Sunday, January 29, 2006


I'm fairly certain most of us have seen someone collapsing in front of us. The question is; have you had the opportunity to look them in the face just before they do so? That sight is usually rather disturbing.

When I was in BMT, one of my platoon mates collapsed while running and passed away. This was slightly over two years ago. It was one of the spate of SAF deaths that kicked up a big fuss and resulted in widespread safety reviews.

The first and second platoons had finished our 2.4 run and were resting on the bleachers. My section and I were on the first row as one of us had taken a pretty bad fall and was being tended to by the medic. This gave us a perfect view of the chap, as he was less than ten meters away when he collapsed. He was less than a hundred meters away from the end point, which was around thirty meters away from where we were seating.

I.e. runner--------------------us---point of collapse--------end point

He was running desperately and it was obvious his strength was flagging. Moreover, his PC was pacing him and screaming obscenities at him the way superiors do when they want you to haul your ass and get it moving. The sight was rather comical, with him slowing down to the point whereby his PC was actually hopping up and down screaming beside him to get him moving. The PC looked like a cross between a ballet dancer and a rabid monkey. Somehow, the chap managed to find some last reserve somewhere and ran past where we were seating. Barely five seconds after that, he stopped abruptly, spun around backwards and collapsed on the track. His PC, not realizing that this was a genuine collapse, continued this rabid ballet monkey act for another couple of seconds before realizing that he wasn't going to get up. At this point, shouts of 'Medic!' started to echo as more people noticed the collapse. The medic was rather stunned and froze at first, springing into action seconds later. They attempted to resuscitate him, but were unsuccessful.

He was then carried to the medical center. We were gathered in the basketball court and told that he was fine. A chopper came to heli-evac him to the mainland during the briefing, which hardly helped to make us feel better.
It was only after lights out past eleven, that they ordered the company to fall in to inform us that he had passed away. This many of us already knew as several other companies had already been informed earlier at around nine, when it was revealed on the news and concerned parents had begun calling their sons to check on them.

My section and I had immense difficulty sleeping for the next few days. It wasn't just that he collapsed in front of us. It was the look on his face as he spun around. His face just altered, turning fully composed, almost beatific. It was as if someone had hit a switch and he made his peace. You could really see that he knew he had done his best and gave his all. I hope I never have to see that look again. It may sound like it was peaceful, but it was rather eerie actually. You don't usually expect to see people looking like that.
I don't know if the look on his face will haunt me for the rest of my life, but I doubt I will forget it any time soon. And no, I don't know why he spun around before collapsing; it was rather dramatic I have to admit. On a slightly less relevant note, I shifted to an empty bed in my bunk that night without permission and gave my PC a huge scare when he saw a previously empty bed suddenly occupied.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Army memories

Not us. Hawk Company (and our 'sister' company, Gryphon) represented the socio-economic diversity of Singaporeans. We had a university graduate. We had primary school leavers. We had Chinese, Malays, Indians and one Eurasian. You name it, we probably had it. We even had someone who lived on Pulau Bukom. It said so on his ID card.


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Sunday, January 22, 2006

a plea; from a medic

with regards to medicals
Dear NS men, I'm a medic in one of the Divisions. I am the medical board I/C. I have been crucified and shot down countless times because I am not working fast enough.

To tell you all the truth, I have been working tirelessly to process your medical reviews so that you can be sent for downgrading as soon as possible. But because medical boards are only conducted at 1400 hrs in the afternoon once/twice a month because Chairmen of medical boards are busy Senior Medical officers. and the afternoon has only 2.5 hours; the board will end at about 1645. Do bear in mind that the Division has average 17,000 personnel, and designated medical board medical centres have other medical centres coming to it for board on the same day.

All in all, we board about 100 people a month. But my medical centre alone see up to 100 medical reviews a month. so every month is a mad rush for me process all the medical reviews, wait for the chairman to come; and then another mad rush so process all the downgrade results. It definitely does not help when the software your working with is still in its teething pains and have ALOT of hiccups. So waiting time for a downgrade to be processed is 2-3 months.

I do understand that some of you reallly suffer from bad injuries and illnesses and it affects your health and I am workin as fast as possible. I am the only one in the medical centre who knows how to do downgrades because our estab does not allow more manpower. I as a NSF will fulfil my duties to best of my abilities. All of you have sacrificed for the country in one way or another. This is the only way the country can repay you, I represent the country's gratitude and will do my best.

I pray that this short write up will allow you to understand the mechanisms of the medical board procedure and please don't comprain so much. I, a NSF is on the other end of your comprain letter suffering

P.S. this note does NOT apply to chao keng-ers.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006


In today's news: Finally, a decision and explanation on Melvin Tan's case.
So, it seems he took advantage of a very nifty loophole that existed in the system (not anymore, though), eh? Well, I'm fine with that. You can't help people exploiting loopholes. My faith in MINDEF has been partially restored; the grudge was never with Melvin in the first place. And it's good to see them starting to get serious about draft dodgers.

I was considering, maybe give people an option to opt out of citizenship instead of forcing them to serve? I.e. become a citizen of another nation by teh time you're 12, or be forced to serve NS. I think 12 years is a sufficiently long time for people to stay and consider. Or perhaps you want to measure by length of stay in Singapore, more than 10 years and people ought to serve? Less enlistees, yes, but also less complaints about being forced to serve without alternative.

And I don't understand the MPs' talk about Einstein and Stephne Hawking never becoming a Singapore citizen if they were forced to serve. Hey, we're an island nation, and this being reality we can't have the best of both worlds. Choose between having a well-defended nation, or highly talented nation, or a compromise between the 2.

Any option other than serving NS is the first step toward transparent elitism, and no matter how much people like the idea of seeing some actual talent in Singapore at the expense of equality, that is not something I want to see while I'm alive. Einstein and Stephen can serve and stay, or they can f*** off. I'm perfectly fine watching them contribute to science as a citizen of another nation.

Besides, I don't think it would be too much trouble for MINDEF to create new NSF appointments that allow top minds to interact with DSTA engineers on new experimental technology and whatnot, right? Ever considered this way of serving the nation? As long as you put them in military uniform and in a position that complements their abilities for the next 2 years, this NSF is happy enough.

To let on a small secret (that hopefully won't get me charged), SAF actually enlists NSFs in trial networking experiments. That's right, they're not all regulars. Not everybody has to chiong, not everybody has to clean rifles, but everybody has to serve the nation if he is deemed fit to. Anyone here disagrees?

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