When I was just a chao recruit,...
I asked my sergeant, what will I be?
Will I be PC? Will I be 3SG?
Here's what he said to me.
Balls to you, recruit,
This is not your father's army,
Your future's not yours to see,
Sign extra for me.
I now know how the song ends.
Balls to you, CPL,
This is not your father's army,
Not happy don't ORD,
Wait inside DB.
That's what I tell my drivers anyway, and on hindsight it may seem cruel, but my conscience is clear because we all do what we have to. In those 2 years much is expected of us and we do our best to deliver, and the consequences of our actions are what changes us from boys to men, age irregardless.
The things I did during my 2 years don't matter to me anymore - they have been neatly filed and stored away somewhere (I hope), and I carry with me not the burden of responsibility, but the lessons I learned as an OCT and as a transport 2LT.
We all enter NS as recruits, forming judgments and opinions with what little we know, and months later we look back and laugh at ourselves, for knowing so little then. And we don't realise that we still know very little even now, until months have passed and we are laughing at ourselves once again.
And so I am laughing at myself now, for singing the last paragraph of that song out loud to my drivers while talking to them at the smoking point (at a point in time when discipline was extraordinarily poor). Laughing not because I find it lame or unnecessary, but because I realise my drivers have probably known it a long time ago, and had I taken action sooner, they would be the ones singing that song to me, instead of vice-versa
It's only been 2 weeks since my 11B "has to used in conjunction with my NRIC", so realisations like these are still coming to me everyday. For instance, just yesterday, when talking to a friend on the phone, I realised that half the things I said in NS didn't actually need saying, because as a transport PC my actions stand in for words, and real words are necessary only because they are the only official legislation recognised by the SAF, and for everything else that isn't covered by military law, actions are more than enough. All I had to do to enforce discipline was make latecomers stand under the sun for a half-hour after first parade, no lectures, talks or scoldings needed.
Funnily enough, 6 months ago I was begging to ORD, but here I am, wishing I could go back and fix those mistakes (or at least help my understudy avoid them). And then I realise with wry irony that had I fixed those mistakes, I wouldn't be thinking these thoughts and making these realisations now.
So I let my understudy continue making mistakes, because these mistakes are the lessons he will bring with him when he ORDs. It's the least I could do for him. And I hope he will let the understudy after him continue making mistakes as well. Because what more can an NSF wish for, than to ORD in peace, with his NRIC, and with 2 years' worth of mistakes? The resulting admin lapse? Don't worry, the SAF can take it.
You ever have the experience of dreaming about the perfect solution to a problem that resolved itself/blew off months ago? I still have these every single day. A few days ago I remembered a driver leaving his vehicle during a detail because "it got boring, and he just wanted to wander off for a while", and the 2WO calling me up to complain, and me telling the driver off, and me giving him 3 extras. And I was pondering what would have been different if after the phone call I had simply gone down to the parade square, carried out the detail on behalf of the driver, and on the driver's return make him polish my boots, ta bao my lunch, and put him on 5sec NTM upon my activation for errands - for the rest of the week, effectively depriving him of any personal time he may wish for, smoke breaks included.
Ideally it would bring the message of customer satisfaction across to the 2WO, make it clear to the drivers that any lapse of responsibility on their part would be borne by me (but paid back 5 times by them) and hopefully prevent such future incidents, but I would never know the outcome because back then I was too busy to think of this and try it out. Perhaps it might never work, but it reminds me once again that to every problem there is more than one solution, and the only way to avoid settling down into a mentally-degerating thinking pattern is to keep an open mind.
The biggest lesson NS has taught me is that we all choose the paths we take. No one is ever forced into doing something. There is always more than one choice. All we have to do is to find out, as completely as possible, the effects and consequences of each possible choice (most of these are common knowledge/sense), before committing to a decision. Knowing this, we have no excuse for denying responsibility for our actions. Anyone who doesn't understand this even after he ORDs has just wasted his 2 years. So don't complain about going to DB if you knew that what you were about to do would land you in there. Side-note: If you don't know what can land you in DB, check with your PC/supervisor or manpower clerk. Or if you have an MP (mil police) friend, all the better.
To all those still serving and/or soon-to-serve, all the best to you and your NS experience.
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