Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Of foot rot and viral fever

I apologise for the really late post, but now that I finally have one whole week worth of off-in-lieu, I can finally get down to it.

You see that little badge that so many officers and specs have above their left breast pocket? The one with the little dagger, sprig of leaves and North Dipper constellation? In other words, the JCC badge? Well, for much of this December I was trying for that very badge. Though I didn't get it, I'm not disheartened, because in the sickbay I had lots of time to think, and I realised that getting the badge depends not just on your survival skills but on many factors beyond your control as well. And now that I think about it the badge would have looked really nice on my No. 4 (not to mention my No. 1, come Jan 22nd), but it probably wouldn't have been anything to me other than a grave reminder of all the shit I had to go through. Allow me to explain:

The JCC package is composed of 3 parts. Ex Nomad is a 3-day navigation package that requires a group of 6-8 to travel a distance of approximately 9km. Ex Chillhermit is a 5-day survival stint that requires one to survive 5 days without external food sources, and to build various structures and items to score the full marks. Ex Chillbone is a 5-day evasion and extrication simulation course that requires a group of 6-8 to travel a total distance of 17km and then execute a combat swim across the river. More elaboration in the following paragraphs.

Ex Nomad
Now, if you don't already know, Ex Nomad is all about navigation. Navigate well and you're set. Screw it up and... well, you end up failing the course like me (Ex Nomad was a veto factor for my course). What complicates this is the fact that you're in a group of 6-8, and knowing how to navigate alone is not enough. The most influential member of the group decides where to go, and 7 chances out of 8 you are not that guy. Even if your suggestion is propped by common sense and map evidence, this influential guy just has to move his legs and the rest of the group will travel in the opposite direction. So much of the time, you are left following the instincts of a guy you don't trust. Skirt right via the ridgeline? Bah, just bash straight ahead, up the knolls and down the ravines. It's shorter, but infinitely harder, but it's shorter. Let's go!

I failed the JCC package before I was even one-third of my way through it, but OCS HQ still wanted us to go through the course as a learning experience, so I took part in a condensed version of Chillbone: instead of the entire 17km, I only went through the climax of the exercise, which is to scale Mt Biang (1300+ ft) over the course of 2 days. That, of course, is nothing compared to what the badge-earners went through, so I can't speak for them. From what I see, however, the rules that apply to Ex Nomad apply here as well.

Don't be mistaken. While Chillhermit may seem like it's all about survival, building your shelter and all that, it's really about body maintenance. To survive in Brunei weather you really have to look out for yourself (not at the expense of others, if possible). Get your shelter up first, so you have somewhere to hide if it rains. If it's not up, find someone else's shelter. Don't chop your own construction materials (aka wood); gather them from other sites. Don't waste energy unnecessarily. Make sure you add puritabs to water you collect from streams. As long as you're healthy, albeit somewhat malnourished, you'll be fine. Oh, and take off your boots and socks at night too. Even if it's raining and you have no shelter. I didn't do so as it was pouring heavily, and paid the price the next evening as the skin on my left foot got abraded away. Extracted on Day 3, spent 2 days in the sickbay recovering. It's scabbing really well now.

You have no idea how many times during the JCC package I wished I could have done it by myself, or with just one other guy. It is, after all, a survival situation - you are supposed to rely on no one but yourself. Throw group dynamics in, however, and the badge suddenly becomes a team effort, which I feel runs contrary to the concept of individual survival. If this is the way the JCC course is going to be run, I don't need that damn badge. Yes, I suppose you could say I'm trying to make myself feel better, but 2 days of thinking in the sickbay have convinced me that the badge really is not worth it.

Now that I'm back I'm just eager to forget all the bad Brunei memories; the Brunei training grounds are so fucked up, once you're there you wish you never have to return. During the rainy season (NE monsoon) water gets everywhere. Rain almost every night, and half the afternoons, swelling streams knee-deep that you have to cross, and a morning mist so thick you better not leave anything out to dry overnight lest you retrieve it with more moisture than you left it out with. God, to see HDB flats from the windows of a 747: that is as close to heaven as it gets.

Destroying A Magazine The SAF(e) Way

The following is an 'unknown' email conversation in an organization regarding the destruction of an unwanted magazine.

Disclaimer: It has NOTHING to do with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), which is an 'efficient', 'fast-moving' and 'high-tech' bureaucracy. (Names have been changed to protect identities of those involved!)

Transcript begins (errors left in place)

Gordon: Clear those unwanted magazine before you leave on Thursday. I am a person that value speed and efficiency. I know you can do it =) But don't forget to account properly if necessary to cover ourselves.

Ah Teck: Dear all, I am seeking help with the destruction of unaccepted magazine. Is there a standard form or document? Under whose authority do I carry this out and who may be approving and witnessing officers?

Mr Big: Mr TK, Please advise. Thanks.

MR TK: Kila, is there any standard form for us to dispsoe the magazine?

Kila: Are you talking about unclassified magazine?

Mr. TK: Yes!

Kila: You may used S*F1365 Disposal Certificate.

Mr. TK: Kila, thanks! Mr Big, We can use S*F1365 to dispose the magazine.

Mr. Big: Kila, please advise on procedure. Ah Teck, Please note.

End Transcript

By this time, the magazines had gone into building a 'table'. Problem solved and congratulations all round. Total emails sent = 19!

Kok Heng

Friday, December 17, 2004

Rules of Engagement

My Army unit is on Mobilisation Manning this week, right after 17 days of in-camp training! If they mobilise us this Saturday just to practice, we will be very, very upset. Watch your tv screens for the flashing green man with our codewords: Flying Oyster Omelette, Soiled Sanitary Pad & Deep Fried Tofu. If they mobilise us because some Al-Qaeda affiliate tries to bash through the impenetrable barriers at Holland Village, we will still be very, very upset. Woe betide the Al-Qaeda affiliate. You joined the wrong club. Me and me mates wiw kew you dead, because we haven't had the chance to watch a midnight movie in a while.

Speaking of angry reservists, so, no one wet their beds last, last Sunday night, and the IPPT was conducted on Monday morning without incident. Later on, we went for our theory lessons in Laws of Armed Conflict and Rules of Engagement. At the lecture, they showed us slides with some basic pointers on International Humanitarian Law accompanied by some gruesome pictures. Then they showed us clips from Platoon ("My Lai" village scene), and Rules of Engagement.

Coincidentally, my platoon mate Dilbert Chua lent me a book called "Tell Me No Lies", which has a chapter on My Lai. So, in between naps, I read the chapter and wondered if Tuesday's practical portion of the LOAC and ROE (the SAF, they lurve them acronyms) could be effectively taught at the FIBUA (Fighting In Built Up Area) "village" near the ATC (Armour Training Centre).

The lesson module was such that we were not told what exactly to expect, and how exactly to react, and we were to see if our military objectives could be effectively met while observing LOAC and ROE. So, we were shot at by 'civilian simulators' from the second floors (thank goodness only second floor. No lift leh!) of the HDB blocks, shot at from an ambulance, shot at from outside a checkpoint, grenaded by a 'simulated pregnant woman', delayed by a 'simulated hostage taker' taking 'simulated hostages', delayed by a 'simulated civilian asking for food and water and getting in the line of fire' etc, etc.

It all went according to the trainers' expectations. We didn't know how to react. And because this was just a simulation, and not somewhere in Fallujah, the funniest scenario was when one section from my tactical team stormed a building only to find that two civilians had been taken hostage, and so we couldn't lob grenades into all three rooms of the three room flat from which we were fired upon.

Tired and frustrated from climbing the stairs, and perhaps also from having problems at home, the 'hostage negotiations' were opened by a member of the section and it went something like this:

What the fuck you want, ninabehcheebye motherfucker?

I want an airline ticket!

Airline ticket?? Cheebye! Simi airline?!


Cheebye! Emirates?! Ki tolo?! (go where?)


Fuck you! Kaninabuchowcheebyemotherfucker! Limpehshootjitliaphorliseeeee!

And then there was a burst of automatic gunfire. After which, the slack-jawed trainer declared the simulated hostages and their simulated captor dead.

Then we broke for lunch, the troopers and simulated civilians and terrorists, though we could've eaten earlier if we had just lobbed grenades into the flat and saved some time. Some of us spoke up and said they were glad we weren't in a real war zone, because we might end up doing the same things the Americans are doing in Iraq, or the Israelis in the occupied territories.

But would we, me and me mates, be as indiscriminately murderous if say, an Al-Qaeda affiliate tried to bash through the barriers at Holland Village? I'd say no. Because earlier, my section came under simulated sniper fire from a simulated two-room flat, and my section commander led us upstairs to the door of the flat, knocked on the door and said, "Open up, I count to three, you better open up, or else... or else.... we come in! ONE, TWO, THREE! Open lah, cheebye!"

At our debrief, we were asked what else we could have done to meet our objective (which was to secure the junction downstairs). We could have lobbed two simulated M203 grenades into the windows where the sniper fire was coming from, and we'd be happy as larry, junction secured. But we didn't.

So all youse civilians, ang mohs and chow-keng-never-do-reservist-because-downgradeds, if an Al-Qaeda affiliate tries to bash through the barriers at Holland Village, and me and me mates are mobilised, you can still sip your Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf lattes while we think twice before fragging the whole place. And you have our Army and their LOAC/ROE lesson package to thank.

We also learned that Singapore is not a signatory to the 1st (Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts) and 2nd (Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts) additional protocols of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Anyone know why?

Laws of Armed Conflict & Rules of Engagement practical training
Mr Tan's neighbourhood residents' committee tended to go over the top when dealing with complaints of noisy neighbours

Thursday, December 09, 2004

My Uniform Fetish

I can't remember exactly who it was, but someone commented on Agagooga's post about SAF scholars that some girls have a uniform fetish.

I proudly announce that I am one of them.

When my ex-boyfriend (the doomed one who didn't last through NS) used to meet up with me in his Air Force uniform, I would go into ecstacy. I couldn't keep my eyes off him in his uniform, even though in actual fact he really is very scrawny, with small shoulders and all, and doesn't look manly. But the Air Force uniform wrought a miraculous change worthy of a Harry Potter spell (something that would go like "Deliciosious handsomious!") on him.

As for my current boyfriend (who's in his first ICT now, poor thing), I was even more ecstatic seeing him in his No. 4. Short 4, long 4, whatever, he looks good.

The BF is quite well-built and broad-shouldered, as opposed to The Ex, but wearing the No. 4 seemed to enhance his manliness. Somehow, in his army uniform, he had this air of menace about him.

Ok, The BF, who is honestly a hot-tempered guy and quite Ah-Beng-ish in his way, always has a pissed-off look on his face. But the No. 4 made him have this look: "You fuck with me and I'll break your pussy face in."

Major, major, major turn-on. (I think I like violent guys; for more info, refer to my blog here.

And when I saw my friend's older brother, receiving the Sword thingy (can't remember what it's called; is it the Sword of Merit or something like that?) in his No. 1, upon completion of his OCS course, I swooned and had to be steadied by said friend.

When my cousin married an Air Force fighter pilot, they had a military wedding, with all the officers in their No. 1s holding swords over them and all that stuff. That was when I started wishing I could have a military wedding as well.

I do have a few theories, though, why girls have uniform fetishes.

Firstly, when a guy wears them, it gives them an air of manliness, like "I will protect you and my country, even if it costs me my life!", a la Lord of The Rings (though we know this sentiment doesn't hold true for most NS guys).

And somehow, the uniforms, especially the No. 4, has this knack of making skinny guys look bulky, fat guys look trim, and guys with good bodies look like Greek gods. I don't know why; perhaps you guys, who have actually worn the uniforms, can enlighten me more on this.

I know the No. 4 is extremely bulky, heavy, hot, uncomfortable and troublesome to wear. I was watching The BF take a long time to lace up his boots, tie his garters, etc., and I told him that if ever war came to Singapore, we'd all be vanquished before the army can even gather itself together because the soldiers will still be struggling to get into their No. 4s, not counting painting camouflage paint on their faces.

But as for me, it doesn't matter how long the The BF takes to get into his No. 4. The finished product is all I care about.

(I know I sound bimbotic but come on, you want a girl's view right?)

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Why do people take up SAF Scholarships?

A "current NJC student" asks:

"if army were so bad as you have said, why would scholars willingly take up the scholarship?"

Ah. An opportunity to analyse the minds of SAF scholars. Where to begin, I wonder?

Here are some possibilities:

1) Prestige - scholarships are prestigious and SAFOS is one of the three most prestigious scholarships in Singapore

2) Insulation - Scholars, especially SAFOS ones, are insulated from all the low-level crap that the scum of the earth suffer, because of their rank (as officers) and exalted status as scholars. They are not subjected to the dehumanising treatment that mere scum of the earth (ie enlistees) go through. Instead of getting screwed, they get to screw other people (if they choose). Even BMT, the putative great leveller, is different from them, for all, or almost all potential SAF scholars enter what are known as "Scholar Companies", or even better, companies with White Horses in them.

As someone put it: "slaves and royalty stay in the same palace but lead vastly different lives"

3) Obliviousness - Some recipients of (local) study awards I spoke to in my tenure as a slave told me they regretted signing on. Maybe some - those who get scholarships before enslavement - don't know what they're getting into.

Friends of mine tell me of those who got SAF scholarships, some on the spur of the moment, who later regretted. For example, one is quoted as saying: "I really wanted to go overseas, didn't think I'd suffer so much afterwards"; to many Singaporean JC students, an overseas education is the Holy Grail, so in their quest to get it, they neglect the fact that on their return they'll have a 6 year bond to serve. Of the above, I am told that: "now all he wants to do is enjoy himself and die young"

4) Nature of the job - As a friend puts it: "these scholars want to look for something that needs no effort, pays a lot, and gives them the ability to fuck people around. what else do u need?" He adds: "usually cos they are enslaved, they are brainwashed, and usually stay till they die, mentally or physically"

Since it's highly unlikely that Singapore will ever go to war, you get to slack and won't actually have to engage in real combat. And since you get promoted quickly to command-level posts, you don't actually have to go outfield (and experience similar messy and gritty activities) that often.

5) Affection/suitability for Army Life - Strange but true. Some people actually like army life. But then, some people like BDSM also, so. *insert latin phrase that's not good to use too often, or it loses its impact*

Some people are also better suited for the job than others, so they are inclined to taking it.

6) Future job prospects - Apparently some scholars get to become Colonels at age 30. You can't beat the job security either - even incompetent regulars don't get fired, since there's next to no way to assess their job performance, let alone scholars. Also, the SAF has a great retirement plan. Even after retiring, you'll want for naught - they'll find a way to parachute you into a suitably comfortable, important and well-paying job (even if you're not suited for it). See: Our Scholars - Success Stories

7) They fit one or more of the other criteria - As I said, there are 4 types of people who sign on. Some scholars fit into one or more of those categories, namely: being sadistic, being greedy for the money (you get a $750,000 gratuity when you retire) and being incapable of finding jobs outside.

8) Brainwashing - Some are brainwashed. A friend tells of a time when there was a recruitment talk in OCS (Officer Cadet School) and "the whole LT signed on" because of brainwashing.

Some people are taken in by the rhetoric about Duty, Honour and Country, and the old lie - Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori - 'It is sweet and proper to die for one's country' (Horace, Odes, iii ii 13)

9) Since you have to be a slave anyway, some figure that they might as well get a free education, a well charted-out career path, relatively good pay (especially for the 2 years of compulsory slavery), an effective bond time of 4 years (formerly 3 1/2 years) and "respect". Oh, and some girls like men in uniform (I know at least two with an army uniform fetish)

As for why non-scholars sign on (or get Local Study Awards or the like):

10) Getting to be an officer - Some people sign on because that's the only way they'll get to be officers. I know this guy who, while a normal slave, was a PTI (Physical Training Instructor - think your PE teacher on steroids and with a bad attitude), but became an officer after signing on. From a cursory study of him, I conclude that he was sore at not becoming an officer and signed on to attain that status.

[Ed: The above has been modified since its original posting.]

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Brand of Bothers

"Eh, so, Diana Ser's boobs really quite big, ah?"

And another thread of conversation in the bunk commences. In-Camp training (ICT) gives us licence to become lewd, loud blockheads. It's one of the symptoms of what my platoon mate and journalist, Corporal Dilbert Chua (not his real name, obviously), calls the 'Green Disease', where the moment you put on that No.4 uniform, you leave your civilian sensibilities and common sense at home. And you feel sleepy every single minute of the day.

At 9.30am on the first day, we have our first canteen break, where we spend half an hour or so catching up on each other's lives over a cup of coffee and some oily canteen food. The ones in front of the queue buy the coffee, and tell their friends to go chope a seat. This is where we forget, no matter how many times we've been to ICT, that we're not used to being in uniform, or seeing our friends in uniform.

Reservist No.1 buys and carries a tray of coffees, turns around to look for his friends, and suddenly realises that everyone is wearing the same thing, and so can't find his friends. Ditto Reservist No.2 after getting his and his friends' drinks. It takes about two days before we get used to this, and look out for our friends' faces instead of what they're wearing.

Later on in the day, we complete our drawing of stores and equipment, and there is some free time, which is spent lounging on our beds, chatting. Our newly appointed Company Sergeant Major, a school teacher by civilian profession, comes into the bunkroom and joins in the conversation. This in-camp's conversation thread reflects the boys' ages, and most of them are turning 28. Thoughts turn to marriage, career, new cars and babies. Dilbert says he wishes we'd still talk about loose women, tight girlfriends and good blowjobs.

So, our Company Sergeant Major, 2nd Sergeant Clive Lim (not his real name also) laments that he too, isn't married, and doesn't know when he'll ever get a girlfriend. He looks at the tattoo on my arm and asks if he too, should get a tattoo so that he can get the girls. Dilbert tells him dismissively, "You getting a tattoo is like a man with no hair trying to have a ponytail".

Undeterred, 2nd Sergeant Clive carries on soliciting advice. His questions begin to reveal too much information: "Eh, I ask your advice ah, should I have a circumcision? I think my foreskin is too long".

And because we have nothing better to do, we ask him if this is giving him problems. He says not really. We tell him then don't cut. He then tells us that once, he walked into a table and injured his penis, but that it wasn't serious, because the foreskin protected him. We tell him, see? Good what! Cut for what? Then he tells us that he gets aroused too easily, and that maybe, being circumcised might help.

Thankfully, the conversation is broken by several phones going off and some of us having to answer our phones and talking to our loved ones. (Dilbert and myself excuse ourselves and go make phone calls to our loved ones.)

Some things don't change. Catching forty one winks. Kanchanaburi, Thailand, October 1989.

Friday, December 03, 2004

"Arbeit Macht Frei"

Anonymous writes:

NS hardens the spirit but it certainly isn't a violation of human rights or debasing of fine education, as so ineloquently written by the letter writer.

It does however, make many a mummy's boy more independent, toughen the resolve of many a wussy pansy who couldn't even make their own beds at home, expose many sheltered so-called 'top schoolers' to the lesser seen strata of Singapore society and thus rendering them more worldly-wise and street-wise, instead of being cloistered in a parochial coterie of academic strata and remaining ignorant for life.

Many NS men actually profess a nostalgic longing and quixotic fondness for their NS days though they have spent a large part of it griping when they were serving.

It forges close bonds between buddies, makes fit many guys who never knew that they could be that fit and exposes many 19 year old boys to adventures that they would otherwise NEVER experience if they never had to serve, like handling a rifle, riding a motorcycle, experiencing the eye-opening and breathtaking Taiwanese countryside, throwing a grenade, etc.

And there are actually men who see the value and merit of soldiering. Which explains the presence of professional soldiers. Despite the popular and widely disseminated belief that most professional soldiers are so because they couldn't eke out a decent living in the corporate world (probably the warrant officers *sniggers*), most decently educated Singaporeans concede that there ARE capable and sterling youths who see the larger meaning and merit of soldiering, which includes the good (defence) of society and the knowledge that people trust you with their lives, which is the biggest trust of all kinds conceivable.

It's all about making the best out of something thrust to you and the clever and wise know that. Whining like a wishy-washy, chicken livered pansy and trying to picket against the establishment makes one the real loser.

To which I reply:

"Arbeit Macht Frei"

If slavery is really so beneficial and exciting, it wouldn't have to be made compulsory, with no choice of alternative service for conscientious objectors and others.

If it really builds so many character traits, we would be sending our women for it, just like the League of German Maidens. And we wouldn't have so many suicide attempts, or traumatised people being seen by SAF psychiatrists, their minds ruined wrecks.

If it has so many beneficial side effects, why not find alternative, less dehumanizing activities that do the job at a lower cost and in a shorter time period?

Many old people long for the good old days when a bowl of noodles cost a cent, but they forget that back then they earned 30 cents a month, and the noodles had cockroaches swimming in them. People tend to forget the bad memories and remember only the good ones. Besides which, there are some people who are nostalgic for jail.

As for those who sign on, almost all fall into 4 categories:
1) Scholars
2) Sadists
3) Greedy for the money
4) Incapable of finding jobs outside

Most who have been slaves know that these 4 categories encompass 99% of regulars, if not more.

Trying to make people live up to society's archaic expectations of what real "men" should be like is a recipe for disaster, and continuing meek acceptance of unjust fates would have resulted in Singapore being a British colony today, South Africa still practising apartheid and fascists ruling the world.