Reading Merenwen's account of her boyfriend's POP, as well as Kureshii's narration of how he was almost decapitated, I was inspired to give my own account of my very own POP.
For starters, my BMT company, Taurus, either had very good commanders, or had been arrowed by BMTC School 2 CO to provide the necessary manpower for this POP. For the parade commander was my OC. The parade regimental sergeant-major was my CSM. The announcer and emcee for the parade was my PC. Heck, 2 of my company's sergeants were standing at the front to give "pandan kekanan, pandan!" (for us to turn our heads to the right and face the audience as we marched right in front of them), and "pandan kehadapan, pandan!" (turn head and face front) when our column was about to leave the parade square.
It was threatening to rain during the last leg of our route march, and we were all fervently hoping and praying that it would not (literally) rain on our parade. Then, just as we began to form up outside the BMTC School 2 parade square, the skies began to clear.
Completely tired out from the route march, and unable to do anything much but remain frozen on the spot while the announcer said some things, some music was played and we were given the command to stand at attention and at ease from time to time, I got a little faint and shaky. I sought strength by gripping the scabbard of my bayonet hanging from my webbing.
Then came the VIP... some stuff about the British pull-out in 1971, yada yada yada... some of the recruits couldn't take it any longer. Suddenly, I heard a little commotion behind, and heard the footsteps of people running. Simultaneously, the crowd of spectators gasped and some pointed. Someone must have collapsed.
As the VIP droned on and on, more and more recruits started dropping. Of course, we couldn't turn to watch, but the sounds behind us and the shocked gasping of the spectators indicated that another man had fallen. Little indignant whispers rose up from among the recruits, as many softly cursed the VIP who was wasting our time and stretching our endurance to breaking point. You can only stand still for so long before your legs and even your fingertips grow numb, and the weight of your field pack and webbing are almost too much to bear.
The recruit to my right, some nerdy-looking guy with buckteeth, suddenly muttered, "I think I'm going to faint."
I replied, "No, you will not faint. You'd better not faint."
Then, I heard him say, "Fuuuck..." and before I knew it, he had collapsed backwards and fallen to the ground.
Sigh... 1 more down. Eventually, out of what I think were 6 companies, only 1 company (Scorpion I think) didn't suffer any casualties.
The medics were quick to tend to him and quickly stretchered him off. And it turned out that he was quite dumb for having finally given up at such a late stage, because after he collapsed, it seemed the VIP suddenly cut short his speech and before we knew it, the speech was over. Maybe the sight of so many recruits tumbling to the ground was indication that he ought to shut up.
For us, it was finally about to end. The parade commander quickly gave us the commands:
Sedi....a! (Finally! We could move, even if it only meant changing from standing at ease to standing at attention)
Ker kanan pu.....Sing! (At this point of time the medics had only just opened up the stretcher and were lifting my neighbour onto it; which goes to show how if only he had hung on for a bit longer, he needn't have suffered such an ignominous fate. But oh well, perhaps if he hadn't fainted, maybe the VIP would have carried on until the next casualty *shrugs*)
Dari kiri cepat ja... Lan! (Yay! We can march and look all serious and synchronised while our parents and girlfriends look on at us with pride. We were boys, now we are men!)
We exited the parade square, quickly changed from FBO to smart 4, then quickly formed up again for the final part of the ceremony.
My own parents took some time to find me; in fact, my dad had been snapping photo after photo at some other guy in the front row of the company, mistaking him for me... oh well, from a distance, without the hair and given that we all wear the same black plastic-framed glasses, we probably all looked the same.
The family members returned to their seats, the emcee spoke the line that is the tile of this blog post, and we threw our jockey caps in jubilation (I am quite sure that the one I retrieved wasn't my own, but never mind... as long as the previous owner of the jockey cap I picked up didn't have head lice or dandruff). 10 weeks of sweat, tears and a little blood had finally come to fruition. We were no longer chao recruits; we were chao privates.
There was plenty of photo-taking, and at times I didn't know which camera to look at. Which is why in almost all of the POP photos I took with my bunkmates, we're all looking in different directions. *rolls eyes*
Perhaps the heavens had heard our prayers, and held back on the rain for the duration of our parade, for as soon as the parade had officially ended, the dark clouds had returned and half an hour later, the rain came pouring down.
It felt good, having survived the POP and being showered with care and attention from my family for having survived the full 10 weeks. It officially marked the end of my initiation into the institution known as the SAF, and would herald many more adventures and escapades with an entirely new bunch of friends. But those are tales for another time...