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.