A guest post by the hubs:
I sit here in the training shed, waiting for the Mindef Reserve (MR) parade to start. Thoughts fill my mind, even as I pondered how I reached this milestone.
It has been 19 years since I was conscripted into the army. Just as I have progressed, the army has progressed too. The food has become edible, the beds better. However, some things have not; the endless waiting (“rush to wait, wait to rush”), the constant swearing / smoking, and the needless hierarchy sometimes.
Now that I have spent exactly half of my life associated with national service, I thought it a good time to sit back and look back on the time spent in green.
Because of the arm that I broke when I was 5 years old, I was downgraded right from the beginning. I went through a modified BMT, and had to do IPPT sans the pull-ups. Despite that, the training was vigorous and instilled discipline in me. Then, I was posted to be an administrative assistant (ie clerk) in a unit largely made up of regulars. This helped me to grow up fast, as I had my first experience of office politics. Because of the chance to stay out (except for overnight duties), I kept my brains active by doing an accounting course and served in church. I completed my national service 3 years later, after deferring for a year due to university studies.
I thought the army had forgotten me, as I was told that my personal docket had been misplaced before I left. (Yay!) Then, the dreaded army letter came in 2006 via snail mail. I was told to report to camp for my first-ever reservist. And it was for an infantry reservist unit! After visions of going through a crazy training at age 30, I prayed and asked God to help me to trust in Him.
The first few years were terrible; as I was downgraded and was excused range, they did not know what to do with me in an infantry unit. But in the meantime, I had to go out with the troops for field training. They eventually posted me to help out with administration, which was where I continued the rest of my reservist years with fellow medically-challenged soldiers. After 9 in camp trainings (it should have been 10, if not for my deferment last year due to work commitments), where they faithfully called me up every year, I have fully completed my reservist cycle.
There were many sacrifices made during all the in-camp trainings, which included 7 high-keys. I missed my older daughter’s first baby steps. My request to defer an in-camp training due to my younger daughter’s birth was rejected (she was 2 months old; the deferment policy is to allow for deferment for kids under 1 month old), so I had to travel from one end of the island to the other for every day for two weeks.
The biggest sacrifice was during my last in-camp training. I had to ‘burn’ my golden jubilee weekend, and the previous Saturday, to be on duty for the National Day Preview and Parade. It was tough (almost impossible) to give an acceptable explanation to the wife and kids why their husband and father had to be away from them, while the rest of Singapore was celebrating with their families that long public holiday weekend. However, such is life; that is why they call it “national service”. Thankfully, my wife planned the activities that weekend to ensure my presence was barely missed.
The duty that weekend was memorable, as all my years of training paid off. I won’t go so far to say that it is a privilege for me to serve at the golden jubilee parade. This is because my wife managed to win four tickets to the Padang parade through a contest; but duty beckoned and I was so near yet so far (not within sight of the Padang parade). But it was memorable, not because I could see the fireworks every night (the attraction was soon lost on me), but because I played a small part to ensure that the revellers kept themselves safe. Interacting with the public, many of whom were irritable and agitated because of the crazy crowd, was challenging. But we were trained well and managed to make the fringe celebrations a “non-event”.
And so, with a grateful heart, my service to the nation wearing green is over. Like all parents (and soldiers) know, “the days are long, but the years are short”. Even as the army (and our nation) is less than perfect, there is much to be thankful for, even as Singapore celebrates our 50th year. May God continue to bless Singapore. Majulah Singapura!