Sunday, August 21, 2005

Boot Polishing and the Army Culture

I was preparing a pair of leather shoes and my suite for possible events that would require formal dress code. I seldom wear that pair of leather shoes, so I air it for a day or two and “kiwi” it this afternoon to keep the leather supple. Took me about 15 min to “kiwi” and brush shine it. Well, it looked presentable to me – dirt-free, shining slightly. What matter to me is that the leather was a little hard and dry before the “kiwi-ing” and now it’s in a better condition.

I started to wonder if the pair of shoes will be of “acceptable” standard in the eyes of CSMs?

It’s been two years since I last polish a pair of shoes – in NS days, even if you don’t do your area cleaning daily, almost everyone will spend some time kiwi-ing their shoes for roll-call every morning. If you ask a soldier why he was issued two pairs of boots, he would tell you one pair is for you to wear for two years, and the other pair will be used only in parades.

I remember during ATEC our CO told us to bring extra pair of boots as spare, out of goodwill, because we have swamp walks and it’s more hygienic to change into a new pair after the mission. For most of us, the 2nd pair of boots is our most “gilat” parade boots – our pride of two years of NS – who would bear to wear it outfield for “hygiene”?

Kiwi-ing parade boots is symbolic of the Army culture – perhaps someone should do a survey of how much time a soldier spends on kiwiing his boots, over the 30+ years of NS. One should see a decline over the years and be relieved that the Army is cutting down on meaningless activities.

I know many of the senior batch people have nightmares polishing their boots. We heard instructors boasted about their standard last time – requiring them to melt the Kiwi to form a uniform later, or use kiwi + water + Kiwi + water + kiwi + water (repeat N times) for a few days until the leather boot gave a metallic shine.

I am glad that we don’t have such strict requirements for our parade boots and parade 4 in BMT. We were told to Kiwi our boots (brush shine will do) and iron our number 4 for parade – which I think is fair enough. Just as I thought SAF has evolved into a more efficient organization, I was disappointed when I was posted to School of Signals.

During my 6-week course there, there were 3 muster parades, and we had to book in early every time for uniform and boots inspection. Our instructors told us about the water + kiwi + water + kiwi method, and said that it’s been a tradition there to have high standard boots – he showed us his METALLIC shine boots with pride. (Damn it, I am really amazed how he did it – the pair of boots just looked METALLIC).

So, LL, suck thumb, I spent a few hours on Saturday at home polishing my boots using the water + kiwi + water + kiwi method. As it was a new pair of boots, it’s harder to get the shine coz it seems to take many layers of kiwi + water + kiwi + water to see the effect.

On the actual parade, the WSM (wing sergeant major) didn’t really catch anyone’s boots, nor did the chief instructor bother to. And I wonder if my sergeant was exaggerating when he told us about the strict requirement for parade boots. May be it was really strict during his times. I don’t know.

(On a side note, School of Signals was renamed Signal Institute for attaining some ISO standard… I sincerely hope it’s not for the standard of parade boots)

--

If you guys read the NS35 years book (a picture book commemorating 35 years of NS), there’s an interesting story long time ago where (then) PM LKY inspected one battalion and asked the soldier why there was a can of Kiwi in the field-pack – “why you all still need to polish your boots in war time?”. No one seemed to know why or dared to answer, until one young lieutenant told PM Lee it’s to keep the leather supple and water-proof.

Satisfied with the answer, LKY moved on and inspect the tonners. He asked the men why they kiwi the wheels.

For a while, no one answered.

Then that same lieutenant said, “that’s just for your show, sir!” LKY laughed.




Friday, August 19, 2005

Through the eyes of a (former) maggot...

T'was the middle of the month of June,
Came in 200 flaccid and pot-bellied poly stuns,
Nerdy and pale totally unfit and untrained,
Scared like puppies they were absolutely restrained.

They have heard frightful horror stories,
Of suffering and crying recruits oh so scary,
Till they learnt of the company they're posted to,
Many wished that it was never true.

The instructors looked intimidating and damned,
Shouted at them in their first few hours in camp,
"Move it before I bust your ass"!
Rantings and screamings for hours it would last.

And soon enough they begin to learn,
How to get fitter how to not to yearn,
We trained them hard but no without a cause,
As tough as steel to last through the course.

Field camp came and field camp went,
7 days of hell they thought it would never end,
Leopard crawls as bashas fall,
Misery and suffering was all they could recall.

Technical packages was such a chore,
Back to study again oh what a bore,
Then again no one ever throws a grenade,
Without knowing its do's and don'ts in a snap.

Now its time for them to rest,
Major events were a thing of the past,
Marching in company level soon began,
Rehearsals for parades how exciting it went.

19 more days to POP!
Overjoyed and too happy,
But indeed no one leaves the company,
Without a tinge of soulful longing.

An evening reminiscent of my days as a recruit,
Remembering the events no matter happy or crude,
Definitely made me stop and ponder,
How's my buddies or my past instrcutors?

Now I see from a different light,
Still dealing with recruits I cannot hide,
But when the urge to kill comes up to mind,
Days of suffering would be the bind.

One batch came one batch went,
Soon it will be my time to wend,
Trained 3 batches of maggots yes I did,
And 3 more batches till I'm ORD-ed!!!

I can't wait to resume my life.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Tanning @ the Padang

Once again, we've taken on a new role for the next two weeks - sun tanning at the Padang. Well, seriously as my CO (commanding officer) puts it (as he spoke to us today), we are construction workers. Yeah, we are the ones to do all the manual labour as my battalion dismantle the stands. We are on a pretty tight schedule as well, with the army half marathon in about 4 weeks, thus for the 2 weeks we are working, we have to work like mondays to saturdays (football nights!)

Our CO came today due to an accident to one of my platoon-mate yesterday, though I'm not at liberty to disclose what happened as its supposed to be a hush-hush incident, what I can say is at the moment the stands aren't as stable as they were 1 week ago.

Disgusted people wearing our vest slacks through Raffles City, you could tell by some of their disgusted looks. However, I can't really be bothered about how people perceive us anymore, not when you are in the sweltering heat and all you want is a brief washup in a clean (and not mobile!) toilet. Besides, no one gives a damn whatever we are doing for our nation.

The upside of this though, it means I can stay out everyday (other than the transport fees which we can forget about claiming when in green), go out with the missus more often, actually not book in for almost 3 weeks, and most of all - nothing beats being able to sleep in the comforts of your own home. Seriously even if you were to ask me to do all the hard, manual labour for the remainding one year or so of my army life whilst allowing me to stay out, I wouldn't mind. Yes, I certainly feel brighter not having to be in camp.
Once again, we've taken on a new role for the next two weeks - sun tanning at the Padang. Well, seriously as my CO (commanding officer) puts it (as he spoke to us today), we are construction workers. Yeah, we are the ones to do all the manual labour as my battalion dismantle the stands. We are on a pretty tight schedule as well, with the army half marathon in about 4 weeks, thus for the 2 weeks we are working, we have to work like mondays to saturdays (football nights!)

Our CO came today due to an accident to one of my platoon-mate yesterday, though I'm not at liberty to disclose what happened as its supposed to be a hush-hush incident, what I can say is at the moment the stands aren't as stable as they were 1 week ago.

Disgusted people wearing our vest slacks through Raffles City, you could tell by some of their disgusted looks. However, I can't really be bothered about how people perceive us anymore, not when you are in the sweltering heat and all you want is a brief washup in a clean (and not mobile!) toilet. Besides, no one gives a damn whatever we are doing for our nation.

We have Tricon sponsoring our meals everyday, leaving the Padang guards closed to being super sick having eaten it for the past 2 months (well about once every three days). However, I foresee myself growing sick of it too eventually and probably abstaining from KFC/Pizza Hut for the subsequent 2 to 3 months after.

The upside of this though, it means I can stay out everyday (other than the transport fees which we can forget about claiming when in green), go out with the missus more often, actually not book in for almost 3 weeks, and most of all - nothing beats being able to sleep in the comforts of your own home. Seriously even if you were to ask me to do all the hard, manual labour for the remainding one year or so of my army life whilst allowing me to stay out, I wouldn't mind. Yes, I certainly feel brighter not having to be in camp.

My auntie upon seeing me today ... (thinking she was going to commend on my red lobster imitation):

"How come some parts of your face red and the rest not red?"

Myself "..."


Whilst walking with Pte Lee today, got reminded of something he wasn't really proud of when we 1st went back to camp from our course. We had a parade at that time so he wanted to shave his sideburns, but somehow or rather he shaved it all away right up to his forehead level! Haha the whole platoon were laughing their head off at that time and eventually he managed to salvage the situation after the parade by going to shave the rest out evenly.

Isit strange seeing a guy in uniform holding a stalk of sunflower walking through the City Link mall? Seems to be, apparently from some weird stares I got and as Pte Lee was saying, 2 gals who passed by us were mentioning something about "Sunflowers". Wouldn't happen in Europe would it?

Whilst walking with Pte Lee today, got reminded of something he wasn't really proud of when we 1st went back to camp from our course. We had a parade at that time so he wanted to shave his sideburns, but somehow or rather he shaved it all away right up to his forehead level! Haha the whole platoon were laughing their head off at that time and eventually he managed to salvage the situation after the parade by going to shave the rest out evenly.

Isit strange seeing a guy in uniform holding a stalk of sunflower walking through the City Link mall? Seems to be, apparently from some weird stares I got and as Pte Lee was saying, 2 gals who passed by us were mentioning something about "Sunflowers". Wouldn't happen in Europe would it?


Original Post | Linus' Daily Antics




Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Mass Euphoria

Yep, the subject probably summed up the atmoshphere at the Padang and the surrounding areas, the National Day Parade not only got the audience in delirium, but definitely the onlookers all around from Marina Square to the Esplanade. To say there was pandemonium at the Esplanade would be a massive understatement, anyone who was in the area would certainly attest to that.

I was manning the underpass leading up to the Esplanade and giving directions and it got pretty hectic as it got closer, at one point of time I was literally surrounded by people asking for information. Well, fortunately for most who were asking questions about where to go to see this and that, I was probably one of the few who knew what happened, at what time, and at where. It was also probably because I was busy answering and slowly explaining to them where to see what, that I ended up being surrounded! Of course, I got the ludicrous questions like "Where is the Padang" not once but thrice. Pte Khor, you are not alone.

As the audience had mostly settled in, I was hoping to get the go-ahead from my officer to leave the area, for people were exiting from the underpass at a massive rate. As the sun set, more and more people set on the Esplanade and Marina Square.

There were throngs of people in the Esplanade, so much so that they had to setup barriers to seperate people going in and out and the shops at the Esplanade would definitely never see another night of such thriving business.

Helping out ensure that people did not try to illegally cross Raffles Avenue proved to be a headache, some clowns didn't heed our advice at all and persisted in crossing, moving further down before jumping over the barricades and orange netting. Some kids even went as far as lying on the road to take photos. I mean, its not as if I want to stop people from jaywalking, but if anyone were to get hurt, who would have to heed responsibility? That's us of course.

It got to a point where our officer decided to call us all away from the barricades. He then told the police there, "No one is allowed to cross the road [unless at the traffic lights], you are welcome to arrest anyone who flouts the rule." The police sure then put his words to action, and when someone didn't stop when asked to do so, one of the policeman took his baton out and wrestled the guy to the floor. Splendid.

What is undeniable at the end of the day is that Singaporeans are definitely still fervant about the National Day Parade, and for every one Singaporean that doesn't show an interest, there is another that is all ready to lap up the party, and for every one person who wants to sell their ticket, there are ten more ready to snap them up.



Original Post | Linus' Daily Antics


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Borders of Lunacy

This was something interesting I forgot to post about during my last Padang guard duty. I was doing duty with this malay guy and as we were heading back to City Hall at night, a lady approached him and started talking to him as if she knew him. Since the topics involved the PAP, the Lee family and then Allah, I thought she was some sort of Christian preacher and thus kept my distance whilst trying to get him to move away. However, the lady was persistent and as we headed back, she followed.

Then, she started asking me questions like my name and stuff. I tried increasing my pace but she trailed us all the way to the entrance of City Hall. There, she probably revealed her true motive - asking if we would be around on National Day itself. Figuring she wanted to smuggle her way in or something during NDP itself, I told her I would be doing guard duty back in camp (which was true at that point of time) and left it at that thinking that would be the end of it. Then, she started asking if it would be the last time she was going to see us. Having told her it probably would, she asked me for my number and when I refused to give it to her, she was like "do you miss me already".

Alright, it was getting freaky, I had deduced she was either a christian preacher or someone who just wanted to smuggle in on National Day itself. What she said bordered on lunacy and I wasn't going to hang around much. Despite my "reputation" as an Auntie Killer, this was like too much to stomach. Damn pretty pathetic ain't it, no pretty gal comes up to me asking for my number and instead I get a zany lady coming up.

My weekend got burnt for the 2nd week in a row, due to some people who I don't wish to elaborate on, if not it might antagonize me even more. All I can say was that it pissed me off so much that I did something you could classify as insubordination.

There are a few interesting guys in my platoon I would like to share about. Of course, as many others, we have christen them with unique names.


Mr. Chou Chou (a.k.a Mr. Smelly)

For starters, he does resemble a pig (alright I'm being a little mean here but his behaviour certainly reminds me of one). He was thus dubbed chou chou by one of my platoon-mates for a real simple reason. Guess how he distinguishes his clothings from the rest on the rack outside? (I do so by my hanger). No, Mr. Chou Chou does so with the unconventional method of sniffing his clothes out. Yep, you heard it right, he sniffs through all the clothes to identify his distinct body odour.

Something hilarious about him that isn't exactly all that smelly, we were doing guard duty and he happened to be on sentry duty. Myself and 2 other friends were on desk duty. The gate was closed and a tonner happened to approach so Mr. Chou Chou was heard over the TRS ...

"Gate ... Gate ... Gate"

Hahaha I seriously had no idea why he was saying that as if a bomb truck was approaching but it certainly had us in stitches. Another time and the same thing happened. Finally, a 3rd time and we heard an encoded message which we deciphered and deduced it should have been "Gate ... Gate ... Gate"

However, all we heard was actually:

"zzzz ... zzzz ... zzzz" (muffled reception)


Mr. Guai Guai (a.k.a Mr. Think-Out-Of-The-Box a.k.a Mr. Lazy)

Well, let me declare that he is nowhere lazy, but simply cos' his initials read L Z Y so one of my friends decided to dub him that. He is the Pte Lee I've mentioned before, and the infamous one who volunteered for the stripsearch.

Haha, the thing is that sometimes he takes double time to think and he himself said that he could think out of the box. One of the examples he quoted us? That if we took one piece from the mastermind box, he could determine what colour it was, of which he picked 4 colours and said it was one of the four. Really out of the box thinking.



Original Post | Linus' Daily Antics




Friday, August 05, 2005

army food

Before i enlisted into the army, my impression of army food was that it is very healthy with nothing fried. How wrong i was.

I ate at the school 2 cookhouse. The food there is catered by NTUC. It tasted more like poison. I still remember the time I had porridge for breakfast. A spoonful of porridge tasted more like a spoonful of salt. But the only meal worth waiting for was lunch on Mondays. There was never anything better than eating a piece of fried chicken with rice, peas and carrots and a piece of corn. So much for cooking healthy food.

Although I was excused from going for field camp, I still had to eat the rations. That tasted just as worse as the cookhouse food. The dumpling rice is not fit for human consumption. The only nice field ration to eat is pasta. I find it nice and creamy. Also for the fact that I actually know what I'm eating makes the whole meal more enjoyable.

I remember after I finished BMT, I received my first issue of the Pioneer magazine. Ironically, the cover story was about army food. It couldn't have been more biased. The profiled the food served at BMTC (ironically the school 2 cookhouse) and my platoon mate was interviewed! He actually said the food was good. I wonder if that was said under duress.

After BMT finished, I was posted to Ayer Rajah Camp. The food at the cookhouse is catered by SFI and for me the food tasted much better. Compared to food cooked by NTUC, I find that the food cooked by SFI is more edible.

Earlier this year I was attached to Paya Lebar Airbase for a week. Lunch was catered by SFI and was laid out buffet style. It was absolutely marvelous. That was probably the first and only time I ever enjoyed eating army food. The food was so nice and hot and it wasn't falling apart like in tekong.





Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Thankless Tasks

Burnt my saturday and sunday and half of my monday, and rewarded with just about 1.5 days off, how nice once again, and at the same time meaning I missed my auntie's birthday celebrations. Really, I'm now an extremely disgruntled soldier, for all the effort and work we put in is simply going unappreciated and unrecognised. There are plenty of servicemen taking part in the national day parade, well some have it easy, sitting by the pavement as a marshall for the performers. Whereas, unlucky souls like myself man the roads, carry and put up barricades, put up with tirades by the public and more.


That is only the saturday bit of doing the national day parade, I play the reserve for the Padang guards, so whenever someone decides he wants to have a longer weekend, he takes a MC and my sunday sleep gets disrupted to rush down to the Padang. Having done ticketing calls and more, we also help out in packing and loading/unloading of funpacks up into containers. Sounds easy? Try carrying 10 funpacks at one go (approx. 30kg) and then up the container. Still pretty simple it seems, how about getting about 20 men to load up 10,000 or so packs a day.
Why pay people to pack and do the dirty work when we have NSF to do the job as cheap labour. Yeah fine, but to work us about 12 hours a day doing this kinda work? Precisely why I say its thankless because no one appreciates the work we put in. Kinda explains why you find some of the stuff in your funpack smashed. Yeah, go complain whatsoever, we don't really give a damn anymore.

However, we might be CHEAP labour, but when you get primary kids to come do some work, that really is called FREE labour. Yes, apparently the NEWater labels had some error so they got some primary school kids to come over and change the labels. Seeing the small fragile boys drag a bag of NEWater really left me pondering, how did their parents actually agree to signing the consent form to get them to help out? Doing their bit for the nation? Oh, spare me that crap.
Do you know why we will always get complains from the public? Simply cos' we are following orders, and this stems from the officers at the top themselves never coming down to the ground, so they never know what goes on exactly.



Note on Pte Khor
Pte Khor must really like me, well according to his partner. Apparently, Pte Khor is always raving about how good I am, and I guess since he didn't sneeze, cough and fart in my face (as he does to his current partner), I'm very much appreciated ... I guess.


Full of Shit
Everyone around seems to be loaded with shit recently - literally. Enroute to the Padang on sunday morning in the MRT, I was about to disembark with everyone @ City Hall when someone had left a memento before he left, he or she had farted! How nice then, when we were playing cards in one of the rooms whilst waiting to leave, Pte Khor also joined in and let ripped with a gas bomb of his own. It was really a stinker and despite opening the windows the smell still lingered.


It must be precisely because of people like Pte Khor who leave stinkers around. Whilst taking a bus to Bishan, some boys also left their mark with their own bombs. What isit these days with all that additional pollution?

Road Measurements
Whilst staying over to close the roads in the wee hours of Saturday morning, one of my platoon mates decided it was safe to jaywalk across the junction to 7-Eleven. Except, he didn't expect to run straight into a sergeant major from another company, who gave him 2 options - either he would have reported him to our sergeant major, or he went back to where he came from, and crossed the junction properly via the traffic crossing. So there he was, going one round around the junction, to an amazement of a tourist nearby, probably thinking soldiers have a new job - taking road measurements.



Original Post | Linus' Daily Antics




Monday, August 01, 2005

PES E people

YOUR EXCERPT HERE
THE REST OF YOUR POST HERE
having been a storeman during my NS days (I just ORDed in April) the one annoying thing I had to face day in day out was the fact that I was the only 'functioning' storeman most of the time. Most of the other storemen were absolutely lazy. Not to mention the fact that they were mostly PES E. What I don't about PES E NSF's is that when they are posted to their unit's, they don't have a clue about what the army is all about. Especially the less educated.

During my last 6 months of service, I was unfortunate (and very reluctant) to be 'given' an understudy by my incompetant RQ. This understudy (let's call him Dick) was totally useless and extremely lazy. He always slept in the store during office hours, sometimes when the door was wide open. Now, in my camp it was normal practice to smoke in the store. And as soon as Dick came to my store, he was happily smoking away. He even encouraged people who were newly posted to smoke.

Gradually he started showing his true colours. He constantly came late, even for his orderly duties. He was orderly on Christmas Day last year and turned up over an hour late. Once when he came late, he was reprimanded by my CSM. Not happy with that, he just gave the CSM a good stare. That wasn't the first time he did that. Whenever he was scolded, he always showed a lot of body language. The only thing that disappointed me was that he didn't get charged for that.

But there is a happy ending to this story. I was talking to a colleague a few weeks ago and found out that Dick had been charged. The story goes that he said that he wanted to go to the medical centre. But he never went and spent the whole day sleeping in one of the ops stores (they are not always opened up). When they couldn't contact him, they call everywhere including the medical centre who said he never came. So at the end of the day, all the stores were opened and they found him. He was charged and went in for 10 days. It just amazes me how dumb some people can be.