Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Check it out, one bite, one bite

There once was a trooper in my Coy named Kenneth Tan, but everyone called him by his nickname, 'Check It Out', short for 'Check It Out, One Bite, One Bite'.

Every time someone else was eating something (that wasn't Army issue), he'd come along, peer over that person's shoulder and say, 'Heyyyy, what's that you're eating? Check it out, one bite, one bite, please?'

If you were eating from a can of lychees, he'd 'check it out', and with one big bite, eat half the can, or worse, if you only had a few lychees left, he'd finish it with his 'one bite, one bite'.

'Check It Out' never offered his own snacks. He seldom brought any to camp or to field training. During periods of long field training, the platoons or tactical teams usually pooled some money together to buy snacks beforehand, and I heard that 'Check It Out' was usually the tight arsed trooper who'd complain they were spending too much. $1 a trooper was usually too much for him.

Very often, when one of us would be eating something, there'd be an urgent, 'kuai dian! "Check It Out" lai liao! Quick, faster keep the food, don't let him see!', and we'd hide whatever snack we were savouring under a poncho or groundsheet.

One day during a long field deployment, our Coy's armoured fighting vehicles were tasked to take up position in a slightly wooded area which happened to be an old durian plantation. The durian trees were still there, and they were bearing fruit which looked almost ready to eat.

After twenty or so minutes of SOP (standard operating procedure), the command came to 'stand-down' some of the troopers, meaning they could relax a little bit, while a certain number continued manning the weapons. I parked my motorcycle next to the company commander's (OC's) vehicle and took up my customary position next to the radio signal set, relieving the commander's signaller. Just as I did so, the radio crackled to life, which was a bit unusual 'cos the signals are usually quiet during this time, and it sounded urgent, so I picked it up and responded:

One Niner Alpha to One Three Alpha, say again last message, over.

One Three Alpha, I say again, we have No Duff Casualty, over.

Now, a 'No Duff', is radio lingo for 'For Real', meaning this was not a training scenario. Platoon 3 had a wounded soldier for real, and one of the worst fears of being in an Armour unit was to have a nasty accident with one of the tanks running over you, where it was likely you'd lose both life and limb.

Shouting for my OC to come, I asked the caller to elaborate on the no duff situation:

One Three Alpha, request casavac (casualty medical evacuation) we have a [insert code for trooper] struck by.....

One Niner Alpha, say again, struck by what? Over.

One Three Alpha, we have [insert code for trooper] struck by Delta... Uniform.... Romeo... India.... Alpha.... November... over.

One Niner Alpha, wait, out.

I copied the phonetic letters that obviously spelled DURIAN, and browsed through my code book to see what it meant, since it didn't seem to correspond with anything I remembered. There wasn't anything in the code book, so I checked with the caller again. He repeated what he said earlier. But being a No Duff situation, there wasn't time to waste, I checked my map for platoon 3's location and got my OC and company medic together.

A few minutes later, we got to platoon 3's location and were beckoned into one of the vehicles. On the floor lay 'Check It Out', conscious but bleeding from what looked like nasty lacerations on the top of his head, being attended to by his platoon medic. Next to them was a good-sized durian.

'Check It Out' wasn't that badly hurt, and he was back on Coy line within a week, but he had toned down his filching of other people's snacks because apparently, his platoon medic had told him that the durian falling on his head, with perfect timing, just when he had taken off his helmet, was his comeuppance.


jon said...

i thin marsiling has some of the best durians in singapore. especially during the september-october months, when the smell of durians and chempedak fill the air (i kid you not)...

Lance said...

yeah, marsiling has loads of durian trees all over lor asrama and stephen lee road. a durian broke off the antenna on a signal set during one of my exercises, once...

kureshii said...

Oh yes, Marsiling durians... When I had Ex Spade there my instructors would set up admin area near one of the main roads and ambush civilians walking out.

"Sorry Sir, this is an SAF training area. Please surrender your..."

Yes, I got to try one of those durians after Endex, for digging the best shellscrape in the platoon. Good stuff.

Woof! said...

Ku: It's funny how you call it "Endex". I never heard of the term in my time, and we always either said "Exercise Cut" or "Echo Charlie" (over the comms), which will met met 3 seconds later with my SAW gunner shouting "tng chu liao loh!" at the top of his voice..

Mr Miyagi said...

In my time, and in Armour, the code for exercise cut was 'Rose Garden'. 'All stations one niner rodeo now to Rose Garden, out.' was the most welcome radio comms command.

Fruchee said...

Hello, I just got to know this interesting site from my friend Ivan.... Just to check, is the Kenneth guy from 42 SAR? Cos I know a Kenneth who behaves in a pretty similar way as well =)

Mr Miyagi said...

Nah. 46SAR, 1988-91.