My NS Experience – The Descent

September 9th, 2005

[Part 1 can be found here. Part 3 can be found here. ]

Serving National Service in the Singapore Armed Forces, or at least for the first 5 months of it, is like contracting a terrible disease.

Why?

Well, it has all the symptoms of one. Observe: you lose your hair, the rate of weight loss will make an aneroxic faint, large areas of your skin turn reddish brown whilst others parts remain dead-fish white, and there is a tendency for a person to go weak in the knees and squat at every opportunity.

***

The processing of us new recruits were carried out in the most efficient military manner.

Getting us outfitted was another matter.

I remember being herded into pens where we each took a number and waited our turn to collect what was to be our wardrobe for the next 2+ years. What was annoying was the stares that we received from the women and men there.

Lining up in railings and waiting in pens did not help.

Neither did the long wait. Here’s a tip: Fat people cannot stand for long, and we cannot squat properly.

Some of my fellow inmat- err, fellow recruits could not find a uniform large enough.

Anyway, I collected my uniforms and the largest boots I have ever seen. My green no. 4 uniform was a recycled one. Apparently someone thought that the uniform was too new to be discarded. Waste not want not.

In my future months, I encountered uniforms that belonged to dead soldiers but were too new to be burned (being green coming in vogue then).

That is a story I may not be allowed to tell.

***

It was all a blur. First to CMPB (Central Manpower Base), then to collect our kit, then finally to Nee Soon Camp, School of Basic Military Training, SBMT.

It was almost evening when we stepped out of our "tour" bus. We told would be occupying old abandoned buildings.

They did not tell us that a single company of men will do a battalion’s worth of area cleaning, nor were we told of the other "occupants".

What caught my eye as I trudged up to my bunk was my sergeant’s door. It had a sign saying "The Best Welfare is Siongness".

This did not bode well.

***

One of the most traumatic events in a NSF’s (National Service, Full Time) life is the first haircut.

You can tell whether a NSF was from SBMT or Pulau Tekong from the haircut. Ours was without the fringe.

Our barber had a sadistic sense of humor. He had 2 other helpers. Specialists, the lot of them.

haircut

The first would mow the center of your head, from front to back, leaving the other parts untouched. Sort of an inverse Mohawk.

The second would do the sides and back. And since it took longer to do this, often, you sat on a row of chairs with a group of misguided punk rockers and waited sullenly.

SBC (the Singapore Broadcasting Corp) was there to film us. Not exactly our finest hour.

The last was the barber. He was the man to watch. With a cigarette hanging from the corner of the mouth, we would watch apprehensively as the ash grew longer and longer, waiting for the moment it would fall on your face.

It never came.

However, when the cameras were rolling, the cigarette disappeared. I think he swallowed it.

He would mutter extremely unflattering comments.

"Wah, you so fat, what you eat? I want to be fat too."

"Eh, can find uniform ah?"

"Army got give you bra or not?"

[This was written in 1996 as part 2 of a series of 3. Part 3 can be found here.]

3 Responses to “My NS Experience – The Descent”

  1. Mr. Dew Says:

    Funny article, I just went through BMT, it is nothing like what you said already it seems. And the barber is a nicer fellow already. ;)

  2. ivn Says:

    He would probably be designated Specialist, Hair, Cutting of, Class 1.

  3. Days Were The Those Says:

    His NS Experience – 5 month BMT

    Recent Runes’ Army experience is worth a read:

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