Thursday, June 30, 2005

Dark and stormy nights

It was a dark and stormy night[1].
 
This is rated the worst opening line in the history of English Literature for some reason.
 
By some coincidental quirk, ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ figured large during NSF[2] days and even now during NS ICT[3].
 
With hundreds of items of military equipment that each soldier was responsible for, from his bootlaces up to his night vision goggles, it was inevitable that the rough and tumble of combat training would render at least some of the equipment damaged or inoperable.
 
In the event that this happened (quite often), that particular soldier was accountable for the damage/loss, and this accountability entailed writing a detailed report of how the damage/loss occurred. As you can imagine, many incidences of loss/damage would be discovered a while after it actually happened. (E.g. you don’t realize something is lost until you want to use it). And very often, the soldier would have no idea when or how he lost or damaged that piece of equipment.
 
Nevertheless, a report or a statement, as the army loves to call it, had to be written. And all the statements I have read have begun with, “It was a dark and stormy night”.
 
“It was a dark and stormy night, and my company[4] (‘A’ Coy) was conducting combat team block and delay exercise in Area D at around 0200hrs on 010290. We contacted[5] enemy elements at around 0230hrs and had to perform hasty retreat. My platoon[6] (Pl2) encountered thick vegetation which we had to bash through in order to escape enemy, and it was then that the cover of my sharpshooter scope broke off my rifle. I discovered it missing a few hours later during re-org[7], and backtracked to try to find the cover, but in vain.”
 
Dark and stormy nights, thick vegetation and rapid movement are the invariable ingredients of all statements, owing to the need to illustrate the earnestness but ultimately the futility of the required search for the lost item.
 
These statements, handwritten and up to 8 carbon copies depending on the type of equipment (optics, signals[8] and armoury being the most severe), are then handed up to the immediate superior soldier, and then depending on the severity of the loss (night vision goggles lost equals official board of inquiry, or BOI), the damage/loss would either be written off, or the soldier responsible made to compensate monetarily or be punished militarily (anything from extra duty to detention[9]).
 
Being low-ranking combat troopers that we were, it wasn’t uncommon for blame to be placed on some of us by our superiors for the loss or damage of equipment. One of my favourite statements (I read many, because one of my many duties included being the armskote[10] in-charge) was about the loss of a tiny spring from the inside of a GPMG[11], which couldn’t possibly be misplaced unless the GPMG was disassembled, and even then, very diligent care had to be taken during the disassembly of weapons.
 
Anyway, the little spring was lost, and the battalion armourer[12] was consulted as to the official name of the spring, so that the statement could be written.
A story had to be made up and by a careless trooper, on whom blame had to be placed.
 
That soldier wrote:
 
“It was a dark and stormy night. My company (‘A’ Coy) was conducting combat team deliberate attack in Area D at 0300hrs on 020289. During the attack, I was the section MG gunner, and set up a support firebase. We contacted the enemy troops, and I finished about 200 MG rounds[13] of blanks. After re-org, our company was ordered to leaguer[14] at Tanjong Skopek at around 0500hrs. My platoon was ordered to clean our weapons because we fired many rounds. I stripped my MG on a groundsheet in order to clean it. However, as I was taking out the bolt carrier from the MG, the ‘Spring, trigger mechanism, GPMG’, suddenly flew out of the MG and into thick vegetation about 10m away from my groundsheet. Because we had to remain tactical, I could not use a big torchlight to search for the spring, but I asked my section[15] mates to help look for the spring. Suddenly, we were contacted by enemy troops and the whole company had to conduct hasty retreat, so there was no time to look for the spring. After re-org, I went back to the area to look for the spring in the vegetation, but in vain”.

 

Obviously fictitious statement so far, but this was the clincher of a last sentence:
 
“This would not have happened if my sergeant did not tell me to strip the MG. Therefore it is not my fault but my sergeant’s”.
 
Best of all, that soldier gave it to his sergeant for approval. Not only did he not get it, but got a smack round the back of the head from the sergeant and three weekends’ extra guard duty for his creativity.
 
These days, during our annual ICTs, statements still have to be made when we lose things. The only difference being that blame is agreed to be shared among all the civilian/soldiers before the start of any training for any loss or damage, and any monetary compensation required is also shared. This is so because we all want to expedite matters and F.O.[16] from camp as soon as possible.
 
 In order to expedite matters, a team of statement writers (I was one of them last year) is also selected beforehand so that statements can be handwritten quickly, and a random soldier picked to put his signature on them. These statements are then given to the superior officers, who view, sign and declare the item irretrievably lost, and consult the armourer or QM[17] on the replacement or repair cost. This is announced to the company’s men, who fork out whatever’s necessary, and then wait while accounts are closed for the year before we are allowed to go home.
 
The thing that of course remains the same over the past decade is our favourite military fiction that begins “It was a dark and stormy night”, and ends, signed off, with “Your Obedient Soldier”.
 
 
 
© CPL (NS) Lee Soo Yaw Benjamin, 4th July 2003.

[1] Bulwer-Lytton, Edward, Paul Clifford, (1830), p1.
[2] Full-Time National Service
[3] National Service (Reservist) Annual In-Camp Training
[4] A combat sub-unit of a battalion of around 90 to 100 men
[5] Not telephone call. Contact enemy means either we shot at them or they shot at us.
[6] A sub-unit of a Company (see note 4) of around 27 to 30 men
[7] Re-organisation – after every battle or contact, the unit or sub-unit counts their dead, nurses their injured and reports their status to higher authority.
[8] Communications equipment like radios etc.
[9] Military euphemism for Jail
[10] A secure room in which the company’s weapons and optical equipment are stored
[11] General Purpose Machine Gun
[12] The unit’s weapons technician or repairman
[13] bullets
[14] form up to rest and stand-by
[15] sub unit of a platoon, of around 7-9 men
[16] F*** Off
[17] Quartermaster – Military officer in charge of stores

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Finale

My tenure as a guard @ the padang came to an end today, hopefully, provided no one reports sick or somehow or rather can't make it (though its likely someone could conveniently fall sick over the weekend). Why would I not be surprised if the guy who is about to partner Pte Khor can't take it and decides to report sick? Since he already tried beforehand to request a change of partners?


Another astonishing fact I found out from Pte Khor himself was that he has got a girlfriend! I do empathize with his girlfriend for her ability to tolerate him, for 16 hours with him seem like eternity at times. I'm not trying to be mean here, but seriously I would applaud her for withstanding him where for me, it got to a point where, maybe he was trying to make conversations most of the time, but I was merely giving replies at a minimal. If you saw a guard @ the Padang today with a bespectacled, blur guy trailing behind, it was probably myself and Pte Khor in sequence.


Along the way, Pte Khor informs me that having been a soldier for more than a year, he doesn't know that 1700 hours stands for 5pm, and so instead of meeting at the MRT station at 5pm, he reached at 4pm. Walking past the Singapore Cricket Club, he spots light at the bar upstairs and asks if its a disco. Upon informing him that its just merely a bar, he seemed to show signs that he was in the mood for a dance that he almost broke into a dance there and then, thank god for it was late into the night.


Before heading out to prowl this afternoon, he overhead someone else's ringtone playing the song "Lonely" by Akon. Hell for me then, as he broke into his own rendition of the song, the only problem was that he was only singing:


"Lonely ... lonely ... lonely"


Yes all the way he just sang that, ahem the song might be titled LONELY, but there are more than just the words lonely in the lyrics. Walking across the Padang, he suddenly remarked, whilst staring at the dome of the former Supreme Court,


"Hey what temple is that?"


(Suddenly backtracking on his realization that it was nothing close to a temple)


"Oh, er nothing."


Goodness, he has been prowling the area for 2 days and he realized that a "temple" might have appeared out of the skyline all of a sudden ?!?


Oh, and somehow either someone ate up our money, or inflation must have hit Singapore overnight, for our breakfast consisting of 2 plain prata and 1 egg prata cost S$3.o0. However I wasn't going to bother too much about that, just wanted to get my duty over and done with and hope I never see Pte Khor again.



Linus' Daily Antics | Original Post




Saturday, June 25, 2005

Adventures of Private Khor

I never expected my maiden entry to the soon-to-be-completely-abandoned-but-not-sure-what-they-will-do-with-it City Hall to be donned in a green smart 4 uniform instead of a suit. (They officially moved to the brand new S$208 million Supreme Court on monday, but not everything and everyone moved as it seems). I was on 24 hour guard duty at the Padang premises, ensuring no one tried to sabotage the National Day Parade.

Yes, let it be known that the site is protected 24 hours, so don't try anything funny, but its being served by national servicemen earning a paltry "allowance".


I have little to complain about the nice fact that our meals are sponsored by Tricon (which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell), except that wouldn't it make more sense that we could collect our rations from Funan, instead of making us spend nearly an hour walking all the way to Suntec to get our rations?


It was this trip to Suntec where I first got to meet the partner I would be doing my prowling duties with. As it happened, I was a reserve guard, only needed when someone couldn't make it, so it happened one guy from another company couldn't make it, so I was called into action. My 4 friends were one detail since they would be there permanently, so I joined the other detail, not knowing what lied in store for the 8 hours of duty with private Khor.


Yes, so for starters private Khor is a hokkien peng, completely versed in Hokkien of course and seemingly mandarin would be my way of conversation with him since I would probably be Potato (no, not my dog) if I spoke english to him all the time. Not much of a problem, 95% of people in the army (or maybe its Singaporeans) are like mandarin speaking. I never expected to find someone who could actually be worst off than my platoon-mate (who inadvertently volunteered for a strip search last time around), but he found me. Seriously, Pte Khor just left me flabbergasted most of the time, and I'm glad to have came out of it with my sanity intact and not having committed a heinous crime of whacking him with our truncheons or dumping him into the Singapore River.


For starters, he might just have been hibernating in a cave in Bukit Merah (no offence to people living there) most of his life. Enroute to Suntec to collect our rations, he finally finds out where is Marina Square and reveals he never knew where Padang was till that faithful day. Alright, maybe I'm being mean since its not a sin not to know? As we needed to get back to City Hall, we were walking along St. Andrew's Road since the pavement itself was full of seats. Suddenly, Pte Khor decided the phlegm in his body was liberating, and he spat on the road, in full view of all the buses and cars carrying the working crowd finishing work. I had never been more embarassed to be dressed in green, and really it was really my first time walking anywhere in public in uniform.


Duty starts and he is actually blur enough to want to follow the other detail down their route, seriously I don't know if he is perhaps just slow, or maybe just an alien from Mars, but sometimes I really wished I was doing the prowling alone. Somehow or rather, he kept bumping into me, yes I know you are hot and sticky, but I'm not interested in getting sticky with anyone other than my girlfriend. He would proceed to follow me exactly whichever step I took, I mean we are prowling the area you don't have to walk exactly where I prod right?


I thought I've heard some of the dumbest questions you can ask, but he gave a whole new meaning to a quote my mum likes to use, you ask stupid questions, you get stupid answers.


(Most of the convos. are in mandarin, translated)


"Is that the Singapore River?"


"Yes"


"So how deep is the river?"


(Like hell I would know!?)


"Why don't I throw you in and then you can let me know thereafter?"



(Taking off his beret and looking at the size)


"Hmm, is 7½ bigger than 7¼?"


(Myself, agape, DUH!!! After thinking for a while)


"Hmm yah its bigger hor."



(Looking at men from our battallion constructing seats on the stands, after like couple of rounds of duty)


"Hey, what they doing on the stands ah?"


(Subsequently answering his own question since my wide-eye stares wasn't gona answer his DUH questions)


"Oh, they building seats for people to sit ah?"


GOODNESS! ITS LIKE ... ARGH ISN'T IT BLATANTLY OBVIOUS!!!


Since we need to cross Connaught Drive to get to Esplanade Park (which is part of our prowling route due to props being placed there), we happen to be crossing when he looked left for traffic, not knowing that a car to his right was about to move out and I had to pull him away. Nothing wrong with that actually, except for the fact that Connaught Drive was a one way street! Yeah, and there was no traffic coming from the left! I do apologize to all tourists and people that he had barged into, and bless those whom I saved by dragging him away at times. Perhaps, he justs needs to get a new pair of specs.


6pm Thursday, and I was happy my duty was finally over, that I didn't have a recruit hairstyle (sometimes I really felt like pulling my hair), that I had doused myself with perfume beforehand, and only one more day of duty before I hope, I had never ever have to do duty with Pte Khor, EVER again.


BTW, for the VIPs or whoever gets a seat in the red grandstands (at City Hall), do note that strangely there are palm trees in between the seats, so viewing would be oddly obstructed, especially so if you sit in the seat right behind a palm tree.


Stay tuned for more adventures as I resume my last and final rites of duty with private Khor on Saturday evening. .


PS. If you would like to catch the adventures of private Khor live in action, feel free to drop by at the Padang at 8pm Saturday, and look out for a sane looking person (that's me) prowling with a guy that erm, hmm just imagine how he would like (donning spectacles)



Published @ Linus' Daily Antics




Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Sometimes, on the train, little bits of the big picture suddenly hit me. It feels almost like an out-of-body experience - you see yourself floating over your office, observing interactions and behaviours, and you suddenly know just how to fix your MT Line and make it work. Then comes the 'doing' part, and you realise you need a new roster of personnel to carry out your plans.
Point being, an MTO's job is the perfect stepping stone to middle management. You deal with ground people, you deal witht admin people, you deal with people with far more experience than you, you deal with subordinates and bosses. You have the chance to try out different styles of management, and actually have some breathing space for trial and error (thanks, all you driving udes, for being such wonderful guinea pigs). And I believe I will come out of it feeling like I've seen a whole new side of the world.

if you don't work on the combat side, you would have realised that the Army is alot like the corporate world in quite a few ways. Don't waste your 1.5 years in there. Think about what you want to do with your future, then find someone whose NSF job description closely fits the bill (preferably in your own department, of course). Shadow him, find out how he does things, figure out all teh problems he faces, and think about how you would solve them. Watch how he solves them, and see the pros and cons of his decisions. You will come out half-ready for whatever you want to do.

For instance, here I'm trying out different ways of handling drivers. I have tried talking nicely to some of them, to hear things from their perspective, but some of their POVs are so childish I am at a loss for words when talking to them. Next week, I will try the harsh method. The week after that I may try the old method - break them down, build them up. We'll see which works best. I'll get back to you on that.

The same goes for the customers. Reject their unreasonable requests outright, try the sweet-talk method, whatever works for you and your department. These are decisions you will be making out there - no harm trying it out here.

Don't just focus on making things work in your unit - think about how to make things work in your future company as well. I believe the government calls this lifelong learning. It sounds corny but there is a real point to it.

I'm sorry for spamming this place with so many MTO posts. Personally I would like to see many more MP, storemen, signaller, mortar pl etc posts. Especially the thign sthat go on in otehr logistics and upper management camps. Anyone from MINDEF?




Saturday, June 18, 2005

Ecstasy of a Parade

If you had applied for the NDP parade or preview tickets, and you have yet to receive a phone call by the end of today, your chances of winning the ticket is extremely remote to say the least. I should know better, I'm part of the team that was and still is fielding the phone calls to successful applicants. I nearly got my weekend burnt as a result, bar escaping via a fortunate rescheduled medical appointment yesterday. My friends are still stuck in camp, trying to contact people who left numbers that are uncontactable (don't ask me why they have to keep trying, try protocol).
It was an amazing experience being a telephone operator for an entire day, trying to field 200 calls, encountering all kinds of people. Even though it got weary as the day progressed, I maintained my courteous tone throughout my conversations, though it was quite amusing to see one of my platoon-mates talking to the person on the other line as he would to an ah beng friend. I now know its not easy being a telemarketer, or a telephone operator for that matter.

It was also an eye opener to hear the sheer elation of getting a pair of tickets to the preview, (yes just the preview only!), the nonchalant reactions, to the disappointment of a dad, who had wanted to bring his 4 year old infant and his wife along (yes I was sorry I couldn't help him).

Then of course there was this guy who seemed more like I was chasing him for bill payments:

(After confirmation of his IC number ...)

"Congratulations Sir, you have been allocated two NDP preview tickets"

"No no no!"

Click. Phone slammed on me.

(After consultation with my officer, tried again after 15 minutes)

"Afternoon sir, I called earlier about the NDP tickets"

"No no no, don't call me again."

Click. Great.

Overall, what can I say? It seems the perception that Singaporeans are not courteous seems unfounded, for most that I called were extremely polite, other than say one or two teenagers who couldn't care less. It also striked me how so many people got so ecstatic that they had simply received just two tickets to the preview, almost such that I'm ashamed of myself I couldn't care a hoot about the national day parade we servicemen spend so much work preparing for.

Linus' Daily Antics




Thursday, June 16, 2005

The BF's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Part 1)

We all know how Tekong is famous for being, well, a spooky place. So obviously, what's an army blog without any spooky stories right? Here, I'd like to share the first of several spooky encounters The BF had while in Tekong.

It was a dark and stormy night... Ok that was lame. Back to the real story. =x

During his BMT, The BF had a habit of talking to me for an least an hour every night after lights out. Yes, every single night without fail, even though he'd need to wake up at 5 a.m. the next morning and often, because of training, they wouldn't have lights out until midnight.

The thing was, every so often there would be an officer or a sergeant coming up to patrol the bunks, to make sure that none of the men were awake and engaging in rule-breaking like talking on the phone, which of course The BF was doing night after night. So what he did was to hide his phone under his pillow to block out its light and use an earpiece to talk to me. Occasionally, while we were talking halfway, he would suddenly whisper, "Shhhhhh" and I would know that meant that there was someone patrolling the bunks. We would both keep quiet until he spoke again and told me his officer/sergeant had left.

So one night, I was talking to him, when he gave the usual "Shhhhhh" halfway through our conversation. We both fell silent as I waited for him to speak again. And I waited... and waited... and waited. The BF didn't speak for more than 10 minutes, which was odd, because the normal "waiting time" was usually less than 3 minutes.

So I risked asking him, "What's wrong? Are you still there?"

The BF whispered back, "Shhhhhh. Don't talk yet. He's not gone yet."

We waited another 10 minutes. By this time, I was growing really impatient. But The BF suddenly whispered again, "You hold on. I'm going outside the bunk to take a look. Something's wrong."

So I waited for just a short while this time before his voice came back, sounding perfectly normal. "It's ok, the lieutenant's gone already."

"Why he take so long? Wah lau. Anal officer is it?" I pouted.

"Nah. Don't know why. Never mind lah," The BF replied. Then he immediately changed the topic and we chatted for a while more before he said he had to go to bed. I didn't think much of the incident.

The next day, in the afternoon, he called me while he was having a smoking break.

"Dear, remember what happened last night? We were waiting very long fot that lieutenant I saw to leave, remember?" he asked me.

"Yeah, why?"

He then explained to me what really happened; what he didn't want to tell me then last night for fear of worrying me or spooking me out.

Apparently, The BF's bunk was on the top floor (the fourth) of his company, Bravo. His bunk was also situated right at the end of the corridor, just next to the toilets, furthest away from the one and only staircase leading up to their floor. All the bunks were built this way - a window, the door, and then another window on the other side of the door. For The BF's bunk, it would look like this from the outside:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Forgive the ugly amateurish drawing, I'm not blessed with artistic talent.


So anyway, while he was speaking to me, he saw a guy dressed in No. 4, with the bars of a first lieutenant across his shoulders, walk past window 1 as illustrated in my drawing. That was when he said "Shhhhhh" and we both kept quiet. From past experience, the patrolling officer would walk past both windows, check the toilets, and then walk back past his bunk and leave. This time though, the officer walked past window 1, but The BF never saw him go past window 2.

So he kept me waiting, thinking that perhaps the officer was up to something sneaky and hiding and listening just outside the door. When I spoke to him for the first time, he told me to keep quiet because he still hadn't seen the officer go past window 2, or even walk back past window 1, so he assumed the guy was right outside the door.

But when we waited another 10 minutes, he began to feel something was not right. That was when he decided to pluck up his courage and go outside and check. If the officer was really outside and stopped him, he would just say that he was going to the toilet.

So he went outside, and surprisingly, there was no one at all along the entire corridor. He immediately knew something was wrong then, but he went to the toilets and risked a check, even though he hadn't seen the officer walk past window 2. The toilets were empty as well.

That was when The BF realised he'd probably seen something he wasn't supposed to see. Like I illustrated, anyone who walked to his bunk would have to walk past it again to get back to the stairs. This "lieutenant" had just vanished into thin air.

During his smoking break, before he called me, he related the incident to his platoon sergeant laughingly, brushing it off as his overactive imagination. But his PS remained perfectly serious and told him, "You don't know meh? Every batch sure at least got one recruit see that guy. The story is that he died in Tekong, but for some reason he didn't stop doing his duty and he still continues to patrol the company. Don't worry, he's harmless. In fact, we think he watches over the recruits by doing that."

The BF broke out into cold sweat. "Wah lau eh. So many recruits and I am the one to kena him."

But anyway, that was the first and last time he saw that "lieutenant", to his great relief. Little did he know how many other spooky encounters he would have in his next 2 years in Tekong.




Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Back with more complaints.

As usual my complaints will be told within my context, because I don't presume to know how shitty your jobs are, but I'm sure anyone who plays with SAF emaildoes admin work> will feel the same way.

1. Please be more detailed in your "Subject:" heading. Sending me "Subject: vehicle indent" would be fine if you're the only one in the camp asking for vehicles, but when I get up to 15 requests in a day I'm not going to be able to find your email easily. And Outlook doesn't let you edit Subject: headings from morons, makes my job just that little bit easier. Which means that when you call to confirm your indent I'll have to put you on hold really long.

C'mon, would it kill you to at least include date and purpose under Subject:? "vehicle indent for AHM training on 140505 and 170505" is only 7 words more than "vehicle indent" but tells so much more. And when I reply you wouldn't be stuck with "Re: vehicle indent".

2. Stop spamming. Find out who needs to read your email, and send it only to them. If you're not sure who to request vehicles from I'll understand, and won't be so pissed if you send it to my subordinate, my boss, and my boss' boss. But when I'm the only one who replies I think it's time you got the idea, so please - stop - doing - it - repeatedly. Shotgunning mailing groups isn't going to improve your image either. I don't think I should have to tell you this.

3. If you're forwarding emails with attachments, and it is absolutely essential that the attachment follows the email, please check that the attachment is still attached before sending it. Outlook sometimes only includes a reference to the attachment, and nothing more. I understand that you check your email only once a day, which is why it is absolutely essential that you get it right the first time.

4. Stop abusing the "Reply All" button. the guy who sent out the original obviously has something important to say (unless he doesn't, in which case he's in for a good one), and if you, too, feel you have something the whole world must know, please don't address it to the universe. Use the Reply All button if you must, but please have the courtesy to trim my name from the list if I don't need to know how you feel about this whole razz-ma-tazz.

5. Please do not reply in a fit of anger. I make mistakes, and yes I do deserve to get scolded for that, but after replying with your scolding do you think you could include something useful in the rest of the email? I don't want to have to reply with an apology AND a meek request for information that is actually useful, you know. It kinda makes you look dumb and uncomposed, since I usually like to use the "Reply All" button in cases like this ;-)




Saturday, June 04, 2005

Staying In/Out

Actually, I really don't quite understand the so-called 'prestige' attached to having a 8-5/8-6 job requiring stay-out. I was a stay-out personnel and personally felt that stay-out life was even harder and tiring than staying in.

Initially, my branch colleagues were downright jealous of the prviledge given, afterall, to every stay-in personnel...to be given a permanent stay-out status was like granting a night's worth of freedom to the otherwise, inhibited, restrained life of staying in. Even I was thrilled of the prospect of being granted limited freedom. However, as days and weeks rolled by, staying out begins to take a toll on a person...here's the lowdown.

1. Depending on where you stay, you may have to wake up at the same time you wake up when you were staying in (~5.00am) (Or even earlier!) just to catch that first bus that leaves in order to get to camp before 8.

2. Spend more $$ on transport. Even if you are in those camps with shuttle services, the shuttle service doesn't bring you right to your doorstep right? (Even so, shuttle services are mostly reserved for regulars and have limited capacities and frequencies)

3. You don't really have much time, if you take public transport from a relatively ulu camp, chances are, when you are dismissed at 5pm, u'll most likely reach 'civilisation' at around 6 plus to 7, after jostling with the peak hour crowd...you reach home at 8-ish? Dun forget you need to wake up at 5 am the next day...so you need to sleep at 12, the miniumum?? That allows you 4 hours for your personal pleasure stuff.

4. Lethargy sets in. By the time you get home, you are really too tired to really engage in any activity, except sleeping.

5. Let us assume that you are the minority who stay-out, won't your colleagues get immensely jealous and start to pile work on you just they believe you can go around gallavanting after dusk whilst they can't? (Point 5 does not apply if you are in a fully stay-out unit)

6. Staying out does not equal to 'chionging' until the cow comes home and get a hangover the next day...and turn up for work with bloodshot eyes and dark rings ala 'The Ring' style. Do that a few times and see what happens.

Nonetheless, some may choose to argue that...

1. at least you get to sleep in the comforts of your own home.(Refute: Unless your pillow is made of down and mattress as soft as silk, with an air-conditioner, I rather agree that the bunk has the same conditions as your room.)

2. you need to spend time with your significant other. (Fair enough ;)

3. you can do tuition to supplement your measly pay and offset your transport costs. (Yeah, provided you get a kid that can start at 9pm at night and end at 11pm...cos you won't be able to make it at 8pm, without reeking of sweat.)Maybe I am right, maybe I might be wrong or maybe I was downright oblivious to what can be achieved with the time given.

Comments?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Customer's Guide to Making Life Easier for your MTO (and thus, yourself as well)


Most men and trainees have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, but anyone who has done planning or is a commander of some sort would understand the necessity of this post.

Make life easier for the MTO? bastard who never delivers vehicles where you want them, when you want them? the one glitch in your smoothly running life? C'mon, spare a thought. You have one glitch in your life, he has anywhere between 3 - 7 glitches, depending on how many units his camp has.

Making his life easier will not guarantee you getting what you want, but it will put a smile on his face when he sees one great indent in the list of many screwed-up ones, it means he will try his darnedest best to get you what you want, and if he apologises for his inability to provide the service you require you can be sure he means it from the bottom of his heart.

So, yeah, make life easy for him, make life easy for yourself. Here's how:

1. Be reasonable. If you're just going to send some equipment to GSMB, wait while it gets repaired, then RTU, don't make the driver wait for you too. If you're going to be there for at least 2 hours, do have the courtesy to send the driver back, then ask for him again when you do need him. An MT Line will almost never have sufficient manpower, and the last thing I need is you aggravating this situation unnecessarily.

Also, it does not take 5 hours to deliver a document to CMPB and return to camp. Especially when you ask for a GP car. Indent accordingly.

2. Be flexible. If I ask you to share a vehicle with someone else don't go all anal on me and refuse no matter what. If there really is no way to do it at least offer other dates you are okay with.

3. Don't expect miracles. If you ask for a vehicle the next day and send the indent only the afternoon before don't be surprised if I can't provide drivers. Also be prepared to get less than you asked for, especially if what you want is 12 landrovers and 2 5-tonners.

I can help ask for support from a general transport unit, but I require that you submit such requests at least one month in advance. And I also need you to understand that confirmation of such requests will not come so early. And is not guaranteed either.

Moral of the story: If you want to plan something big, don't neglect the MTO, don't do it last-minute, and make sure it is sustainable. Too many senior commanders (especially government scholars) love planning really big exercises and events, then blowing their tops when they are told it is unsustainable. We need more logisticians at the top, I'm telling you. At least one year of experience in a logistics-related appointment, excluding S4 and DyS4. Meaning MTO, QM, TSO (tech store), or other on-the-ground type of logistic role.

We don't need another CO bellowing "WTF!?" when informed that only 2 out of 10 tanks are still moveable. Yes, I know it sounds like we screwed up big time, but sometimes we didn't (someone else did; perhaps no one did, things like this can happen spontaneously because of no one's fault), and the first thing you should do is tell us what you want to do about it instead of lambasting us for letting things screw up so bad. I respect a boss who gets things done without pushing the blame around.

4. Be understanding. I don't need you to understand that I have no more drivers and cannot support your exercise because my digestive system is not advanced enough to synthesise new machine operators. I just need you to understand that at times I can give you all the drivers I have and it will still be insufficient, but you have my assurance I will do all in my power to find the resources you need from all over the Army (though that is no guarantee; a 2LT has much less power than most people think).

I also need you to understand that we are a logistics unit, not a training unit; you can squeeze me until I pee my guts out and I still might not be able to give you the 12 landrovers and 6 5-tonners, with their respective drivers, that you need. If I could stay up the whole night to craft you a new driver, teach him how to drive and get the necessary paperwork done I would have done it. This are the unchangeable facts of life and they do not change even if you manage to get a BG to breathe down my neck.

Of course, feel free to meet me for lunch and work out a mutually beneficial arrangement; I'm always open to compromises. If you're happy I'm happy.

5. Don't be a wanker. If I can't provide you with drivers you have every right to let your immediate superior know, but I don't see the need for you to CC it to your CO and my FM (fleet manager) when it's just a small (platoon-level) exercise and you're just a fucking 2SG. And don't play members of the MT Line against each other to get what you want; it may work in the short-term but you'll just be well-hated in the long-term. I am the one doing the detailing, so if I say no don't ask my MT Sgt to approve the indent; yes, I should have sorted things like this out with my MT Sgt but it's not as easy as it sounds, and before it is done the last thing I need is you exploiting this situation.

6. Keep yourself updated. I don't want to spam the inboxes of the whole camp whenever we change appointments, ORD or get posted in. Stop sending your indents to CPL X and 2LT Z when both of them have ORDed weeks ago. If you don't seem to be getting replies perhaps it's time to give the MT Line a call, and get to know the new kids on the block.

7. Don't assume. Don't indent a vehicle 2 months in advance, shut up, become a reclusive hermit and then expect it to turn up on the day itself. Sure, you have every right to ("but I told you already what"), but having the right to expect it to turn up is not the same as actually having it turn up. Call every fortnight to confirm the vehicles and drivers you asked for are still there, increase the frequency of your calls as the day draws near (just once a week will do, thank you), and call 1-2 days in advance to confirm your indent. It's troublesome and you don't have to do it, but it's for your own good, not mine. All I suffer is a lower fulfillment rate and a slight sense of guilt.

Why, you ask? Because things change. A driver might suddenly break his leg. The MT Line might suddenly be activated for recall manning. COA might suddenly decide to visit. And we can't predict these kind of things 2 months in advance.

8. Don't be vague. There may or may not be a standard indent form in your unit, but I'm sure every MTO will appreciate it if you will provide at least the following details:

Start and end of indent (date + time; also see point 1. Don't hold the drivers later than you have to.)
Locations (where the vehicle will be going; training area, camp, etc)
Report to (who the driver should look for, where the driver should go)
Contact no (who the driver should call)
Purpose of every single vehicle you ask for (safety rover, admin rover, store tonner, ferry tonner, equipment to be used in vehicle, etc. We do need to prepare them beforehand.)
Other details if possible (no of passengers, extra equipment needed in vehicle - FFR cable/mounting board/mounting bracket for signal set etc.)

9. Don't be an asshole. If you need your vehicles labelled please do it yourself. When you're out on exercise and it's raining don't huddle in your Goretex and ask the driver to retrieve stuff for you. And do be nice to the drivers. You should scold them if they are rude or unreasonably uncooperative, but please make sure they are fed, taken care of and given sufficient rest. The safety of you and your men/trainees depends on them, accidents are a real bitch, but all I do is paperwork, the ones who will die horribly are the victims of the accident, and the guys who deprived the drivers of their sleep.

10. Accept that the MTO is king of his domain, and respect him even if you don't see any reason to. If he rejects requests don't hurl abuse at him. Don't tell him how to do his job; I don't presume to know how your department works, and certainly do not consider myself able to run your department better than you can, so I expect likewise from you.



The above pointers are not the 10 commandments of MT Line customers, they are meant as a guideline for those who are not requesting vehicles through CFMS (fancy computerised vehicle requesting system) yet. You can break all of them if you want to. But you have my utmost assurance that if you do, I will do all I can in my power to make your life during my NSF liability hell on earth. I will put your requests as low on my priority list as I can, I will chuckle with glee every time I reply that my MT Line has been stretched to the max and I can't give you what you want, and I will report all abuse of my vehicles and drivers to the relevant authorities. And I hope that gives you nightmares.

Do your best to make life easy for me and I can make life really good for you. No, I can't put you top of the priority list - that belongs to Ops and Exercises/training. But I have other ways - let's just say not all drivers are equal. And neither are the vehicles ^_- You will always have access to my professional opinion, and where possible I might even offer suggestions to your transport problems you would never have thought of. And if I can't do any of the above I will do my utmost best to offer a solution that won't be too harsh on you.

There are other ways of making your life easy as well. Get the MTO's handphone number, and get your number in his handphone (you'll need a really good working relationship to do that with me. And possibly a lunch or two). Get the KAHs (key appt holders) to know your face and name, and know them by face and name too. It takes sincere effort, but is well worth the investment.