Thursday, March 30, 2006

ORD for Dummies

Now that I'm out in society, I realise I was really ill-prepared for civilian life. I was so busy clearing work during my leave period and never realised how much preparation it required to actually transit to civilian life. So, for future batches of NSFs, here's a simplified guide to ORDing, in peace, with a clear conscience and with sufficient funding to last you until you get a job.

Of course, the following advice is for those holding important appointments, such as store i/cs, clerks, officers and the like. Men, drivers etc will probably have a much easier time.

also note that the following points may vary depending on new directives and also on unit SOP. You mileage may vary, please adjust accordingly.

Step 1: 5 months before you ORD
Contrary to popular belief, pre-ORD preparation does not begin 3 months before - it begins up to 5 months before D-day. First things you must do:

a) Start saving up
b) Request for an understudy
c) Plan to clear any outstanding punishments you may have
d) Start planning your off and leave days
e) Begin making plans for handing over (see item b)

More elaboration to follow.

a) Save up. Why so early? Because you will probably need something to the tune of $500 to keep you going for at least a month after you ORD. Of course, if your post-ORD life is going to consist of only sleeping, eating and more sleeping (assuming all for free), then adjust your requirement accordingly. Otherwise, this is a rough estimate.

If you don't think you need $500 to survive, then plan your own requirement. Just keep in mind that many things provided by the SAF are no longer free, such as medical care, food, and possibly lodging as well.

b) See item e.

c) Plan to clear outstanding punishments. Because there might be CSMs evil enough to stop you clearing leave just to clear extras. And also because you need a good COS, and chioning your extras is only going to hurt in the short term. Besides, this shouldn't be too hard, if you haven't been slacking around. If you just happen to have a bastard PS/CSM, then too bad. Shit happens, try to live with it.

Having a clear punishment record will also make it easier for all the other things you need to do, such as applying leave.

d) Start planning your off and leave. More specifically, start finding out when you absolutely cannot apply off and leave. Can't give you any more details than this, use your own discretion. But planning important days in advance will cause less disruption to your near-ORD life, give your commanders plenty of warning (so they don't du lan you), and basically make your life more organised. But leave enough days for you to clear adhoc.

e) Begin making plans for handing over. Because things don't happen overnight in the SAF. Or maybe even within the next month or so.

First thing you would want to do is ask for The Understudy (TM). If he arrives, he will be an extra set of limbs you can utilise for your own needs, until he is capable of doing your job. Ask your commander about this, or if he is the slack type, just ask the reinforcement i/c in MP branch directly (but let your boss know!). Check every week, or every other week, to see if they've acknowledged your info. And never stop asking about your understudy - MP branch gets bombarded with lots of info on a daily basis, it wouldn't hurt to give them a personal reminder service.

Next, draft out a list of your responsibilities. Decide how you are going to hand them over to the understudy. No need for too much detail, just a rough order in which to hand over will do. Specifics can wait another month or two.

Also draft out a list of outstanding tasks that need doing. Routine tasks need not be included, just one-shot, adhoc items requested by people you have met along the way. Start working on the big items, and try to clear the smaller items.

Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I will detail the things that need to be done 4 months before you ORD. Stay well and out of trouble!

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

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.

Signing off,


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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Behind the chevroned number 4

Friends who know me say that I do not have what it takes to be an instructor as I'm too soft-hearted and kind to do anything horrible to recruits.

Well here's a chance for you folks to see how I am like in camp! Well not exactly see but you can hear, right from the horses mouth how I behave in camp. Bwahahaha. And what better way then to hear from the recruits themselves!

Yeah. The recruits were told to type last weekend, half a page of appraisal for their individual platoon commanders. Taa-daa! The end of course instructor appraisals are out and hear what the maggots in camp say about me...


"One of the few instructors who bother to do PT with us, kinds of motivates us to do better when commanders train beside us."

"Knows a lot of extra stuff that is not taught in BMT anymore but still goes through the extra mile to impart his knowledge."

"Makes lame jokes but at least it loosens up the tense training atmosphere."

"Understand the pains of a recruit and guides us accordingly."


"May look like another JC kid on the block but he is no pushover, of all the sergeants I fear him the most."

"Lacks adequate communication with us. Does not really care for our welfare."

"Has temperamental mood swing, can be joking with you one moment and screaming at you in another."

"His tall lanky frame is the harbringer of the most hineous of punishments."


"Likes to say 'You maggots are climbling on my head. And even worse! You guys are shitting on it! Like to take my kindness as my weakness right?' Normally after this we would face the floor."

"Looking at him during training makes you think he is an ass or someone very unreasonable and a lot of hatred is involved."

"We have so much to do and we only fall in late for 1 min and he knock us down... Bloody hell."

"His flaunt of blatantly blunt degratory and insultory phrases during his frequent scolding sessions, without the use of profanities and vulgarities shows he has a good command of the language. But some of us being non-jc students or hokkien soldiers would not understand what he says."



"Has a good sense of dressing especially in his taste of shoes. But his watch is rather gay looking and is not his type. He should change to those metal strapped watches."

"His more than frequent use of colourful and complex English phrases would put any GP tutors to shame."

"Plays too much basketball but is very good at shooting especially from the 3-pt range."

"This supposedly harmless, buck-tooth and mild-mannered instructor has a monster lurking behind his cute smile."

The things recruits say. Hahaha. You can tell some of them are more proficient than I am in terms of language. And its not suprising. This bunch of JC punk asses are quite astute I must say. I've recruits who score 7 distinctions for A levels just this year. WTH....

But I just laugh it all off. As I told them on the first day of their enlistment, "I'm not here to please you or to make your stay here enjoyable." And why should I care when I'll ORD in 3 months??? Bwahaha!!! *Evil laugh* Of course there are much more things they mentioned about me but I just chose some of the more interesting ones.

Anyone got any funny things your man said about you or any funny characteristics or habits of past superiors to share?
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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

time management

One thing that I learnt when I went to Tekong for BMT was that time passes by very slowly. I think its probably the fact that while the rest of Singapore is sleeping soundly, we all have to wake up a 5am. Of course there were times, we were allowed to wake up half an hour later. Even rarer was letting us wake up at 6am.

I remember there was this one time when we were getting our injections from the medical centre. We had woken up at 5am, did our 5BX, had breakfast then had a stand by area. So while my platoon was waiting its turn to get injected, I looked at my watch and the time was only 9am! You'd think it'll be nearer to 10 o'clock or something.

Another incident was towards the end of my BMT. After sending our weapons back to the armskote, the time was early 7 o'clock. And the best thing was lights off was at 10.30pm. This meant that I had 3 1/2 hours to do what wanted. Having so much free time was such a privilege. It also meant I had no idea what to do with so much time. After taking a shower, I just lazed around finding things to do.

One negative aspect of having very little time is the day I came back from outfield. After doing all the usual stuff and getting fucked by out seargent for our poor movement that day, the time was 10.20 pm. Lights off was at 10.30 pm. And the following day we had to wake up at 5am. You can probably imagine the rush to get cleaned up. And its not easy to get dried camo off your face.