Sunday, May 29, 2005

Felicity

Some people have it easy in the army, while some don't quite enjoy the same felicity another receives. Thus, I find it unjust to judge how army life has been between 2 different individuals, as did Jus did when she asked this guy how was his NS life.

"Nothing much, not really that tough. Yeah guys usually mature, change after NS, impacts your life." (well its somewhere along those lines, words probably got lost in transition)

Hmm, so we have here a guy who underwent a modified BMT and spent the subsequent period of his NS life as a storeman. No offence meant to all the storeman out there, but in all seriousness, other than improving your arithmetic, and knowing how long spiders take to weave their webs, I can't perceive how being a storeman can really impact your life that much.

Anyone who says they love the army would probably be lying through the skin of their teeth, and in all earnest, I haven't seen a single soul declare that with zest. However, we have little choice but to serve, even if any complains we make be seen as whiny by half our population who would never understand what we go through in 2 years. The grim reality is that the word patriotism is thrown out of the window, and we are all living by our obligations of holding that coveted pink IC.

An interesting fact I just read somewhere, no inkling if there is any truth in it, but 60% of NSF intake are Pes C or below by the time they ORD. Really interesting.

It never ceases to amaze me to see someone sitting there reading an issue of Maxim, unperturbed that everyone around him is busy with area cleaning. Whilst everyone is slogging away helping to keep the area clean, how one can act nonchalant, and not feel a tinge of guilt is beyond me. Oh wait, he moves, contributes to area cleaning by leaving the spot he is sitting on so we can sweep the floor, whilst he continues his salivating on the chair. Seriously isit that tough to do your part in a bunk you sleep & live in majority of the week? Even so when its not as if all the scantily clad women are gona come alive and walk away from the magazine.

I won't deny there have been periods I've skive, but at least I ensure I do my part, and certainly not when everyone around me is slogging their guts out. Alright, I complain too much. Perhaps I should stop and reflect.

Linus' Daily Antics | Article




Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"Chao Keng" Street

CheowKeng

For your interpretation, what sounds closer?

CHAO KENG STREET
To act or pretend in order to impress others or escape being given extra duties or responsibilities.
1. "Don't chao keng lah, we know you very good, leow."
2. "No need to chao keng anymore... The other guy oreddy kena arrow."

or

TSAO K'NG STREET
Hokkien term meaning to expose one's underwear unintentionally.
"Don't look! Jane tsao k'ng again."

Definitions taken from the Coxford Dictionary

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Near Death Experience and Stupidity

Had a buddy of mine, who I got real close to only after BMT at vocational training, because he was in another platoon in BMT. He told me a story of how during our POP at one point, he seriously thought he was either going to die or get seriously hurt.

My friends platoon had been assigned the task of acting out an invasion scenario during our POP. The usual propaganda stuff, evil enemy invades, poor civilians scared, hurt, killed. At the end, the army arrives, and through "skill and "co-ordination", they dispatch the enemy. Pretty run of the mill stuff, just play acting with blanks and smoke grenades.

My friend was to be a civilian, just some teenage kid, who would get "killed" while trying to fight the enemy. So he gets killed, and is lying on the parade square, happy and contented, because he essentially gets to "sleep" during his POP.

The problem comes, when the heroic Singapore Army attacks and they start throwing smoke grenades. My friend pretending to be dead with his eyes close, hears this "Clank!Clank!" sound heading towards him. So, he opens one eye to take a peep, and he sees this smoke grenade, still shooting sparks happily bouncing towards him.

Part of the problem was that he was the closest to the spectators, so any movement from him would be freaking obvious. On top of that, we had a MP as a VIP that day cause well there was a white horse amongst us. So my friend was mentally caught, and hesitated, if he moved, he would most probably end up signing extras, if he stayed, there would be a chance the damn grenade would stop before reaching him.

Him being a guy who tends to make really silly decisions (He made another REALLY dumb decision later on that resulted in him going to DB, but that’s for another time) STAYED PUT. He stayed there motionless on the parade square, watching this hot sparking cylinder rolling closer and closer to him. Thank god for the lucky bastard that the grenade stopped 2 meters away from his face, and all he got was a whole bunch of smoke.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Fortune-less

Had our range this week and was somehow termed bobo for a day. Now, I have no idea how the term bobo came about to describe firers who can't hit their targets. Was it termed after Zoe Tay in the then SBC (now Mediacorp) show, Pretty Faces, but seemingly since it could have been a term that was coined earlier than before the late 80s, the term bobo might have well been a deviation from the now extinct dodo bird.

Well, before you get the wrong impression, I'm definitely not a bobo shooter, or rather believe I'm not that bad, the 1st day of range and I found out that my wife (read: rifle) was in a sense not the best of rifles. Actually, it was more of a problem with the bolt carrier group; resulting in endless IAs (immediate action). As one of the warrant officers who tried to get me out of my IA fix put it, "You bolt carrier is f#cked up!"

Normally, carrying out my IA drills and carrying on shooting proved little hassle for me, but this time around my bolt carrier group was really so f#cked up that the bullet usually ended up in a vertical position, leaving my magazine stuck, and by the time I got it out all the targets would have said adios. As it is, fedup with all the IAs, I only managed to hit 8 out of 17 shot effectively, with 11 unexpended rounds, still in my magazine of course.

As such, I had to go for a reshoot the next day and this time I borrowed my friend's bolt carrier group (his didn't IA a single time the day before). I managed to hit 10/16 for the day shoot and got 7/9 for the 1st 3 magazines of the night shoot, so I didn't really didn't bother much about the IA for my final mag so effectively hitting 17/25 isn't so bad in my opinion.

The friendly banter between our range CSM and this Indian guy from an external unit certainly sparked our exhausted minds the 2nd day (having had like what 4 or so hours of sleep?), so much so that the CSM dubbed him Bobo, and at one point of time radioed over "Bobo clear!" much to everyone's laughs. Well unfortunately at the end of the day, despite the CSM giving him special invididual reshoots and training, everyone except for Mr. Bobo passed.

As reflective of my fortune over the past week or so, I returned from range to find the money from my wallet had been stolen. Apparently, the thief had somehow figured out I had left my key in my beret, which happened to be snuck under my pillow. Sadly, I don't have a habit of leaving my key there other than when we were going outfields for long periods of time or during close combat training (which cites that we can't bring hard objects along). Fortunately, the thief had decided my Nokia 3120 was not worth the effort, for my friend had it worst, he lost money and his Samsung mobile phone. Then, it hit me that back when I first came to Jurong camp to undergo the engineer course, I was scolded once by my sergeant for leaving my key under my pillow. I probably didn't learn from the scolding then, and subsequently paid $30 to learn my lesson.

A piece of advice to everyone out there, NEVER leave your key anywhere in your bunk, for its akin to not locking your cupboard.

Before we fell out from the range, there was the routine everything-out inspection. Now, the range CSM called for detail 3, firer 5 to step out, and somehow one of my platoon mates (who happened to be detail 3, firer 4) raised his hand and stepped forward. He had unwittingly put himself as one of the lucky two to be randomly stripped searched! Needless to say, my other friend who was the actual detail 3, firer 5 was laughing all the way back to camp.

Hygienic
Happened to see one of the toilet construction workers use the toilet without flushing and subsequently left without washing his hands ... such is the irony that he constructs our toilets.

This has just been another boring and uneventful week in my army life.

Linus' Daily Antics




Thursday, May 19, 2005

Is your life really worth it?

1 Company,
2 Days of Shooting,
18 Lanes for firing,
22 Instructors,
181 Recruits,
200 M-16 rifles,
700 Magazines,
6000 Target Boards
27,000 Rounds of ammunition,

1 Range Package,

Thereby causing,
Countless miss-fires,
Millions of I-A's (jamming of rifles),
27,000 Expended rounds (some are returned though),
6000 Used Target boards (of which less than half got hit thanks to cock-eyed shooters),
700 Very hot magazines,
200 Dirty rifles,
181 Tired maggots,
22 Cranky and coarsed-voiced instructors,
18 Lanes littered with empty ammunition cartridges,
2 Days of fruitless shooting (the total score for this range was one of the lowest),
1 Extremely tired and sleepy company.

Which explains why I only managed to blog in the late morning. Bloody re-shooters in range caused the whole company to only cease fire at 11pm last night. Meaning that we slept at around 2am and only managed to book out early this morning. I, and a few other instructors, nearly lost our lives back at Range yesterday.
Thanks to the foolishness and ignorance of the recruits. Sheesh. No wonder instructors deserve the extra pay more than section commanders out there in the units.

Despite us reminding the recruits that they must, at all times , point their rifles to the front (in the direction of the targets), they refused to comply.

Here's one good example...
Recruit XYZ was firing as per normal.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Click!
Uh-oh. As a trained specialist, I'd recognised the sound anytime.
Bloody jammed rifle.
Recruit XYZ finally realises it too.
*Turns around from target to face me (I was standing behind him), with a LOADED rifle pointing straight at me*
"Sergeant! I-A!" (meaning a jammed rifle requiring an Immediate-Action)
"&@*!^#%$&@*!^#%$!!!",
"OEI! POINT YOUR RIFLE TO THE FRONT!!!", I shouted.
*at the same time, rushed towards him and shoved his wayward pointing rifle back to the front*

Then I went and helped him remedy his weapon. Sheesh. Another close shave. Had that rifle suddenly snapped back to life, it would be the end of me. Which really makes me marvel at the destructive power of a rifle. There lies, in the hands of a recruit, a device which is capable of taking away lives. I shudder to think what that weapon could do in the hands of an insane recruit.

Is your life really worth it?

I'm just glad to be home.

Safe and sound.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Starry Night

I don't remember many other names now, but I was numb from fatigue. So were Foong, Selvam and Ho Yeo as we lay on the top of our Armoured Personnel Carrier.

Foong asked why.

I said I didn't know. Ask the stars. A lot of them tonight.

I must have been numb from fatigue, because I didn't feel much else while lying on the top of the APC.

Foong asked again, what happened?

Not sure. APC overturned. Bravo Company. Someone died.

Why must people die like that? Foong asked the stars again.

I thought of many things then. How the accident happened. How unlucky it was for Bravo Company to be switched to point (leading) company instead of Alpha. How dark it was at 8pm when the command for Order of Movement was given. How it had rained the two days before, making the dirt tracks all but muddy slosh pits. How we had always made fun of Bravo's incompetence. How I had spent the previous two days riding my recce bike behind and between the tanks and armoured carriers. How I had been tasked to mark out directions at track junctions. How I had seen the false track leading up a steep embankment. How I had judged that that false track would be obvious to all. How I realised I had made the assumption that it would be Alpha Company on point. How I realised that if another company had been on point, they might not have deemed the false track so obvious. How I realised what might happen when the Order of Movement was given. How I did not actually see the accident. How I realised exactly what had happened when the radio call came in to inform Battalion HQ personnel to collect the deceased's personal effects from Bravo Company.

I thought of it all, but I couldn't tell Foong or the rest why and how. Maybe I was just numb from fatigue. And it was late, and kind of peaceful under the Kanchanaburi sky. It had stopped raining and there sure were a lot of stars that night.

Then we fell asleep, and it must have been a good uninterrupted sleep, because we woke up only when the morning sun shone on our faces and threatened to bake us on the metal deck.


PTE Teo Ho Yeo, CFC Tan, myself, CPL Koh, PTE Sng, SSG Ang, Kanchanaburi, Thailand, 20th Oct 1989

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Devil's Own

Nothing seems to be going right for me this week. Returned to camp to find that I had been selected to do office orderly duty on 22 May, Sunday. Yes selected to be an office orderly was much better to be on guard duty, but in this there wasn't any guard duty (usually if we have duty, 5 guards and 1 office orderly would be selected, and by bed order). It would have been easy to purport the blame on those who signed extra, for distorting the order system, but I would rather put it down to my poor luck.


Trying to negotiate a change for the friday duty (as my friend who was supposed to be doing it had a medical appointment on that day) came to no avail as my sergeant justification was that if I did the friday duty, who would do my sunday duty? Seems like the only hope of myself escpaing the duty was if someone unfortunately, signed an extra or something next week at the range, but wishing upon that could well backfire, and for all I know I might be the one that ends up signing an extra! Then there would really be nothing to prevent me from doing the duty.

What irks me is that I might have to miss the FA Cup final between Manchester United and Arsenal (duty is from Sunday morning to Monday morning), hopefully I would be allowed to book in on Sunday morning rather than Saturday night. Furthermore, with Sunday being Vesak Day, it means my long weekend would be disrupted, with an extra journey to and fro camp, pretty tedious considering Jurong and Thomson aren't exactly close by (unlike Nee Soon Camp, ah the memories if only I was posted there but oh well enough of the improbabilities). Booking out on a monday morning and back in subsequently the same night is tormenting to me.Dual nights of football is also what I have to give up (hey football nights have been few and far between ever since I enlisted). Everything could have been much worst in true fact, at least I can claim an extra day off as Vesak Day falls on Sunday. If Sunday isn't a public holiday, I would have to do duty without an extra day off, and probably feeling even more despondent than I already am.

Stinking Bedframes
Had more sai kang to do this week, carrying our old bedframes and mattresses to a situated dumpsite. Not much of a problem since we were so used to being the sai kang party. There was a slight hesistation though, the bedframes and mattresses had been doused by a mixture of feces and urine when the pipe in the room broke, and 2 of my platoon mates attested to the smell when they, unfortunately, had to claim back two beds last week, Nonetheless we still had a job to do and got on with it, carrying what was now dried waste encrusted on the bedframes. Halfway through, our sergeant thought of the perfect solution to dragging the bedframes on 3 wheel trolleys (wheels broken of course) by getting a forklift to do the work.

Stinking Tee
Woke up groggy and all as I do every morning, put on my tshirt and got ready to fall in. Strangely, as I put on the tshirt I was wondering why the tshirt still stank a little despite having been just washed (my washed tshirts don't stink as a matter of fact!). Hmm, perhaps it must have really stank before it made its way to the washing machine (but then again it doesn't sound like me again, really!)

As I made my way downstairs, I also felt that the tshirt seemed to be more tight fitting than ever before, squeezing my impalpable muscles. It was either that the tshirt had shrunk from all that washing or my muscles decided to bulge overnight, both of which seemed highly unlikely. Upon returning from breakfast, I immediately took the tshirt off and realized to my amazement that it was medium sized and definitely not my tshirt as all of mine were large. So how did I come into posession of someone's elses tshirt?

Upon reflection, I figured that when we were shifting beds and the mix the week before, I had left my tshirt on a chair and probably whilst all the moving took place someone must have taken mine by mistake and I had inadvertently taken what I thought was mine (fortunately I didn't wear it, or maybe unfortunately cause I would have figured it wasn't mine then).

Hmm so anyone interested in a medium sized army tshirt, cleanly washed of course (I sent it for washing immediately after the realization). All bid are accepted, with the prized tshirt going to the highest bidder.

In all seriousness, the moral of the story is to label all your clothes in the army as there are probably 1,001 identical pieces of clothes amongst the entire block of soldiers. As for me, its off to the eMart at the next opportunity to get a new set of nice smelling tshirt.

Running
Started training this week for the army half marathon (which is to be held in September, yes its FOUR months away!) and our progressive training started this week, seeing us jump from running 8km last week to 18km this week, hmm how progressive indeed!

As with the roulette wheel of how my luck is going this week, we had inspectors coming down this week to inspect all the armskote and out of the entire company, I was one of the lucky 5 whose rifle was picked to be inspected, fortunately mine passed without much of a shot.

This article is just another week in my army life. Linus' Daily Antics

Friday, May 13, 2005

Another Army Song

Training To Be Soldiers,
Fight For Our Land,
One In A Life,
Two Years Of Our Life.

Have You Ever Wonder,
Why We Must Serve,
Cause We Love Our Land,
And Want It To Be Free,
To Be Free.

Looking All Around Us,
People Everywhere,
Children Having Fun,
While We Are Holding Guns.

Have You Ever Wonder,
Why We Must Serve,
Cause We Love Our Land,
And Want It To Be Free,
To Be Free.


Download The Song Here

Sleep and Serve

For stay-in personals, the most you can get from the hours spent in bunk is sleeping – especially during office hours.

Well, it’s not that I like to encourage everyone to chao geng, but sometimes it’s just sad that in NS they make sleeping like crime like that. I remember in the first few months of BMT most of us were so tired that we slept a lot at home OVER THE WEEKEND when we book out – sigh, sleeping our precious book-out time away.

Read on for some tips on getting the sleep that army has short-changed you.

For stay-in personals, the most you can get from the hours spent in bunk is sleeping – especially during office hours. Well, of course there are more fun things to do during office hours than sleeping: reading (from newspaper to comics to FHM), talking cock, playing Gameboy, Monopoly, Mahjong (cards lah) even the super brainless game of 飞机棋 (the game where you control 4 aeroplanes and must throw a ‘6’ to leave “base”) (yes, we have done ALL of these before). But the risk of getting caught is too high - it just take one sabo-king to laugh too loud in the midst of the fun and that’s it – our bunk is just one level above the offices, and it only takes CSM a minute or so to do a spot check and we can kiss our weekend goodbye.

So, sleeping, aka “individual body maintenance” in the army, is the lowest risk option – if you sleep in a “tactical” position and provided you didn’t snore too loudly, you can usually escape enemy (everyone higher rank than you) detection.

Rule number 1: Never ever sleep ON the bed during office hours, not even lie down to take a rest. Doing that is like wearing the “arctic avenger” suit (the all-white terrorist suit in CS, remember?) and fighting in the Singapore jungle. Confirm gana.

There is once when we are slacking in bunk during office hours. One of us is sleeping on the bed, and the rest of us are doing equally zuo-bo-lan things like reading comics/newspapers. Our 2IC come in suddenly, and he straightaway asks that poor guy who is sleeping on the bed to go and sign.

Rule number 2: The space between the beds is YOUR bed during office hours. It’s damn funny that suddenly someone will be super garang and take out broom and dustpan when there is no stand-by-bed coming. He will giggle and then sweep the area between his bed and his buddy’s and make sure that it’s super clean, before resting his body on the ground.

My form teacher who was in his 50s said that during his time in OCS, the rules about maintaining a super neat bed was so strict that they all just choose to sleep on the floor every night. He said that now he regretted that because he thinks that sleeping on the cold concrete floor is really damaging for the bones (somehow it’s the problem of concrete sucking the heat of the body, from a traditional Chinese medical point of view). So, to protect your body against that (after all, you can downgrade all you want in army, but better be healthy after you ORD), I usually put a ground sheet on the floor (not SAF one: so troublesome to fold back nicely in case got inspection… just some E-mart one.

Some people go for comfort: they just take down the pillow from their bed and put it on the floor… well, a slightly more alert CSM will spotted that your bed doesn’t have a pillow and that’s really hong-gan. (Visual aid: if you play Commandos II or Metal Gear Solid, imagine CSM scanning around, see your bed without pillow, and a question mark rises above his head, and the next moment you game over).

So, bear with discomfort: just sleep on ur civi-bag (stuff some clothes), or have those inflatable pillow (really good to invest in one). Well, if you are really desperate, sleep on your pile of dirty clothes accumulated over the week also can =p.

Rule Number 3: Things to watch out for:

Some people like to stretch their legs and their boots became visible (no longer shielded from the bed). That’s really sabo-king lah. When your sergeant/CSM walk by your bunk, it’s damn obvious if someone’s leg is sticking out on the floor.

Also, (as always), switch off your handphone. If your sergeant call you and you pick up (woken up from sleep), you will definitely sound like you just woke up, and usually when you are shagged you can’t think of a good excuse to cover up. That’s it. If you don’t pick up the phone, the ringing sound will give yourself away. (Even the vibration mode is damn obvious).

Oh yah, for the ultimate tactical move: switch off the fans when you sleep – yeah it’s hot and stuffy, but sometimes some CSM will just cao beh about people not switching the fans off when they leave the bunk. (Well, honestly I doubt you can save much money from switching off the fans when they themselves have air-conditioned offices).

Well, it’s not that I like to encourage everyone to chao geng, but sometimes it’s just sad that in NS they make sleeping like crime like that. I remember in the first few months of BMT most of us were so tired that we slept a lot at home OVER THE WEEKEND when we book out – sigh, sleeping our precious book-out time away. Given that most of us don’t have the luxury of staying out, the only thing we could do is to do as much thing as possible in camp (it’s really funny how, on Saturday morning before book-out (okie, now all 5-day week) people will start bathing, shitting and doing all sorts of things so that they don’t have to do that AT HOME to conserve whatever book-out time we have. Sigh.. those were the days.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I just got this great WMA of a NS song! For those of you not from Singapore, NS is the National Service all able bodied men (and those also not so man, but at least born a boy) must go through in Singapore. We spend 2 years (must shorten only after I ORD right?) serving our country either in the military, police force, or civil defense.

or, Lim Peh, Ah Kow, Ah Beng.

Anyway, click the below link for the song, and enjoy this great funny NS song!(Will help if you understand hokkien as well)

click HERE to download song.

PS. Sorry, no time to convert to MP3, will do so later.

(Reposted from my blog at makanguru.blogspot.com)

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Singapore’s “martial tradition”

lzydata points to a talk on 20th May 2005 titled "In Search of A Singapore Martial Tradition”, to be held at the SAFTI Library Briefing Room (where they brief libraries).
The recent focus on Tan Kay Hai, the Singapore fighter pilot who flew over the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, and Cheng Seang Ho, the 66 year old woman who fought the Japanese invasion in Dalforce, reveals that there have been Singaporeans who could be sources of inspiration in any attempt to construct a Singapore martial tradition.

The tree near SOC start point

For those who used to train or stay in Armour Camp or Sg. Gedong Camp in faraway Lim Chu Kang, they would be familiar with the SOC route. Perhaps they have designated a new route now, but during my time (more than 10 years ago), the starting point is opposite the basketball court and training shed of a HQ building.

Most combat soldiers hate SOC, and the nervousness would usually translate into loose bladder before the start of the SOC tests or trainings. Naturally, many would empty their bladders at the same spot near the start point… under a particular tree. This tree is now gone as a new building was built over the land. Anyway, the tree was HUGE! Its canopy provides great shade from the hot sun, the trunk was thick, the roots were spreading across the land…

Somehow, the gallons of pee that generations of “Armoured Warriors” let go before SOC had nourished the tree to this impressive size. It should be a historic icon of Sg. Gedong Camp.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Ups & Down

As with the cliche out with the old, in with the new, we had our brand new 6-inch mattresses delivered this week; albeit with double-decker bed frames. Finally, we could have beds where I could stretch out my legs fully without touching the frames, not have beds where the sponge peeled off every time one changes the bed sheets (up till a point where I figured it would eventually disintegrate).

A downside to our welfare was that we had to carry the bedframes up 5 levels; along with our mattresses and I can tell you it was no easy feat as our mattresses were located at the hall and we had to go up another couple of levels to get them.

I thought double decker beds were of my father's era and that they had eventually been phased out due to the repeated and increasing numberof injuries suffered by serviceman. Just only recently, a recruit got his head chopped off by the ceiling fan as he climbed onto his bed. Ok, I exaggerate about his head being chopped off but the rumours speculating were that he was trying to commit suicide by letting the fan cut his head and eventually had his blood splattered as graffiti around his plain looking bunk. Of course we now know that it was purely an accident and you can spot the recruit easily from the rest as he looks like a mummified soldier with his head bandaged up.

Oh well, as I quote one of my bunkmates:
"We seem to be taking one step forward, but infact we are taking two steps backwards with this move."
How aptly described.

(Not being racist or demeaning to bangladeshis or anything) but we now basically cover what bangladeshi workers do, with nearly the same amount of pay and slightly less benefits - we do construction work (yeah we operate all the machinery you see on the roads), sweep roads, clean toilets, furniture transportation, and the mix, so what's next?

We also had our beret presentation this week, resulting in a flurry of activity whenever we fall in for lunch as everyone jostles to ensure that their beret is near and in order (alright, me included). Well, not that there are any women to impress but vanity is the name of the game. MAB are back in action as well, my propellant move to the higher echelons has seen me waking up having been attacked by a deluge of MAB, leaving me persistently scratching and cursing for hours. Need to reload on my OFF soon i reckon.

Most ridiculous excuse to tekan a recruit

Alright, everyone knows recruits have no pride, recruits are the lowest level of life form in the unit, recruits should be tekan jialut jialut until cannot recognise home so that they can one day be a tough soldier and protect the nation. balls, i say! to all those commanders who take advantage of their ranks and inflict unreasonable punishment to their recruits or men, you should be ashamed of yourself.

In my opinion, if I had genuinely cock up something, or a sabo king screws up, then punishment would be fair. Before I go on and describe the ridiculous excuse for tekan, I welcome all to comment of their own experience and see how lame the excuses can be.
So here goes my tale. It was the usual late night at about 10 pm, our platoon was ordered to standby-bed (which, for us, occurred at a frequency of approximate once every two days; sometimes twice in a day depending on the champion-ness of platoon's sabo kings). Rest assure this standby-bed was not of the cleaniness-inspection purpose, but more of a whacking session.

As usual, the platoon was given 15 minutes to clean the bunks, corridors, toilets and staircases, and be ready in parade 4. after the usual mad rush to meet timing, all recruits then stood attention next to their beds while the Platoon IC of the week went to invite the dignities.

I was one of the first to be inspected. Being a diligent and quite worker, I was very confident that the PC and specialists would never find any faults with me. If I should be doing push-ups later, it would be a platoon level punishment through no fault of me. At least it felt better if I was not the sabo king.

Anyway, true enough, my section mates were falling down like dominoes, vulgarites flying every direction, for their "mistakes" like platic mug placed at the wrong angle with the rest of the platoon, blankets folded the wrong way, towels not straightened. It seemed like I was one of the rare few to escape unscathed. Think again...

While the rest of the dignities trotted to the next bunk, one chose to linger, perhaps deeply unsatisfied to see me still standing instead of being in push-up position (yes, we would hold it there while they inspected the rest of the platoon, thanks for being Section 1!). He walked to me, gave me a crooked grin, and proceeded to do something totally creative that I would never have anticipated... He pulled the rubber stopper off the top of the double-deck bunk bed (I slept on the upper deck), dug his middle finger inside the steel frame, retracted his finger that was covered with rust, and wiped it on my No. 4.

"What's this? Why so dirty? Still waiting for what? KNOCK IT DOWN, CCB!!!!"

I was so amazed with his creativeness that I nearly broke out laughing. Luckily, common sense prevailed and soon I was doing push-ups like the rest of the gang. How's this for feeling lan-lan??? This kinda tekan how to siam? If they want to get you, they will. LL is the word...

Men of 46 SAR ('94-'96) Part 2

One main reason why mono-intake is more siong that BTS may be because the unit is self-contain, i.e. no holds bar when it comes to tekan sessions. TSR, rules against excessive push-ups within a certain time period, recruits must sleep before certain time, no duck war, no change parade etc. were completely unknown to the recruits of 46 SAR. Unlike BTS where the rules were followed strictly given the set-up of the schools, the officers and specialists take orders from the CO. And if the CO and OCs gave the green light to whack, you can imagine how the recruits would be treated…

Til this day, many men still do not understand the mentality of those specialists who trained them during BMT. They comprised of the so-called “roving team” that moves from one armour unit to another, training men from BMT to trade courses, and the PTIs who were totally insane, sadistic and hao lian due to their supposedly excellence physical strength. It just seemed like every specialist, once given the license to whack, would vent their frustrations with NS (having to serve in a faraway, super wooloo place like Sg. Gedong), with their love lives (e.g. kena jilted recently; cannot get it off during make out; kena rejected when tried to make out), or life as a whole.

Day in, day out, recruits were yelled at, kicked at, slapped, for no apparently reasons, even if there were no cock-ups. One can imagine how much psychological stress they were subjected, not to mention the physical strain. Here is one memorable tekan session.

Ali Baba” was considered chicken feet after the entire platoon had gone through several hours of “Ali Baba”- the locker version. Warning, you may puke just by thinking about it. The usual “Ali Baba” punishment is to order every recruit to empty their belongings from their lockers, throw everything into their duffel bags, run down to the parade square, toss everything into one pile, and then proceed to sort everything out again and lay them out for inspection. All this is usually performed wearing parade 4.

The 46 SAR version was, instead of duffel bags, the recruits used their lockers instead. Hey! Isn’t easier since you don’t have to toss things into the bag? Yeah, right. They “simply” have to carry their lockers down to the parade square with everything in (wearing parade 4, no less). Also imagine the mad rush when the entire platoon tried to get this done within an impossible 15 minutes, thus jamming the stairways. Oh, and not forgetting the poor platoon that stayed on the 4th floor!

After the usual tekaning in the parade square, what followed will be standby-bed. So now, the poor recruits would sort out their belongings, carried their lockers back up into the bunks, cleaned the bunks for inspection within a “reasonable timing” of 30 minutes. Sure, the bunks would be cleaned, but then the specialists would start knocking recruits down with push-ups for wrinkled or sweaty parade 4. Hey! A good soldier should be able to do all physical chores and take all tekans, and still look smart and smell good, right?

More shit to come in later posts…

Men of 46 SAR (1994 - 1996)

When it comes to BMT, most people would be posted to BTS in Nee Soon or Tekong. However, there are those who were “fortunate” enough to be sent to units directly as part of a “mono-intake” scheme.

Armour battalions usually fill their ranks with such intakes. The rationale? To foster camaraderie and unit cohesion since most men would spend their first day of army “career” together and ORD together, and even ROD together. Perhaps some combat engineer units and artillery units adopt such schemes too. Perhaps someone care to comment?

Anyway, back to Armour battalions. In 1994, a batch of A-Levels recruits (guys aged between 18 to 21 from JCs and Pre-U institutions) was drafted into 46 SAR in the infamous Sungei Gedong camp. The subsequent three months of BMT would forever change their lives, their perspectives, and foster great friendships. There are tales that many still cursed about, bragged about, and laughed about whenever they meet over a platoon mate’s weddings, kopi/togo sessions, and of course, ICT.

This same batch of men subsequently earned themselves into the history book of SAF by winning the best NS Armour Unit three (or is it four?) in a roll as 466 SAR. Of course, for those know the inside story, this achievement is somewhat dubious (;p). At this time, the original cohort from the BMT of 1994 is approximately 50% given the usual “attrition” rate from downgrades, overseas postings and studies. But this does not take anything away from this fabulous bunch of men who know when to play hard, and when to fight smart (well, almost everyone, except one particular company :D), and watch each other’s back.

The BMT experiences really cement the unit. It was pure hell during these gruelling three months. Whenever the recruits met up with their counterparts from BTS during the weekends and compared tales and treatment, Nee Soon and Tekong instantly become paradise, or luxury camps in the eyes of the men from Attila, Bronco, Cheetah, and Scorpion. There was simply no comparison in terms of “siong-ness”, level of tekan-ning (physically and psychologically), and intensity of vulgarities.

In the next few posts, incidents during BMT will be described to illustrate the experiences that many men still talk about. Stay tune…

Friday, May 06, 2005

Loggies guide to having your way in your department

As a loggie myself I've been to many admin and logistics departments, and I always notice a common trend. There are smart people who seem to know how to get their way in the department, and others who constantly seem to be getting into trouble.

So I've compiled this guide for people who aren't afraid of putting in a little extra effort to gain a whole lot more out of your NSF experience. For those born with a disposition to slacking, the suggestions here may seem too difficult. This guide is probably not for you. If you are interested in burning a few weekends and putting in some extra effort for the unparalled benefit of gettign your own way in your department with the backing of your superiors, read on.

1. Make yourself indispensable. Do your work fast, don't procrastinate. If you can't do it one way, try another. Your superiors will appreciate you much more if you're the kind that can help them get things done.

2. Offer your help where you know your boss needs it most. Of course, this requires you to have intimate knowledge of your boss' main projects and workload. Don't be afraid to ask; he/she will probably be more than willing to tell you. Try not to go out of your job scope though; if you're the admin clerk it's okay to go a little into the logistical side, but don't dabble too much in maintenance, it will kill you. Of course, if you have really intimate knowledge of the department's inner workings, your'e ready to be king of the hill.

3. Dont' be afraid to put in extra man-hours if you have to. Especially when your boss is putting in extra hours too. This is usually the perfect time to develop a better working relationship with your boss. Get to know his main anxieties. If you want, go ahead and mention holidays you wish to take in the future. If it is les than a month away, don't bother. Test the waters first.

4. Keep your boss updated. Tell him what's wrong on yoru side, and what you're doing to rectify things. He/she wants your assurance that things are normal and you'er working to keep them as such. Telling him/her that thigns are perfect when they're not is only going to put a time bomb in your hands.

5. Don't. Ever. Shout. At. Your. Boss. Yes, it is unfair that he/she can shout at you and you can't shout back, but that's the way thigns are. And besides, there's no faster way to throw your effort away.

6. Be beyond fault. Don't do really dumb things like keep your hair down to your neck, or wearing your shirt tucked out in full view of people outside your department. Feel free to take a few liberties, like wearing PT kit in the store, but not too many. If other people complain about you, make them sound like nit-picking assholes.

Once you feel things are going really well between you and your boss, it is time to start having your way.

7. Learn when to ask for favours. Don't ask when everyone else is asking. Don't ask when the department is going through a crisis. don't ask when your boss is in a bad mood.

8. Learn how to ask for favours. Always provide a good reason. Smoke a little if you have to. It could be your best friend's birthday, or perhaps you have to pick up something, but don't ever fake the demise of a close one. If possible, take the whole day off but show your face for at least 15 min at the start or end of the day - it goes down somewhat better. And always follow up your request with details of arrangements for others to cover your duties, or at least of the steps you have taken to ensure thing swill not go haywire when you disappear (e.g. settling stuff which isn't due for another few days).

9. Learn the reasons for asking for favours. Don't ask for days off when you know that all you're going to do is sit home and slack - you're just wasting imperial favour. If it's something really important, like Mambo night or something, try to at least stay the morning to talk to your boss/colleagues (relationship/building, we call it) before running off. And if things suddenly need to be done, don't run away and disappear - it reflects really badly on you. Stay a little while, and once everyone seems to have something to do, announce that you would really love to stay but have to leave there and then. It's all about tact, people.

10. Get an understudy. It's no good being the only indispensable guy around - sometimes they really need you. The attention goes a long way in helping you get what you want, but if you can get another subject into the limelight you can retire from your duties and continue to enjoy imperial favour at the same time. Talk this over with your boss, express concern that after you ORD things might start spiralling downwards. Don't wait until it's too late. Get a reliable understudy, not some dumb slack shit, and start teaching him. If you are so capable the duties you handle can't be covered by one person alone, get two. Teach them well, slowly hand over your duties to them, and tiptoe out of the limelight. Chip in occasionally on more important matters so you don't look like you're slacking. Whenever people ask, say you're supervising. Of course, don't forget everything you've learned from your job. Not ORD yet, leh.

Once things are in place, you have the favour of your big boss (the biggest guy in the department; the smaller ones are not so important, though it's good to get some support there. otherwise, your'e good as long as they don't hate you) and you have someone to cover your duties, you're good to go. take off whenever you see the need to. if you can't, try taking leave. if that fails, don't push your luck. If you take things slowly you can probably still get one or two days off per fortnight.

Spam? No, It's Information

I am going to keep this post real short because I have only one thing to tell you about.

Here is a the address of the 1st Battalion Guards' Website.

http://www.1guards.com

Do leave your comments behind in the guestbook.

Why am I doing this? Because I helped in it.

Cheers!

The New SAF

Ah, the army chinaware of our times....
who can forget the bulky mess tin which gets blackened and stained after every hot meal...


the old mess tin.... Posted by Hello

And the old mess mug we tucked in our SBO, which gets dirtied with mud and leaves in the jungle. Beside the 1st 3 mths of BMT, who would drink from it?


The old mess mug..(kidney shaped)... Posted by Hello

And now, the SAF has taken fashion and 2-in-1 trend into consideration!
Introducing the hip, cool mess-multi-purpose-kit!


From dull grey, to trendy camo green! Posted by Hello

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


From a Mug....to a pot! Posted by Hello

Thursday, May 05, 2005

I am a weenner!

Whaddya know? They ran my dulce et decorum est pro patria mori story on the National Servicemen's website (MIW - Mindef Internet World). Last month, I submitted one of my old posts from here as an entry in a contest organized by them.

I was hoping for a big prize, like two years off reservist training or something. Instead I now have an MIW water bottle, a CD of Army songs by Jack Neo, Dick Lee and Sheikh Haikel and a two week pass to California Fitness. As Cowboy Caleb said to me, 'what you think? They give you Toyota Camry ah?'

Must tell them to buck up. Else every month, like this month, mine will be the only entry they'll receive.

Mindef website runs my army story
Wow, I won! Who'dve thunk it?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The shitty life of an MTO

A day in the life of an MTO

Monday
0745: Fall men in
0815: Start first parade. Watch late stragglers stroll in. "Why you late", I ask. "Traffic jam lah, sir." Give him benefit of doubt, but wonder what I'm going to say to him next time. Receive call on handphone: "Sir, got urgent business at home, can take urgent leave or not?" Resist urge to say no, tell him to be back by lunch. Note to self: call up home and ask about family situation. All the other stragglers sign 1 extra.

0830: Dismissed. Drivers start coming to office asking about medical appointments. I don't have the time (though I constantly swear to make time) to check on them, so I sign the Off Pass Book hesitantly. Note to self: Check on drivers.

0845: "Sir, I cannot go on exercise, not feeling well lah". "Fuck you lah, everything also doewan to go Nevermind, just tell the conducting officer and tell the medic to keep a lookout for you". "But Sir, safety leh..." "Kanina better go now before you really have to call for medic Nevermind, anything happen I answer". Shudder as I recount tales of how other MTOs tried the hard method and got more than half the MT Line on MC (authentic or not I don't know.)

0900: "Sir, canteen break?" *sigh. look at watch* Report back to me by 0930.

1000: Canteen dudes not back yet. Call them up: "Sir, we helping out at the other MT Line, will be back after lunch" "OK, but kanina next time give me a call lah, all have my number right? Cheebye man all of you..." "Sorry lah sir, busy mah." I let the matter drop.

1100: MT Sergeant (DXO, by the way) complains about drivers. Not signing logbooks, not signing stuff in and out properly. "Just give them extra lah". "Sir, you talk to them better lah". "Ok, I try, but unless the vehicles get sorted out there's not much I can do". Which is true: I'm busy enough trying to get the daily vehicle detailing (list of who goes where to do what in which vehicle. one list per workday. from 3 different units within the same camp.), so I leave maintenance under the care of the supervisors. Doesn't seem to be working out too well.

1115: Talk to drivers about lack of accounting. "Hard lah sir, some vehicles cannot even find logbook *mental eye-popping on my part here*, how to sign?" "Take another vehicle lah" "So many off-road (unserviceable) ones, troublesome to find lah. Take 5 vehicle, all 5 cannot drive" "This time let you off. Next time go and find one working one with logbook, understand?" "Yes sir". Don't like giving too many extras. Lowers MT Line morale, and any MTO would know driver morale is everything, since it is directly linked to attendance. Note to self: One of these days, fuck care them and just whack. One of these days.

1200: Receive call from QM: "Hey, want to go lunch?" "Go where?" "Cookhouse?" "Fuck lah, cookhouse food so shitty." "Then hawker centre loh." "Ok, you pick me up when you ready ar?" "Can."

1215: Honk from QM's vehicle. "Eh, sorry leh, today got many calls lah, stupid last0minute indents. you go ahead first, da bao for me can?" QM sighs. "No problem. you look quite stress leh, how's things here?" "Hoh, how's things ar? I ready to demolish 5tonner already leh." "Wah, lax man. I go now, talk to you later".

1300: Lunch arrives. I eat at table. Drivers comment. "Fuck you all lah, you want to eat in driver's office also can lah, you drop you lick up loh." "You say one ah, Sir?" "yalayala". MT sergeant not in office, so to hell with the no eating rule. I'm quite a slack guy; my command philosophy palces a lot of emphasis on personal responsibility, you see. Which the drivers still lack.

1315: Leftover drivers start vehicle servicing. Which is alot like weapon and equipment cleaning, but is more troublesome and has more implications.
1. If a weapon is unserviceable, you can still bring it outfield. If a vehicle is unserviceable, bringing it out will guarantee a good fucking from log(istics) branch.
2. Unserviceable weapons and equipment is portable, and with any type of vehicle you can easily bring it to D/GSMB and get it repaired after the paperwork is done. With an unserviceable vehicle, you need to acivate the tow service. Meanwhile, it sits there and you sit there waiting to get fucked (even though it's not your fault, but this *is* the SAF).
3. To clean and maintain a weapon, you just need to bring it out of the armskote. To cleam and service a vehicle, you need to drive it to the servicing bay, and you need someone who is proficient enough in preventive maintenance. People like them are in very short supply, since they are drivers and have to go on detail too.
4. Armskotemen and storemen don't have to go outfield. Drivers do. Even then, armskotemen and storemen can do equipment maintenance outfield. Drivers cannot, except for basic stuff (tyre changing, for instance).

1330: Mid-day parade. Spend 1/2 hour tracking down all missing personnel. Water parade. "Eh, driver movement board not for decoration one leh. Better update, or got nice stuff coming your way". "Yes sir *giggles coming from behind*" "Funny right, ar?" "No sir." Note to self: find one day, do spot check, all those never update sign extra. Well, there's not a whole lot of choice I have in terms of punishment. No push-ups. So there's extras and suspension of leave (moot point, since most of them will just get appointments, some with valid reasons), and summary trial. Not that I can spare any drivers sitting idle in DB.

1400: Phone call. "I asked for driver for today leh, where's he?" "Eh, dont' have yoru indent here leh" "Eh, I indented 3 months ago leh *yeah, and I was still a fucking cadet leh*, you all say can how come now cannot" "Wait, I check for you" MT sergeant says he cannot confirm, since his inbox got wiped out when they installed the new LCD screen WinXP computers "I try to get driver for you now, so hold on, hor". I honestly think he's just smoking me but have no way to confirm, and don't really need another complaint being sent to my boss.

1405: try to wake up driver. "wah sir, so many drivers sitting around you get them leh" "fuck you lah they all storemen lah" "deh! got so many drivers sleeping in rest area?" "those 2 resting for night exercise lah! go and check vehicle now!" "sir, exercise also can go now right? we last time also like that one what..." *kureshii controls urge to fall all drivers in and make them watch as this fucking driver checks his vehicle before moving out* "just go now, no questions" "sir, got off or not" "fuck you, understand?"

1410: wanker calls again. "yes, your vehicle going down now. jt wait a bit. ok? thank you, bye bye".

1430: plan detailing for next week. I just took over detailing from the previous guy a week ago, so things are still quite hectic. notice that the local training school has intelligently clumped 4 major exercises within a 3-day slot weeks down the road.
what the fuck is wrong with these training branch people? I have 30 drivers on paper; 10 are on course, 3 are excuse driving long-term, about 3 on average will be on MC each day, 3 are going to ORD, how many does that leave me with? You do the math.

1440: Send request for more drivers to XTptBn. Meeting in 2 days time to confirm results of request. [update: they gave me 4 drivers, out of 19 requested]. Send email to training branch, informing them of their oversight. Request for them to push 2 exercises to the next week. Email comes back: cannot push, last week of course for trainees already, and training area need to bid 3 mths in advance. Try asking from other units. XXXXXX camp: cannot support. XX SAR: drivers on 4NTM. XXXXXXX Camp: 10 drivers just ORDed. XXXX Camp: Yet to be confirmed (but they are the POI Bn, yeah, so what do you think? Their vehicle consumption is bonkers.) [Further update: Thank God for training branch personnel who understand ground problems. Redistributed available drivers among exercises. training school isn't pleased, but accepts new arrangement]

1450: Send email again, regretfully informing them of likely inability to support. "Please try. you have 30 drivers right?" Riiiiiight.

1520: Email arrives in inbox. Not my inbox; OA account still being set up, so I'm using a storeman's account. Pathetic place. "from major A: meeting at 0900 hrs tomorrow to discuss vehicle indent. inform major B also.". Great, they just invited me for crab steak at the conference room tomorrow. again, not my fault; training requirement only came 2 weeks ago, and some people continually insist on neglecting to factor in logistical support,opting instead to tekan the QM or MTO.

1540: Send out email. "11 drivers supporting Ex XXXXXXXXX overseas in june, please send vehicle requirement for june ASAP and keep this in mind during planning." that should show them. Will send out final email briefing the whole camp on procedures for requesting vehicle, but decide to do that once my OA account is ready. Don't want to have PTE X in the From: field, lah.

1600: Urgent indent again. Can send vehicle anot? Cannot lah, no mroe drivers. Please, dis wan veeery ergen leh, need to [snip]. "Ok lah, I try lah". New officer, need to build up HR lah. And not just for my own good also; All the driver welfare has to go through HQ also. Bad PR = slow processing of driver incentives, no goretex jacket, etc. you get the idea. And I'd be too embarassed to chase them for it. Activate 1 X supervisor to drive vehicle. Thankfully he gos willingly - these guys are real dedicated, man. Says something about your MT Line when you have to resort to activating regulars to support indents.

1630: "Sir, nothing else to do already leh, fall out early?" "No" "Please, sir?" "Go and do area cleaning" "sir, quite clean already lar, no need lar" I give them the look "ok lar sir, we go and do lor".

1700: "Our vehicles for tomorrow exercise parked already or not?" "Parked already what...some of my drivers (freshly back from detail) bring them down already" "still short of 2 rovers leh" Move heaven and earth to find them, only to discover they have just been moved down. Big time fucker man, no patience at all.

1730: Last parade. MT sergeant and CSM scolds drivers.

1740: Fall out drivers.

1830: Go home. Forget all my notes to self.

Repeat for Tuesday, Wednesday and all them other weekdays. Thank God it's a 5-day-week camp.

Well, if you're wondering, all the in-between time isn't spent sleeping or anything; just all the mundane stuff like confirming stock status with storemen, checking on vehicle logbooks (which are wrongly filled in many times), making phone calls, getting phone calls, taking phone calls for duty driver ("hello, CMTL" "who's this?" "MTO" "orh, MTO Sir ah, ..." you'll notice a distinct difference between the first and second response when an LCP and below makes the call), etc.

I tell you most honestly, it's a really shitty job. With trainees and men it's much easier, because "just chiong a little more and it'll be over then we can all go for OFF!" The drivers know better: "chiong so hard, next week still got exercise, then the week after that and after that..." and I can't give them OFF so easily since I need all of them. It starts to sap you a little when you have to deal with drivers with such low morale. And it's hard to motivate them, since the rate at which indents come it's almost guaranteed they'll get their civvie license anyway, and most of them have no idea what they want to do after ORD so "wait and see lor".

What hurts most is that it's so difficult to reward those who really work hard, because I end up calling them back when things get so bad I have no choice but to. Final note to self: Give PTE Y his long overdue promotion and ORD gift and super-kilat testimonial when he ORDs in 4 weeks' time. And remember to prepare all that stuff.

A Near Death Experience in Kanchanaburi

Some Singaporeans may be fortunate enough to visit the wonderful province of Kanchanaburi of Thailand during their national service days. Who can forget the wonderful canteen where food is good (but oh so sinful!) and cheap, and the gift shops are stocked with “CK” jeans, “Armani” products etc that will make any true Singaporeans drool in delight. And certainly not forgetting the beautiful canteen helpers who are ogled by thousands of hot-blooded NSFs, “lau-jiao” NSmens, and of course, the regulars. But I digress…

Training in Kanchanaburi during the summer season is no walk in the park. Temperature soars to 40 degrees Celsius and above during daytime, and plummets to below 20 at night. Drinkable water is hard to find, and every soldier has to ration water supply before marrying up with the supply trains.

Due to the extreme hot weather and drought, vegetation and plants in the training areas is very dry and thus becomes extremely combustible. A gust of wind can easily result in bush fire.

It was during one of the droughts that representatives from a certain Armoured Regiment had to take part in a division exercise, acting as skeleton enemy troops. This story tells the near-death experience of three NSFs, 3SG X (the section commander), CPL Y and CPL Z (3SG X’s section mates).

These three soldiers were given orders to scale a hill about the height of Mt. Faber and plant a few target boards to simulate company size of enemy entrenched. They were instructed to fire their rifles (blanks, of course) when the reservists Armoured battalion appeared in the axis to draw their attention as part of the division exercise scenarios. Besides equipped with two M-16s, the soldiers were given one smoke grenade. 3SG X did not particular like the idea of using the smoke grenade, as he clearly remembered the advise given before the exercise that any heat will potential ignite the dry vegetation. Given the hot weather, 3SG X instructed his men to bring along their water bottles.

As soon as their M113 stopped at the foot of the hill, the three soldiers gathered the items, confirmed the instructions with the officer, and made their ascent up the rather steep hill through a narrow trail that was covered with thorny shrubs and bushes.

The climb was tiring; the gradient was steep, the equipment was cumbersome to carry, and the thorny shrubs were, to put it simply, a pain in the arse. They finally made it to the top and promptly set up the target board. 3SG X assessed the situation and found that the possibility of the reservists spotting the target boards under such dense vegetation was pretty minute, and he was sure that given the attitude of reservists and the deafening roar of M113 and SM-1 tanks, they would not hear the rifles too.

3SG X decided that, if the rifle shots could not get their attention (the axis was about 1 km away), the last resort was to ignite the smoke grenade. He felt extremely uncomfortable with this as he noticed the surrounding vegetation was pretty dried. But for the sake of the exercise, he would have to carry out the orders diligently. As a precautionary measure, he and his men made a 1.5m x 1.5m clearing on the ground by removing all twigs and leaves. He then instructed CPL Y to ignite the smoke grenade on his commander, and “make damn bloody sure” to toss it in the clearing ONLY.

After going through the plan, the trio then settled down for the long wait. After about 2 hours, 3SG X, through the bino, spotted a convoy of armoured vehicles roaring down the axis. He immediately ordered the men to fire their M-16s. True enough, the convoy did not do their IA (Immediate Action) drills. It was clear that no one heard the shots. 3SG X had no choice but to give the order to ignite the smoke.

Alas, it turned out that CPL X, who was tasked to do just that, was not comfortable with handling a smoke grenade. After much fumbling, he managed to pull out the ring and tossed the grenade in the middle of the clearing. “Ok, they should see us this time…” thought 3SG X.

After three seconds, all hell broke loose. Smoke came out of the grenade alright, but the intensity of the heat soon sparked tiny flames in the surrounding shrubs that were at least 3 meters away!!! As soon as the trio spotted the flames, 3SG instinctively ordered the men to put out the flame with the water from the bottles before it spread. A noble but impossible effort indeed, for the dryness in the shrubs, twigs and leaves provided a conducive environment for the flames to spread.

In a matter of seconds, the trio was surrounded by fire, and the bottles were already emptied. In a split second, knowing that putting out the fire with their pee is not a viable option, 3SG X grabbed their men, who were still shaking their empty bottles frantically, and shoved them towards the trail, and yelled “FUCK IT!!! GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE, NOOOWWWWW!!!

It must have been a rather comical sight, seeing three soldiers running full speed down the steep trail, ignoring the cuts on their faces, arms, and hands by the thorns. They soon reached the foot of the hill and without delayed, jumped into the cargo hatch of the M113.

Sir, bush fire! We have to leave!” yelled the soldiers.

The driver woke up immediately, started the engine, and zoomed away from the hill, which was now engulfed in thick black smoke and roaring flames…

The group finally stopped at a river a few kilometers away from the hill. It was clear that the fire was spreading really fast, as the sky was now covered with smoke. After narrating the incident to the officer, 3SG X and his men decided to take a closer look from the river. Just as they were approaching the riverbank, they noticed a group of Thai farmers were resting and having their lunch. Soon, their lunch was interrupted when a despaired looking farmer caught their attention to the burning hills. Yes, hills, for the fire had spread to the surrounding hills and was making its way to the sugarcane plantations at the foot of the hills.

To cut a long story short, the plantation was destroyed by the fire. 3SG X and his men were thinking of spending the rest of their NS doing extras for this rather unfortunate incident. Worse of all, the trio was distraught by the images of wailing farmers who fought the fire in a losing battle. They felt so terrible for the farmers that none could talk for hours…

On the same night, 3SG X was ordered to the battalion HQ to be interviewed by the CO. The funny thing is, 3SG X was not afraid, as he was confident that he did the right thing and took the necessary precautions to ensure the success of the exercise. Soon, he was standing in-front of the CO, a burly man with a tough reputation. 3SG X narrated the incident clearly to the CO, and he listened attentively. The CO then told 3SG X that it turned out that Division Commander was present at that location and was thus aware of the whole incident, so the CO had to report accordingly.

Deep shit…” thought 3SG X. “Chiam until 40 years old liao!”

However, luck was on the trio’s side. No extras were dished out, and 3SG X was told by the CO that he acted responsibly by making an effort to create a clearing for the smoke grenade, and had to ignite it to save the exercise. Thus, no fault was found. And that was not all. To the trio’s relief, SAF compensated the farmers for their losses, and it turned out that they quite liked the fire actually, for they had more than what the products could fetch in the market, and they did not have to harvest it!

And it was rumoured subsequently that all smoke grenades and thunder flash were banned from exercises in Thailand. Not sure if this ban is true, or still holds, but it sure had a happy ending. The trio could have perished in the fire if they left the scene a few seconds later…