365 days ago this very day, I took an oath of allegience to the army, and was pushed into BMTC (Basic Military Training Centre) on the very infamous Pulau Tekong for the start of two-and-a-half years of military service. Stepping on board the ferry service was a hand-chilling experience (besides the fact that it was raining, and the air-conditioning was up full blast). As my parents sat beside me on the service, I casted a final wistful glance at the landform that was my 18 years of up-bringing as the ferry speeded across the choppy straits. Leaving it for three weeks of confinement beared tons of anxiety and anguish.
My first few weeks in BMTC as a PTP (Physical Training Phase) recruit was tough. There were plenty of physical activities to shake my sedentary body down to its very core, and even more military protocols to learn and follow. I had to address an officer as "Sir", and sergeants as sergeants, get punished for that speck of dust lurking in the hinge behind the bunk door, run or march each time we had to physically move. It was a tough change given that I had no prior experience in the uniformed groups when I was in secondary school. My close friends armed me with advice from rumours they heard: "Don't leave your bunk on Thursday nights no matter what they say, ok? I don't want you to be dismembered like the guy from Charlie.."
When I finally got home, it was alarming to see vehicles zipping past on the roads, where previously we would march on them on that isolated island.
Flash forward to March 2004. I graduated from BMTC armed with an IPPT (physical test for all servicemen) pass, and a SOC (Standard Obstacle Course) timing that qualified me for command schools. I chose to give up the opportunity to be a commander, and was posted to Lim Chu Kang (it IS on the mainland, but it is on the other side of the mainland) as a scout.
Driving course came and went. My vocation course came and went. Now standing on top of one year of training, I ask, "Where the hell is my promotion????" My friends from my BMT have been promoted long ago, and are receiving $20 more allowances than I do! Why the upset over $20? As NSFs, we are barred from doing other jobs during our service, and $20 is a substantial increase from the $500 we currently draw! I shall leave that issue at that (I don't want to turn this blog into a "complain thread").
Where was I? One year. Time seems to have flown past like a river. I went overseas to Brunei for overseas training, walked through swamps (and even slept one night in it), swam through real rivers with current (but without any line) in full combat gear, made my way through thick Bruneian vegetation. It sounds amazing how much I have done in this short period of time! (Meanwhile, my IPPT has gone from a pass to silver, in fact it is now nearly a gold standard). I have made lasting friends who go through the same challenges as I do. I have been exposed rather mercilessly to the politics of the real world in this tiny confines of the Army (remember I lost my identity card some time back?), and was treated to the positive, as well as the ugly side of human nature. It truly has been an eye-opener.
Would I do it again if National Service were optional? I would say...
(Here's a shout-out to all BMTC "N" (Ninja) and "T" (Taurus) companies, 45th PTP Enhanced BMT batch enlistees. Happy One year of Enlistment! One year and four more months till our service ends!)
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All the about Pkchukiss's life in the Singapore Armed Forces
Friday, December 10, 2004
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