A recurring battle in the never-ending war between Commanders and their Men is the struggle of the former to make the latter eat their food at the cookhouse (or in Army Parlance, consume their rations), for it is common knowledge that common soldiers, being only enlistees and thus not knowing what is good for them, refuse to eat the nutritious victuals which Singapore Food Industries (SFI), or in some camps, NTUC Foodfare, lovingly prepares to nourish them with a well balanced diet so they can then throw themselves wholesale into the noble job of defending their country. Instead, they rather go to canteens or eat instant noodles in bunk. Admittedly, cookhouse food is *usually* more wholesome than oily and MSG-laden canteen food and instant noodles, but often they come up with some barely (if at all) palatable muck; suffice to say that SFI's stated mission is to "provide safe and wholesome food", not tasty food (by implication, old SAF food was neither safe nor wholesome, but that is another story for another day and another bard).
Besides making their Men eat their cookhouse food for their own good, there is another more important issue at hand: wastage. If soldiers do not eat the food that is prepared for them, the money the SAF pays SFI and NTUC is wasted (though they are all ultimately government-owned so no money really changes hands), and food that could have been used to feed starving children in Ethiopia is instead consigned to the midden heap. As is obvious to all, it is important to Consume Your Rations, and it is Right and Proper to punish the insolent enlistees who flagrantly defy directives by not eating cookhouse food. Meanwhile, no one cares about the commanders (in practise 2SGs and above) since they can take care of themselves, and the responsibilities and privileges inherent in their rank coupled with the respect that they are dued, means that to bother them with such a middling issue as the consumption of cookhouse food is unbecoming. Besides which, Regulars and Officers are Busy People, since they need to delegate work to and manage their
How then can the scum of the earth - the enlistees - be made to eat their food? In places like Pulau Tekong, whose Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) is the
Relying on the honesty of the soldiers is thus not feasible, despite honesty being a Tried and True SAF Value, as we all know. So other methods have to be brought to bear. One is making everyone in a platoon fall in and march to the meal together. However, this only works in combat companies, and people inevitably manage to escape the net somehow. Another is having a file with people's names there, and having each person sign in the file during mealtimes. Except that this results in columns of suspiciously identical signatures.
One day, my CSM came up with an ingenious and novel solution to the perennial problem. All 3SGs and below would be issued with a meal card with their ranks, names and departments (I was in HQ company) and they would drop them into a box at the cookhouse before every meal. The COS would then tick off the person's name on a list, and the CSM would check the cards after each meal. She would then return the cards to each department's Platoon Sergeant, who would re-issue the meal cards - all before the next meal! After all, the SAF is renowned for its efficiency.
It would suffice to say that this idea was quietly scrapped after a while.
[The above is an expanded version of a prior post]