As seen in the Sunday Times: Reservist photo! Oct 2005: Relaxing on the ramp. (Guess which one's Sgt Foreskin?)
How can one not talk about National Service, especially when it's a very large slice of one's life? Cannot right? I mean, cannot don't talk right?
Even if you paid $5,000.00 for skipping National Service altogether, you'll still want to talk about it, right?
'Eh, um, nah, give you $5,000.000, you don't call me for NS, ok? I'm not free'.And that's why the nice folks at MINDEF are saying that there's nothing wrong with blogging about National Service, and in fact, encourage people to talk about their experiences in the Army, Air Force and Navy. (Civil Defence and Police Force folk, your own pasal, I dunno... you come under a different Ministry).
'Not free? Why?'
'Um, I playing piano in London, dowan to come back liao'.
'Nabeh! Next time terrorist attack, me and my NS unit don't protect you then you know! Chow Piano Player!'
They also said that they liked the fact that there were objective views from National Servicemen of all ages, instead of just from traditional channels, like that of MINDEF's publications. In these publications, you'll never hear of how the food sucked in camp or how a logistical stuff-up caused us to eat 'Combat Ration Muslim Menu 4 Spicy' for three days in a row, which does happen once in awhile.
The matter at issue when I took down all Army-related posts and pictures were actually just the pictures themselves. I didn't have authorisation or clearance from MINDEF to publish photographs. My own fault for assuming that because I had authorisation (given by my unit in 2004) to take the pictures during training, I had authorisation to post them on the web, which I had done so since 2004.
So, the 100+ Flickr photographs I had posted, some since 2004, were the ones that got me in this bit of strife. But not to worry, because the kind folk at MINDEF, maybe about two dozen of them, took a look at the pictures earlier in the week, and decided that there wasn't any security breach.
In any case, when I was alerted to the potential breach of security issue by my unit's commanding officer on Wednesday, I voluntarily took down all pictures and posts while the unit, the brigade and the division investigated.
Apparently, MINDEF was alerted on Tuesday to my photographs, some taken since 2004, by Straits Times correspondent Jeremy Au Yong's (Nabeh, thank you ah, friend - I've spoken to MINDEF and they'll extend your reservist until you're 55) call, asking them about their 'blogging policy' for NSmen.
Thursday morning was supposed to have been a quick trip to historical Selarang Barracks to return sensitive military equipment (tool, entrenching, steel, with cover, canvas, and stick, holding, tool, entrenching, steel, with cover, canvas, and jacket and pants, parka, all-weather, camouflaged, gore-tex, with cover, SSN12345678910 and SSN12345678911), but it turned out to be a very long morning meeting all manner of military officers who were there to investigate the matter and to reassure me that it was alright to talk about Army matters online. They also gave me a rough guide as to what could and could not be said, saying that they'd prefer NSmen to 'use their own discretion' when talking about Army matters.
So anyway, it's mostly cleared up now, and with most of Sunday spent answering SMSs and phone calls from concerned family and friends wondering if I had been detained at detention barracks, I'm now putting back up all my Army-related articles and photographs, with the exception of one or two pictures, of which I've been told, MINDEF would 'prefer' not be shown.
What kind of pictures, you may well ask? Pictures of military hardware are usually sensitive - especially the interior, because you don't want the enemy to see how MINDEF 'zhngs' our rides - as are pictures of injured servicemen - because you don't want the pictures to go public before the serviceman's family is informed of his injuries - but to be really sure before you share your photos with the public, check with MINDEF first. There are several ways you can do this. For mine, I've been told that I could check with the Army Information Centre (AIC) who'll check my pictures to see if they're ok.
As for any other form of information, common sense will tell you that if a matter is one that is the subject of an ongoing investigation, you shouldn't blog about it in detail.
So, go ahead, talk about your Army experience - how good it is, how stupid it is, what a waste of time it is - and continue contributing to Days Were The Those.
Slice of life: Feb 1990: It was Mr Miyagi that came up with the name for 'Attila' Combat Team, 46th Bn, Singapore Armoured Regiment; Nov 2005: Still in use, seven batches and sixteen years later.
Some things haven't changed. Relaxing on the ramp: August 1990