8 things I learned/experienced in NS
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The 2 years is finally over. It’s interesting to look back on my posts, or the lack thereof.


I have done my duty to my country and it's time to move on to the next chapter in life. It felt surreal when I receive this file telling me that it's really over. (well, there's still reservice to come...) I didn't jump in joy and scream through the corridors like a maniac like I imagined I would.

It feels like there's a little hole in my heart, since I just lost my second home. That crappy little shit hole that I spent 17 months in, is 17 months that all of us spend trying to make the place as comfortable as possible. Hot pots, drinks, snacks, bedsheets, bolsters, personal fans. Honestly the only things we're missing are air-cons, WiFi and computers.

We've had our ups and downs; and the downs are really so shitty to the point where I will laugh at my own misfortunes. Other people will never understand the kind of things we went through, similarly I will never understand the kind of shit other NS guys go through.

This however is probably the bonding force among the males in Singapore, as almost everyone goes through this 2 years. You can go up to pretty much any guy, ask him about his experience in NS and he'll be more than happy to share with all the funny/hard shit that he has gone through.

Without going through all the little things, there are a few things that I've learned/experienced during my time in the army.

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1. Sleep everywhere
Even though I was already pretty good in this area, being in the army has brought my abilities to the next level. I used to be able to sleep on my school desk, public libraries, on the bus, standing on the train or in some really awkward position; but NS really drew out my hidden potential.

I am now able to sleep instantly on any moving vehicles, or out in direct sunlight, sweating and while mosquitoes are picking me apart; out open under the moonlight without nothing but the night wind as my blanket. I’m sure many people can help testify for my ability to sleep everywhere.

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2. Understand bits and pieces of Hokkien
Probably one of the more vulgar sounding dialects we have in Singapore but it is the core of what makes the SAF #UniquelySingapore. Back in the old days we would refer to them as hokkien 兵(ping), which makes up for most of the regulars/superiors that we have.

My commanding officer clearly came from that era as he gave most of his speeches in Hokkien, causing the auditorium to resonate in laughter; except for my indian friend who just laughs along with a blank look on his face.

The last memory I had was a few days before I ORD, when some officer basically shouted in my friend's face
"YOU FUCKING CB!!!"
Well, he may have kind of deserved it but still, that was a pretty depressing way to end off his national service.
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3. It only works if (almost) everyone works
Well, I'm not quite sure what kind of lesson this is but it's kind of like, everyone has the same tasks. And it's expected that everyone finishes it. But there will be some motherflipping butthole who refuse to cooperate and do it; finding ways to chaogeng as much as they can.

If too many people chaogeng, everyone fails overall and goes through some kind of unreasonable punishment.

But if JUST the right amount of people chaogeng, everyone still passes through the stage, albeit putting in more effort. The frustrating thing is that the slackers actually get away with it.

Which is actually pretty similar to doing a school project. That butthole who slacks off still manages to pass on his subject, he gets his grades and pat his ass goodbye. Sure he may not have any friends but he was never the kind to mingle around anyway. It's not like we can do anything to him anyway, he would rather watch everyone sink with him than try to do something about it.

I really detest people(burdens) like these. So much pent up angst.

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4. There is more to life than whatever I'm going through right now
This realization has probably saved my sanity more times than I could count. When I go through a 5D4N camp every single week for months at end, I started to lose track of my own life. I felt like camp was all I had and all there is to my life at that moment, I would worry about my duties even when I'm outside, I view booking in as going back to the "normal" life.

But it's not,
Everything is only temporary.

Sure it makes sense thinking about it but I'm sure there were many guys who sank into this kind of mentality. I am lucky that I was given many opportunities to get out of that mundane lifestyle, given the chance to look at the big picture. It made me realize that I am more than just a tiny cog in a huge machine.

Sometimes life takes a bad turn, and it stays that way for a really long time. Long enough to make me "resign to my fate". Through BMT I really understood that things will get better, it's just how long.

Like my friend always said to me,
Winter always turn to spring.

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5. Idiots
Sure, I've met idiots along the journey of my life now and then; never were they all clusterfucked together in one camp. I can't count the number of idiots I've seen so far, it's not just about the stupid ones.

5.1 Stupid idiots
Stupid people who can't seem to get shit done. I can teach them how to do things and they will do it completely wrong. When questioned, apparently "I taught them that way". (thankfully the main culprit isn't in my section)

5.2 Kind idiots
Kind people who let others take advantage of them. The group of people we try to help, to tell them to grow some balls and fight for their own welfare. Sometimes I don't understand why they will just let others walk all over them.

5.3 Fucking idiots
These are the kinds whom you should never interact with, cause their idiocy is infectious. These are the kinds your mother warn you not to fight with, because they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

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6. You know who goes through shit with you, and who throws shit at you.
After going through all the outfields, I know who are the ones I want to go to war with; and who I will shoot on sight. I won't classify my experiences as particularly extreme, but it's still enough to weed out the bad.

The selfish/self-centered people are really easy to spot, not just about sharing things but it's obvious when they only care about themselves. The ones who'll probably use me as a meat shield.

The neutral parties doesn't annoy me but I get a little exasperated looking at them. It's kind of hard to explain, but they don't try to enjoy the job that they're doing. It's like they get thrown into the sea and instead of learning how to swim they just continue walking. They just do things at their own pace, but they do their job regardless so I can't complain about that.

Then there are the people who will really go in neck deep with me, who will laugh and cuss about all the shit that we went through. Friends aside, I'm glad my boss is one of these people. Fighting a war in the jungle/desert has been much easier thanks to his company/leadership, the amount of shit he goes through with us is truly commendable.

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7. It pays to be smart
It sounds like I'm praising myself but hear me out. I am. Kidding.
I don't mean intellectually, but more of street smart. In the sense that you gotta know what's going on around you, gotta know how to get things done. Establish that you're the guy to go to, and your words will start to hold more value.

I'm not saying this as a way to slack off, no. In fact I usually work as hard, or harder than my peers. Though it wasn't intentional at the start, this allows me to allocate work I don't want to do, to other people.

Take for example the removal of the tank engine, the usual role I take requires me to remove 9 components, while the other side will only need to remove 4 components. I will usually take a lesser time to accomplish my task, not because I'm better but because the other role is repetitive, pain in the butt to do. However, doing this 9 components role so many times made me the most skilled in this area, you see where I'm going with this.
(p.s. sometimes I remove no components because I operate the crane. not the easiest but probably the least effort.)

Point is, you still gotta put in the hard work and understand the situation that you're in. Choosing what to do afterwards sets the difference.

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8. Suck thumb
Life will throw you a lemon from time to time, most of the time you can make a lemonade out of it; but sometimes, you just gotta eat it as it is. You just gotta accept things as they are, that there is absolutely nothing you can do within your power.

Or put it this way, the consequences of dealing with the unpleasant situation is worse than going through it.

Life has already taught me this lesson time and time again, but I think the army brought it to a whole new level. What's worse than going through it, is the dread that comes before it. eg. My constant bitching about the dread I feel before any outfield.

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There are so many things that happened in the span of 2 years I think it will take an extremely long post to finish writing it. These are the more outstanding ones that I can think of. I finally got around to writing this 1 month after my ORD and it definitely turned out a little different from what I expected it to be.

The past 2 years now feel like a dream to me, all the experiences/memories feels as if they weren't mine. But deep down I know they're true, all the shit that we endured really happened, and we have nothing to show for it. In retrospect everything seems fun and exciting but I remember exactly how I felt during times of despair.

I have seen so many people get injured in my line of duty yet we have no risk pay, we go out into the jungles, towing back vehicles and carry out legitimate recovery missions and yet there's no combat pay. The things we've done and yet people think that we're a slack vocation.

I have learnt so much, and even though I don't like to admit it, all these experiences probably changed me. I'm probably different from when I first entered the army, for better or worse I'm not quite sure.

If I had a choice will I do it again?
Hell no.

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