Sunday, September 19, 2004

Undercover CSM

I last met 'Red Underwear' Ang Teck Hock last year during In-Camp Training. It was the first time we had met since I ROD'd in 1991. I walked up to that familiar but slightly more wizened figure, and said 'Encik, Ho Boh?', and was surprised, shocked even, that firstly, he remembered who I was, and second, he spoke in English!

Eh, Buddha, how are you? You having ICT? I saw Tat Kai and Foong last year, he said, smiling.

He looked the same except he no longer sported his 'Encik' moustache, de rigueur for all senior NCOs back in the 80s and 90s.

I suppose he remembered me and my mates because our batch was his first tour as CSM (Company Sergeant Major, but for Ang Teck Hock, it could also stand for Company Shortest Man).

As a pensionable lifer back in those days (they now no longer have lifers in the Army), SSG Ang was your typical CSM, always barking, always turned out impeccably, always carrying that pace stick for to mark out the parade square and to knock you upside the helmet. And your typical CSM in those days spoke very little English.

Being the first 'A'-level battalion, we suffered fits of giggles every time Encik had to brief us. He'd have one 'official' briefing in 'English', then an unofficial one in Hokkien while brandishing his pace stick, just to leave us in no doubt as regards his instructions.

Encik was practically illiterate, and one of my duties in the company was to read letters sent to him, and to write replies on his behalf. We only realised the extent of his illiteracy when we found he had given himself a first English name, Stephen or Steven, but spelled it on a label on his briefcase as 'SSG STIVER ANG'.

Halfway through our trade course, we had a new company commander, an Indian captain called Dev. CPT Dev had a mean reputation. Rumour had it that his last company 'mutinied' by purposely not getting gold for IPPT. CPT Dev was also finicky and unreasonable. He decreed that while he was company commander, no one under his command would speak in any language other than English, because English was the language of administration in the Singapore Armed Forces.

Encik Ang die already lah, like that?

Immediately after this order was given, Encik Ang had to brief us on some pressing matter, and he assembled the company on the parade square and prepared to shellac us. Only thing was, he only knew how to shellac us in Hokkien, and CPT Dev was standing behind him. He shaped his whole body to bark at us, but what came out was:

'ALL YOUSE MMMMMM.... MMMMMM..... MMMMM..... MMMMMARRRRDER CHEEBYES!', followed by a long pause, then,


None of us Marder Cheebyes wanted to hold his cock and count even once, so we listened very carefully to the rest of the briefing.

Near the end of our full time service, we were scheduled to go to Taiwan for training. We were very excited of course. And the idea of needing warm clothing and lip balm added to the novelty of the trip. Encik Ang was a veteran of eight previous Taiwan stints, and told us winters were cold enough to freeze our balls off, and that the green woollen jumper issued to us was not enough. Better be prepared, he said. If not prepared properly, your balls will drop off, your lips will drop off, and you will see your lips kissing your balls on the floor, he added.

So we went to Taiwan, and it was cold. The first day saw us digging out our freshly bought pairs of long johns and trying them on; putting on balaclavas; and smearing on lip balm. And smear we did. Till Encik Ang came and shellacked us for looking as if every trooper had eaten a bucket of KFC without wiping their mouths.

Encik Ang had his pair of long johns too. And like the rest of us, wore it underneath our daggy Taiwanese issued uniforms (we weren't allowed to wear our own on Taiwanese soil). These long johns worked a treat, and kept us really warm when we were up in the mountains.

Then during the second week of training, the weather warmed up, hovering around 20 degrees or so. Out went the long johns. And this is where it gets funny.

Encik Ang Teck Hock had no idea that long johns were Underwear. He thought they were like your track tops and pants. And so, while we were back at base, he'd walk around the bunk (there was only one bunk for the entire company) in his long johns, which didn't seem too unusual, given that the rest of us walked around the bunk in our underwear anyway.

But that morning at base, Encik told me he was going to Battalion HQ, billeted at the other end of the base, for a meeting, and so he left. He came back five minutes later, huffing and puffing, and with a stupid grin on his face that we weren't familiar with. The grin of embarrassment. He came up to me, slapped the back of my head and asked why I didn't tell him that long johns were underwear.

He had walked across the Taiwanese Army base in his long johns, clipboard in hand, to attend a Bn HQ meeting, only to be stopped by the Taiwanese base commander.

I told Encik that I thought he knew, since he'd been to Taiwan eight times previously. He said this was his first winter stint.

And the rest of the company had a really good laugh once I had escaped Encik's clutches and started spreading the story about 'RED UNDERWEAR WEAR UNDERWEAR GO FOR MEETING'.

Last year when I met him, Encik Ang held the post of Regimental Sergeant Major of the 42nd Battalion, Singapore Armoured Regiment, and he was very much the 21st century senior career soldier. English-speaking, soft-spoken, and not a vulgarity within earshot. Standing next to him was one of his CSMs, a female Encik. And I wondered if he had ever asked anyone at 42nd to 'hold his cock and count three times'.

Underwear, man, cold weather, cotton, johns, long. SSN 1234567890


Agagooga said...

From my experiences with Super Mario:

- he still had the moustache when he left 42
- he's now at ATEC - your unit got evaluated at ATEC?
- his English is not as bad as you describe. And he has the sort of off-British way of speaking all RSMs of that age seem to have
- soft spoken? He's funny and somewhat subdued, but "soft-spoken" he is not. Maybe he mellowed with age

Lance said...

great story, that

Mr Miyagi said...

Hahahahaha. Off-British. He's at ATEC? Oh shit. I've got ATEC in December. But yes, his English was that bad back in those days.

Anonymous said...

HAHAHA...I was at 42 SAR at that time when he was the RSM...hmm...from the looks of it, he probably toned down ALOT...he still yells vulgarities though, but to a much much lesser extent.

Anyway...something embarrassing happened to him during our ATEC evaluation as well...Well, it goes that apparently he lost his rifle during one of the missions (!!). It happened at night. That time I was one of the COSes who did duty at the unit, while the rest of the battalion moved outfield for their evaluation.

Within minutes, the BOS mobilised all the COSes and conducted a check at all company armskotes (whatever for...I had no idea - we were only told that there was a weapon missing outfield). All five of us were scratching our heads and wondering who the poor soldier was (and yes, there was a rumour going around that any lost weapon would render the poor soldier to be sent to DB...for not taking care of your 'wife')

You could imagine our giggles and amazement when we were told by the main body that our dear RSM's weapon was lost during the night on one of the missions...and that was 1WO Ang TH!!

In anycase, we heard that the weapon was recovered the next day...and guess was totally KAPUT!! It was bent out-of-shape by a tank which ran over it...hahah...we really couldn't control our laughter and giggles.

Well, as for the 1206 of the rifle...he paid 10% of the cost...get the load of this 'as 1WO Ang made a serious and conscientious effort to find the missing rifle, I recommend that he bear 10% of the cost' quoted in verbatim from the CO.

Anonymous said...

u guys got to be kiddg. ATH was the most notorious snco during my time in 46Sar. Frankly i dunno why the saf has so many of these bengs. Being vulgar is not one of his better virtues. I remember he forced the entire coy to go tree cutting in the hot sun with just our changkuls and wallets, and then turned up with a truckload of canned softdrinks which he SOLD for over a dolar. Where back then a can was sold at just 70cents max at the cofishop. When we highlighted it we got tekkan. The platoon had sergeants forcing the men to take liquor and smoke or face punishment. Ath was a sadist. He trained the men in rain, then told the coy to squat in the rain while he gleefully drank warm cofi seated inside the tentage. I mean we know the diff between a commander worthy of good respect vs one who takes taxpayers money to feed lusts for power and shameless pursuits.

Anonymous said...

REDUNDERWEAR, was what we used to call the guy. I remember he did his SOCs by stationing his selected men at strategic pts along the route to help him carry his sbo and rifle to run alongside him while he runs without burden. Many of the officers were crooked too. I know of a guy who even paid money to get off days frm the officers. And one Coy 2IC even kicked a poor little puppy until it flew some 5m away during a morning jog cos it blocked his way. This is what u get for integrity in the local army.

Anonymous said...

hey this bastard ANG tecor- die already? real bastard when he is a sargent time my platoon sargent in 1979

Anonymous said...

This ang teck hock is now a MWO with the school of armor. As someone under him, he's damn useless. Soft but super lazy and annoying..o

Anonymous said...

he tekan me from 1980 from holland road camp till 1981 in sungei gedong camp- brady bastard - i will never forget him- fucking ang teck hock-