ICT replacement stint for fathers?

Dear powers-that-be,

At times like this I cannot help but wonder why my PES C9L3 (Clerk by vocation) Hubby has high key ICT almost every year. And has to stay in overnight for the two weeks of ICT, with perhaps a chance of getting out on Sat afternoon only to have to book in by 2100 hrs on Sun night.

It reminds me of the time he had High key ICT in 2008 when our firstborn was but 8 weeks old. Have a new baby? Wife is a struggling first time mum? Nope, not good enough reasons to qualify for deferment. We wrote in and the answer was, only if your baby is one month old or younger. Then again in 2011, when our second child was a few months old, off he went for two whole weeks once more. This time, he missed our first-born’s year end concert performance (held on a weekday), and helping out in her birthday celebration in school.

If it were urgent indispensable military business that required his irreplaceable expertise, I’d understand. But our friend, may I repeat, is C9L3. He was a clerk for 2.5 years. His once-broken arm means he is “excused range”. Yet, this not quite fit Corporal has had to go outfield during ICT, and at times carry a rifle he is neither trained nor allowed to use.

The rest of the time, he is stuck in a room of 36 men (pretty much the same PES predicament) who wait in turn to use 3 ( yes THREE) computers for clerical work aka data entry. For the army to pay his company half a month (of his pretty decent) pay for the type of work he does in ICT should make every taxpayer (who finds out) cry.
Another irony which would be funny if it weren’t so tragic is that the 36 men waiting for those 3 dino-age computers, fiddle with games on their 3G or 4G smart phones in the meantime.

That they rush to wait and wait to rush is common knowledge. Is it really quite necessary to plough all these resources, all this manpower, into ICT? There are just too many men. With nothing very much to do most of the time. Except wait around. Time and again.

The Saturday between his 2 weeks of ICT was when most dads were bringing their children out to celebrate Children’s Day weekend. However, the dads in ICT were scheduled to go for an excursion that Saturday. A national education excursion when they boarded coaches (not 3-Tonners mind you) to a Newater Plant and the Marina Barrage, which ended so late he only booked out at 2 plus and reached home at 3pm! On a Saturday, which is when we try to spend time with our kids. Just wonderful.

The thought that he has at least 2 more high keys and 1 more low-key really turns us off the idea of having a third child. I mean, a helpful husband (and mine is a wonderfully involved new age dad) is crucial in the home when children are below 5. Especially so if there are 2 or more children in the family. If we have a third child within the next few years, he’ll be off again to ICT at some point before the child turns 1!

Instead of going for ICT where 36 men just lobo wait all day to do stuff that 3 men can do (instant productivity quantum leap if 33 men less were recalled), men with children aged 6 and below should be excused from ICT to spend those two weeks at home instead (call it annual Mindef sanctioned paternity leave. AMSPL if you must have an acronym.)

Mothers will be thankful, fathers who spend all other 50 weeks a year running the rat race to bring home the bacon in our crazily-paced work environments, will have precious protected time to bond with their children, and army productivity skyrockets. What’s not to love?

Our circle of late 20s- early 30s friends all agree, and hey are we not the key target group, being of prime childbearing age, for the pro-procreation policymakers?
I wonder. Will such a scheme ever have a chance of being seriously mulled over? We appreciate that the army needs to be fair in how to calls up every man, based on their obligations, not whether their manpower is necessary. And if fairness means that taxpayers’ money is not optimally spent, so be it.

My husband’s perspective is that there is a need to redefine national service. Bringing up the next generation IS national service. Being a father and spending time with your kids in their formative years IS national service. It is not unfair for these men to do “national service” at home instead of in an over-staffed camp.

In the meantime, we can only rue the lamentable system that sequesters our husbands for 2 weeks every year, to dormitories far from home to do… nothing very much really. Whilst the homestead with its real urgent pressing needs goes unmanned. And wives try to stay sane, one-man-down. Sigh.

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