Sunday, September 26, 2010

Then and Now – Leaving for overseas NS training

This morning, I fetched my son to the airport as he was leaving with his battalion for overseas NS training. On the way home it struck me how much things have changed since my time.

1) When I went to ROC for Exercise Starlite during my OCS days, we used the Paya Lebar Airport. Today, we used the spanking Terminal 3 at Changi.

2) Back then we arrived at night from Safti via military three-tonners. On arrival at the airport, we used a special entrance into the airport to the left just before one would normally turn right onto the departure area. Today, we arrived in my Toyota Wish in broad daylight.

3) Back then, like today, we boarded the plane in civvies – including that hated OCS tie. But unlike my son who carried a normal-looking travelling bag, we had to carry a huge Ali Baba bag inside which was crammed all our personal gear like webbing, helmet, mess tins and a whole lot of other stuff which I cannot recall now. But I remember we did not have to bring uniforms because in ROC we issued the uniform of the local army. In my son’s case, all their military stuff had been packed and sent before-hand, and they looked pretty much like normal civilians; safe for the short hair perhaps.
3) Back then, we arrived in Kaoshiong in the wee hours of the morning when it was still dark. We were half-asleep and I don’t remember anything about disembarking from the plane or the trip to the camp in Heng Choon. For my son, I guess he would arrive down under in broad daylight.
4) There is one other big difference between father and son. For me, that trip on the SIA 707 was my first time in travelling in an aeroplane. I remember my section mate Simon Ong was excitedly taking photos with the SIA air stewardesses. As for the young men leaving for their overseas NS training this morning, it must have been their umpteenth time travelling by plane. Nowadays, most Singaporean kids go to distant places for their holidays. In school many would have gone overseas for sport events and educational trips. Furthermore, within their two-year NS period, they would have gone overseas at least two or three times.
Yes. Indeed the times, they have changed.

This picture was taken in the Safti Drill Hall just before departure for Paya Lebar. See the row of 3-tonners behind me?

Me and my section mates resting in our bunk in Heng Choon in between exercises. The dog biscuits with jam (from our compo rations) tasted surprisingly good in those times.


peter said...

Chun See, not sure you remember this. The seat allocation onboard SQ was by orgbat, not rank.

Sometimes veru rowdy with Hokkien Peng - some got "extra hands" when asking for coffee or tea.

Lam Chun See said...

Sorry I don't remember. Only time I went was part of OCS. No rowdy Hokkien Pengs.

Icemoon said...

when would chun see wear glasses and when would he not wear glasses? I don't think he wore contacts then.

Lam Chun See said...

Icemoon is very observant. I was and still am a 'one-eye jack'. Hence I can do all my physical trg in the army and play sports without glasses. Good thing it is the left eye that is bad; hence I can even fire the rifle without glasses.

Vince said...

Back in 2001/2002 when I first went to ROC for my battalion overseas exercise, it was my first trip in a plane (I was a poor kid then). We took off during midnight and arrived in the wee hours of the morning, half-awake, just like in your case..
Now they take off in broad daylight!

FL said...

In 1975, I had my first oversea's reservist training in Brunei & it was then my 3rd ICT. From our unit camp (Seletar East Camp), the 3-tonners sent us to the former Paya Lebar Airport. Like some of you, the army trucks travelled into the airport thro' a special lane. I heard then that the special entrance was meant for VIPs ! We also boarded the SQ SIA plane. It's was my first taste of travelling on a aeroplane, although it was not for a holiday trip. I remember when we were up in the sky, majority of reservists were in high spirit then !

Tim said...

I thought that ROC is no more a training venue(or am i wrong). I remember the town of Heng Chun which is in Che Chen(in hanyu pinyin). It seems many of the local population are quite attached to some of the staff. Smile

Lam Chun See said...

ROC is still very much on the menu. Heng Chun and Hu Kou still active as far as I know. Just ask your friends with children doing NS.

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PenNuts said...

ROC, Heng Chun, Gao brought back all my memories back in 1994.

I need to go and dig out all those photos taken during R&R

Alex Ho

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Markham Real Estate said...

I heard then that the special entrance was meant for VIPs ! We also boarded the SQ SIA plane.

Anonymous said...

I was in Heng Chun Camp in ROC in 2005. We departed at night and arrived in the morning.

Our spirits were at an all time low upon arriving at our living quarters which would be home for 3 weeks. It was 4 persons to a double decker bed (men mixed with section commanders). And the worst part, no lockers or cupboards so the only other personal space we had was the duffel bags we came with.

But those were still fond memories.