Today I sent my son off for his NS (National Service) at the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) in Pulau Tekong. He has been quite pensive these past few days. I asked him how he felt. He said he wasn’t fearful; just utterly ‘sian’ (I cannot think of a suitable English word - “tired” “bored”, “moody” …).
I know I am not fearful for him. I trust that training in the SAF these days is much safer than my time. Also a lot of the stupid punishments that the commanders of my days dished out to us are no longer allowed. Furthermore, being an active sportsman, he should be able to cope with the physical training a lot better than me. Nevertheless, as a father, I cannot help feeling a bit worried; although I did not let it show. After all, a grenade in 2009 is just as deadly as one in 1971.
My advice to my son? Don't try to 'take cover' and waste your time in NS ...... and help the weaker ones.
I think the SAF has done a pretty good job – with the colourful brochures, slide shows and walkabout to see the impressive facilities; and even hosted a lunch in the cookhouse – at reassuring the parents. My wife was so impressed. So was I.
I saw many other middle-age guys; ex-NSmen like me no doubt. I wondered what went through their minds. They were pretty quiet.
Inevitably, thoughts of my own enlistment all those long years ago came flooding back. I tried to recall what the feeling was like for me in those days just prior to my enlistment. However, it was too long ago and I just couldn’t be sure. I think I felt dread and fear because we had heard so much about how ‘siong’ (tough) the training was. In those early days of NS in Singapore, lots of stories were floating around about the grueling training under Israeli advisors at Safti.
How about you oldies who have gone through NS in the 70’s? Can you recall how you felt in the days prior to call up?
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