Friday, November 25, 2005

This blog is now listed on

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

"$5K can don't do NS"

Be world class pianist can pay $5000 siam NS and reservist, be world class penis can downgrade or not? Cheebye!!!!


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"Encik Tan has something to say"

Lim peh is fucking angry right now. Do you know why Lim Peh is fucking angry. Because of this guy call Melvyn Tan. This fucker, according to the newspaper, defaulted on his NS and he was only punished with a fine. A fine. Can you believe it? Just a fucking fine. Back in my time, when you want to try to play with the system, you better standby one big tub of jello 5-O to lubricate your ass because when the system fuck you up, it really fuck you up real hard. Dun play play eh.


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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

TODAY: Blog away, but be mindful of security

I got to out-Gonzo the "Gonzo" Journal in this week's column, even though I'd rather not have:

2311Vol030 MRemoved postings restored after storm in a teacup over writings on army life
THIS week, I received calls from concerned friends and relatives who wondered if I had gotten myself into trouble with the authorities because of — surprise, surprise — my blog.

Read more at TODAYonline

As you probably already know, I got myself in the middle of a debate over personal freedom and the need to protect Operational Security.

The Sunday Times had reported how three servicemen (myself included) were "warned" by the Ministry of Defence about the unauthorised posting of articles and pictures of our recent military exercise in Australia.

The reporter had called Mindef to ask if there was a policy about blogging and the posting of pictures about military life.

This set off a chain of events which led to my National Service (reservist) unit's commanding officer calling to tell me that there was some concern in Mindef over my blog posts and photographs, as well as those of other national servicemen.

Being a conscientious citizen-soldier, I took down all the posts on my blog as well as that on "Days Were The Those" ( — a collaborative blog I initiated which takes contributions of national service stories from the public — while the matter was looked into by my commanders.

There was no formal warning per se, but rather, a reminder from my commanders that while the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) encouraged people to talk about their national service experience, individuals had to be mindful of operational security — like the effectiveness of the SAF's weaponry — when doing so.

Not surprisingly however, the foreign press got wind of the story, and couched it in — how do I put this? — a different language.

The Sydney Morning Herald ( declared, "Singapore has barred servicemen from posting unauthorised accounts and pictures of military life on the Internet in a further tightening of restrictions on the growing blogging community here.

"The new rules … followed the conviction of two ethnic Chinese bloggers for posting anti-Muslim tirades deemed as threats to social harmony and political stability in the multi-racial city state."

I've since restored my blog posts, following consultation with my NS unit superiors, who, together with their superiors, agreed that while I should have asked for permission to post photographs first, there weren't problems with the posts about army life.

As you probably also know, military blogs are not new, and have been the focus of some attention, especially from American military officials.

If Vietnam was the first "television war", and the Gulf War from 1990-91 the first "live broadcast" war, then the current American involvement in Iraq has a high chance of being known in the annals as the "blogged war".

There are apparently several hundred military blogs in the United States alone, with military blog portal listing 451 sites by US personnel alone.

The popularity of military blogs has led to renewed debate and some concern over the free flow of and easy access to information online.

In August, US Army Chief of Staff, General Peter J Schoomaker, wrote a memo in which he pointed to the need to protect "Opsec" or operational security.

"Some soldiers continue to post sensitive information to Internet websites and blogs, for example, photos depicting weapon system vulnerabilities and tactics, techniques and procedures. Such Opsec violations needlessly place lives at risk and degrade the effectiveness of our operations," the memo read.

Writing "in real-time", as some analysts put it, raises the immediacy of the action, and probably for the first time, the "live" reporter is the soldier himself or herself.

Typical of such a blog is "A Soldier's Perspective" (, where you're likely to read about things that may have been already reported by traditional media, only from an actual participant's perspective.

So, how do the relevant military authorities deal with the proliferation of personal military blogs?

A call to Mindef's public relations branch revealed that the proper procedure is for a serviceman to follow the proper chain of command if he or she is unsure of the suitability of the matter to be published.

This applies to NSmen (reservists) as well as full-time service personnel.

Mr Miyagi aka Benjamin Lee has been entertaining readers at for over a year, and is still counting down the number of years he has left of National Service obligations.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Blogging about National Service is OK

Ex Wallaby 2005
As seen in the Sunday Times: Reservist photo! Oct 2005: Relaxing on the ramp. (Guess which one's Sgt Foreskin?)

How can one not talk about National Service, especially when it's a very large slice of one's life? Cannot right? I mean, cannot don't talk right?

Even if you paid $5,000.00 for skipping National Service altogether, you'll still want to talk about it, right?

'Eh, um, nah, give you $5,000.000, you don't call me for NS, ok? I'm not free'.

'Not free? Why?'

'Um, I playing piano in London, dowan to come back liao'.

'Nabeh! Next time terrorist attack, me and my NS unit don't protect you then you know! Chow Piano Player!'
And that's why the nice folks at MINDEF are saying that there's nothing wrong with blogging about National Service, and in fact, encourage people to talk about their experiences in the Army, Air Force and Navy. (Civil Defence and Police Force folk, your own pasal, I dunno... you come under a different Ministry).

They also said that they liked the fact that there were objective views from National Servicemen of all ages, instead of just from traditional channels, like that of MINDEF's publications. In these publications, you'll never hear of how the food sucked in camp or how a logistical stuff-up caused us to eat 'Combat Ration Muslim Menu 4 Spicy' for three days in a row, which does happen once in awhile.

The matter at issue when I took down all Army-related posts and pictures were actually just the pictures themselves. I didn't have authorisation or clearance from MINDEF to publish photographs. My own fault for assuming that because I had authorisation (given by my unit in 2004) to take the pictures during training, I had authorisation to post them on the web, which I had done so since 2004.

So, the 100+ Flickr photographs I had posted, some since 2004, were the ones that got me in this bit of strife. But not to worry, because the kind folk at MINDEF, maybe about two dozen of them, took a look at the pictures earlier in the week, and decided that there wasn't any security breach.

In any case, when I was alerted to the potential breach of security issue by my unit's commanding officer on Wednesday, I voluntarily took down all pictures and posts while the unit, the brigade and the division investigated.

Apparently, MINDEF was alerted on Tuesday to my photographs, some taken since 2004, by Straits Times correspondent Jeremy Au Yong's (Nabeh, thank you ah, friend - I've spoken to MINDEF and they'll extend your reservist until you're 55) call, asking them about their 'blogging policy' for NSmen.

Thursday morning was supposed to have been a quick trip to historical Selarang Barracks to return sensitive military equipment (tool, entrenching, steel, with cover, canvas, and stick, holding, tool, entrenching, steel, with cover, canvas, and jacket and pants, parka, all-weather, camouflaged, gore-tex, with cover, SSN12345678910 and SSN12345678911), but it turned out to be a very long morning meeting all manner of military officers who were there to investigate the matter and to reassure me that it was alright to talk about Army matters online. They also gave me a rough guide as to what could and could not be said, saying that they'd prefer NSmen to 'use their own discretion' when talking about Army matters.

So anyway, it's mostly cleared up now, and with most of Sunday spent answering SMSs and phone calls from concerned family and friends wondering if I had been detained at detention barracks, I'm now putting back up all my Army-related articles and photographs, with the exception of one or two pictures, of which I've been told, MINDEF would 'prefer' not be shown.

What kind of pictures, you may well ask? Pictures of military hardware are usually sensitive - especially the interior, because you don't want the enemy to see how MINDEF 'zhngs' our rides - as are pictures of injured servicemen - because you don't want the pictures to go public before the serviceman's family is informed of his injuries - but to be really sure before you share your photos with the public, check with MINDEF first. There are several ways you can do this. For mine, I've been told that I could check with the Army Information Centre (AIC) who'll check my pictures to see if they're ok.

As for any other form of information, common sense will tell you that if a matter is one that is the subject of an ongoing investigation, you shouldn't blog about it in detail.

So, go ahead, talk about your Army experience - how good it is, how stupid it is, what a waste of time it is - and continue contributing to Days Were The Those.

Slice of life: Feb 1990: It was Mr Miyagi that came up with the name for 'Attila' Combat Team, 46th Bn, Singapore Armoured Regiment; Nov 2005: Still in use, seven batches and sixteen years later.

Some things haven't changed. Relaxing on the ramp: August 1990

Friday, November 11, 2005

Beckham out of Vogue

Cpl Lee (formerly Pte Lee, now promoted ... the one who volunteered for a strip search at range) seems determined to supersede the escapades of the now infamous Pte Khor (read Adventures of Private Khor, The Finale and The Recrudescence).

As we brought our field plants (field plants consist of chainsaw, generator, etc) outfield to test to ensure they were all in working order, we happened to brought the handsaw along.

That was when Cpl Lee asked 2 of my friends (in the tonner):

"Hey, we need to bring down the handsaw to test or not ah?"

Cpl Lee tends to spend endless minutes every morning pushing his hair up, such that it stands and I'm not sure who he wishes to impress (?) So when my friend was joking as our CSM had made a previous joke that Beckham's mohawk hairstyle was not in fashion anymore, and my platoon sgt said we could always shave off his hair. To which Cpl Lee promptly tried to push his hair down! Haha, that really left me and my friend in stitches.

Again just yesterday, another friend was operating the bulldozer trying to level the area when Cpl Lee promptly asked him to stop, and took out a small branch that was in the way. It left my instructor shaking his head as well, baffled as the dozer could easily have cleared the vegetation away - something Cpl Lee "risked" his life to do something the dozer is specifically used for.

This has just been another chronicle of an uneventful week in Cpl Lee's life.

Original Post | Linus' Daily Antics

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Ex Wallaby 2005: Mobile signal

Miracle: International roaming out in the bush makes for a happy armoured trooper. 3SG (NS) Gerard Tan (right) points troopers to the GSM signal.

It's been a different three weeks, a difficult three weeks. No internet, only intermittent mobile signals and long queues to the landline phones that allowed us to call home using discount phone cards. And that was just in base camp. Once we moved out, there was not much you could do to keep in touch with your loved ones, or to check soccer results.

When we were out in the field for the 10 days (out of 18) we were at Shoalwater Bay, Central Queensland, the optimistic among us took out our mobile phones to check for any semblance of a GSM signal.

Not much luck until one day, somewhere in the western sector of the middle of nowhere, 3SG Gerard Tan, Bravo Company 84mm Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifle Specialist, took out his mobile, turned it on, and yelled, 'Signal!'

This prompted a mad scramble, and I've never seen soldiers move so quickly, whipping out their phones and turning them on faster than they can reload their rifles.

'Don't have leh, where got?'

'Gort! Select manual network, choose Vodafone, it's the strongest, and you must face that direction and stand under that tree'.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Surviving Meetings

*Recently edited for terrible typo errors. My apologies.*

What the heow kind of title is that!? I don't know how many of you have actually organised or supported stuff, but if you have you would know how inane and unavoidable meetings are. The number of meetings I've been to so far can be counted on one hand, but I notice a pattern all the time. Here's something that might be able to help.

1. High or low-level meeting?

Contrary to popular belief, how high-level the meeting is (the way I see it, anyway) is not determined by the rank of the highest-ranking member in the meeting, but by quite a few other factors as well. For instance, you should look at the highest level unit represented; even a meeting where G4 army is represented by a 2LT could be important.

Also, you should look at the number of different units that are attending. Generally, the larger the number of units attending (no matter how small each unit is), the more important the meeting. If you desperately need to skip a meeting, this is not the one.

2. Is your boss attending?

If your boss is attending, the dynamics change drastically. Let him do all the talking. Fill in for him if he asks you to, or if you deem really necessary, e.g. when he misses out an important point. If you need to interrupt regarding something less important, write it on paper and pass to him, or whisper it. Don't throw your boss any curveballs; if it is important but might shock the balls out of him, break it to him slowly. Of course, the ideal situation is to give him a full briefing before the meeting, but usually there would be no time for this. Remember; if your boss is present, your one and only job is to make him look good (you might need to take minutes too, but I can't help you there).

If your boss is not there, things are much more simple. Your job is to make sure your unit is represented, make decisions on its behalf and ensure it doesn't get screwed over (something that is almost guaranteed to happen to units that are not represented). If you (not you lah, your unit) are delegated a task, write it down and inform your boss ASAP after the meeting. If you are arrowed a task, say that you have to check with your boss (unless you are authorised to make a decision on the matter, then up to you lor). If you are asked for results/reports, submit them, or inform them when it will be submitted. Never push the responsibility away; you are representing your unit, and you are in no way to make it look bad. If its something that should be resolved within your unit, just nod your head and say it will be done. Settle it behind the scenes. Don't wash your dirty linen in public. Bitch about your colleagues over lunch, not at the meeting.

3. Routine or adhoc?

If it is a routine meeting, you probably should have advance notice. Prepare the data you need, present it at the meeting, bring up any AOB (any other business) you need to settle, end of meeting. Don't go off-track unless requested to by the chairman; the metting happens every month (usually), and people have work to do. If it is important, bring it up to the relevant people after the meeting, not on meeting time.

If it is an adhoc meeting, do your best to find out what the agenda for the meeting would be. If there is no clue whatsoever, try to get a list of attendees; their units and appointments would give you a good idea of what to expect. Also be sure to check out who is chairing the meeting, this would decide how important the meeting is.

Once done, prepare whatever data you can scrape together, then go with a notepad and pen. The data most likely would be insufficient, but at least it makes you look prepared. Lots of stuff will be discussed, take down the pertinent points. They will be published in the minutes, but your boss will appreciate you for giving advance notice (if you're attending, it's most likely on his behalf, right?).

When the meeting/discussion drops to a lull, quietly make conversation with the dudes on your left and right (you did make sure to sit beside people you know, or need to know, right?), bitch about the slow progress and common problems both of you face and whatever else there is to bitch about - nobody hates bitching (NOTE: If that person is a good friend of the Chairman or the person presenting, make sure you say something nice, don't be a dolt. This is for you to guage based on your judgment. Take very cautious steps whenever you talk about other people behind their backs. You have been warned). Networking helps immensely, even if it's just for another year-and-a-half. Consider it practice for the working world.

4. Agenda?

You have to know what will be discussed at the meeting, or you're just wasting your time. It is very tempting to avoid work by maintaining ignorance, but remember boys, knowledge is power. Keeping astute about happenings will save your ass one of these days. If you're really lucky, you might even save your boss' ass, and get a couple days off in return if he is slack enough. Repeat after me, saving your boss' ass is never a Bad Thing (TM).

It is advisable to have a To Do list drafted up after each meeting; it helps you keep track of the tasks arrowed delegated to you, which ones have been completed and which ones are in progress. This makes things easier at the meeting; just update them lor.

You should also meet your boss and fellow department colleagues shortly before the meeting to see if there is any business they want brought up at the meeting; if it is important enough they would attend personally, but sometimes things do crop up. Trust me, they would appreciate it.

Remember to update the relevant personnel on the meeting points ASAP after the meeting, don't keep them in the lurch until the last hour. It sucks to be the bringer of bad news, but it sucks even more to be the bringer of super-last-minute bad news.

5. AOB

It often happens that problems in your unit are beyond your control, and the solution you have in mind needs vetting by a higher authority. But keep in mind that your problem is not everyone else's problem (if it were, it would be in the agenda), so keep it distilled. No-one likes falling out of a meeting at 1830. Just note these points:

Gather data beforehand. After you bring up the problem, the next thing they would do is ask for numbers. Under-estab? How many guys you have? How many you supposed to have? Insufficient funds? How much you have, how much you need? Other problems? Show emails transpired, when was it sent? Any action taken? Don't go unprepared - you'd just be laughed at and told, "show me the stuff next meeting".

Be sure it is a real and unusual problem. Don't be laughed at for asking about routine problems. In other words, make sure you check with the SMEs (subject matter expert) in the respective formations and schools, before asking the committee. Dont' get laughed at for not knowing how to solve basic problems. When they ask you if you have checked with [insert Rank/Name of relevant SME], be sure to have a satisfactory reply ready.

Be clear about what you want. More importantly, want something. Don't just throw your problem to the committee and wash your hands off the matter. It is fine to suggest a solution from your point of view, then ask the rest what they think of the issue. Chances are, if enough units are affected by the same problem, it would be a bulleted point in next meeting's agenda. They would probably thank you for bringing it up (though this is not guaranteed due to political reasons).

Propose your solution for approval. If you're lucky, other members will discuss this (hopefully not over the next hour!), make refinements to your plan, and it gets approved. Maybe not immediately, but by the next meeting, or after that.

6. After the meeting

You did take down important points of information, right? Disseminate to the relevant personnel, preferably via email, and inform them whether the items are FYI (for your info), FYA (for your action) or FYNA (for your necessary action). Use more acronyms if it is your unit's SOP. The 3F tagging is to make thigns more convenient for others, and to save your ass (I did tell you it's FYNA, whaat).

You also did draft a To Do list, right? Not just for yourself; for your unit, dude. Write the task down, put the name/department responsible for the action to be taken, then put a checkbox next to it. Remember to include the dissemination of meeting points as a To Do as well. This is to remind you, and to save your ass at the next meeting (if you happen not to be the unit rep for the next one - read on for elaboration). Check back with your unit regularly (weekly is good) to see if the items are completed yet. If it is a multi-stage item, pen down the item's progress in a side note. Of course, tick your own checkbox once the points have been disseminated.

Now comes the important part: Check who is the next rep for the unit at the next meeting. If it is you, then things are simpler; just bring your Checklist along. If not, find out who the bugger is, and give him the list about 1-0.5 weeks in advance (not too early, or he can still shirk responsibility to you). Give him a quick briefing on the situation, the checklist will give him the details he needs. It is now his responsibility to update the list. You did remember to tick your checkbox, right? If not, when the chairman asks why so-and-so personnel was not informed, you'd wish you had remembered to wear your steel bum-plate.


How did I manage to glean so much from just 4 meetings? Just thank your lucky stars you're not a logistics 2LT. Oh, you are? Welcome to the family, dude, heheheh.