watching the filter do its job gave me an immense sense of satisfaction: No longer would I be pestered by irritating time wasters advocating Viagra, or that new fangled condom which is thoroughly scented with honey (doubt that it would aid the routine in any way)!

It is just me, my legitimate mail, and my friends! It is high time that everybody installed bayesian filters too, to regain your control over your mailbox!

More! I want more licences!

The crave is stirring animal instincts inside me. The need for a motorcycle induced endorphin rush is causing me to drag myself to the nearest civilian driving centre. The military licence inside my pocket right now is only cold comfort -- I want to drive as and when I want! The freedom!

Anyway, in case you were wondering, I am not crazy. I have decided to sign up to learn to drive a motorcycle, just 3 days after my military bike course has ended. As they have said, the power of cruising is just too hard to resist... I am also considering getting a bike, maybe somewhere just below 200 cc (the laws of this island dictates that I need to go for more courses to be able to qualify to ride higher capacity monsters).

Meanwhile, my romantic adventure with the scrambler bike has come to a regrettable pause, while my platoon concentrates on our core speciality: spying. Our recee course starts on the 21st, and as luck would have it, some of my bike course mates from the armour infantry would also be having their own course at the same time, at the same place! Now that should make the School of Military Intelligence that much easier to tolerate!

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Gloom (and even gloomier?)

The overcast sky totally described my gloom today. Now that I have come to the end of the course, my platoon commander passed word that I was supposed to book back into camp tomorrow. Even the feel of the precious piece of paper that is my military driving licence in my hands was unable to lift my spirits appreciably, which depressed me even more, possibly setting myself up for a huge plunge into a mental diagnosis.

I've tried to pinpoint the reason, but so far I have not been able to truly get a reason for that. For all I know, I might be suffering from self-induced depression! I've done it plenty of times [booking in to camp], and I've always been none the worse for it. However, this nagging depression will continue to bug me until I finally get around to book in time, when I will drag my feet up to my bunk in dejected resignation to my fate for the remaining 2 years.

I had not even noticed it: Today is the sixth month milestone in my national service, which leaves me with a slightly less ardous task of going through exactly another two years of military service, before I finally get my already itchy hands on my pink (civilian) identification card. Already, my head is spinning in excitement at the thought of being free from military constrains again...

I guess I need more than the mandated 7 hours of sleep to get my old system back online...

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Enjoyable riding

I've found the joy of riding. The forceful gusts of wind which beat against the back evaporates all the dampness in one's clothing. The thrill of zipping past the world at high speed, the forceful vibrations of the engine, the joy of tapping the horn at other errant road users is definitely enticing.

Too bad, like all banquets, this course is ending tomorrow. As my main vocation does not involve driving around a lot, I guess I can forget about touching the bike often... It is always so strange how we humans harbour dislike towards doing something new, and then turn around again after it has ended, and regret its passing. Time to go! I need to spend some sentimental time with my training bike (returning it tomorrow)... *sigh*

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Friendster Down!

Friendster seems to be down right where I am. My browser is persistently showing me its favourite code 500 web page (In case you do not know, code 500 is "Server Error", which can mean a lot of things. Either the server is down, or it is too busy ignoring you.)

I was hoping to get in and add some of the new friends that I have found... I guess the human need for social interaction runs deep.

On Guard! Danger on the roads!

For a heart stopping moment, a crash seemed inevitable...

I was on a confidence riding lesson today, which brought us from the East to the West side of the island. The (what I thought initially) exciting part of the whole trip was to be our first debut on the highway. To get us started on long distance traveling, we were to travel non-stop from Bedok (where the circuit is) to the West Coast.
The excitement was palatable in my group as our bikes approached the filter lane leading towards the PIE (The Pan-Island Expressway). I believed that some of the more excitable ones were essentially hopping up and down in their seats at the sight of the long stretch of the road in front of them.

I approached the road with gusto, gunning the throttle to a comfortable 55 km/hr behind a van. All seemed well, until a taxi cut, without any prior indication of the driver's intention, into my lane, and with such abruptness, I was forced to reach for the brakes. A rude awakening, perhaps.

About halfway into the journey, I noticed Complacency sneaking around some of the more accomplished riders. They were basically ignoring the mirrors, and were intent on the road ahead of them. They might have been waiting for the runway to clear before taking off for all the care in the world! Thank goodness, a sharp horn by the instructor snapped them out of their spell.

As for me, I was too busy checking all possible danger points that I wasn't able to enjoy the blooming trees planted neatly along the side of the highway. Nor was I able to marvel at the culture-rich colonial buildings strewn in the distance...
32 km and after a really sore backside, we finally pulled up inside an industrial estate car park. Which was a relief, because I was really exhausted by all the mind-wrangling on the highway.

In case you were wondering how this fits in with the topic of this blog, here's the bridge: I nearly up-ended myself into a pick-up on my way back to the driving circuit.


I was too busy checking the sides for drivers with an interest in running me off the road that I neglected to catch up with the vehicle in front of me, and allowed a pick-up truck to cut in (illegally! What's new!) to my lane. I gave no thought to his inconsiderate behaviour, and believing that he was going straight, I paid him no further attention. That was when he decided to slow down, and turn into a small road on the left. He braked with such suddenness, I was caught by surprise. Reaching for my brakes again, I was resisting a natural tendency to jam the lever. Praying hard, I managed to apply enough force to avoid a collision. I ended up so close that I could read the part number on the pick-up's tail guard.

Heart thumping, I reluctantly opened my throttle (I couldn't have just stopped there, right?), and proceeded with even more caution than usual. I was so shaken that I didn't dare stay anywhere within 50 metres of any vehicle in front of me for the rest of the trip back.

I guess today was a shock introduction to the World of Driving on a Highway. Even now, horror images of my near miss are replaying in my mind. I won't be forgetting this in a hurry, I'll bet!

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