Friday, March 27, 2009

Some things never change (2)

Recently my son completed his BMT and brought back a lot of stuff from his camp while waiting for his next posting. I saw some interesting items among his things; including stuff that we would not be allowed to take home during our time; such as a personal helmet, SBO webbing and toggle rope.

Of course these items are quite different nowadays; and of better quality. The webbing for example is made of some kind of water-proof synthetic material which can be washed and dried. In our time, it was a kind of fabric-canvas which soaks up all your sweat ….. and that of everyone else who had used it previously. The only washing it gets is when we did our training in the rain!

As for the helmet, I was surprised to see that it was quite heavy. I have heard people say that nowadays the helmet is much lighter than ours. I don’t think so.

I noticed that he didn’t have a belt. He told me it was optional. I guess it is because nowadays, they don’t need to tuck in the shirt. In our time, we had to kiwi and brush our belt until it shines whenever we had drill period. Otherwise you will be punished when the CSM checks your turnout. And your belt must not be loose. He will grab it at your tummy level and tug and shake you to see if there is any slack. By the way, the belt was very handy for removing soft drinks bottle caps.

But I saw two items which looked exactly like ours - the mess tin and water bottle.

To the ‘lau pengs’, what comes to your mind when you see these two items?

For me, the mess tin brings back three memories.

1) Maggie Mee

The sight of the mess tin immediately brings back memories of times when we had to cook our instant noodles in the field. We were issued solid fuels which came in white packets.

2) Queuing for our food behind the 3-tonner

How can one forget the routine? First you wrap your mess tin with a plastic sheet to prevent it from getting dirty. Then you will queue up behind the ration truck where the cooks will sit at the edge of the 3-tonner and scoop the food from stainless steel containers (I cannot remember the name) into our mess tins. After that, we would look for a shady/comfortable spot to eat our meals.

Man … how I envied our commanders who not only were served on proper plates, but sat on wooden chairs and ate at GS tables in the shade of huge tents (again I cannot remember the name of the tent).

3) Stand by bed

One of the things the commanders liked to check was the cleanliness of our mess tins. I have heard friends say that any dirty mess tin would be flung out the window, but I have not actually witnessed this myself (neither did I do such things when the time came for me to check others). But I do remember using steel wool to polish our mess tins until they shone. Needless to say, nowadays the NS boys don’t need to do that.

As for the water bottle, ours had an alluminium cup as a base, and it was always a hassle to remove it from the water bottle pouch.

Sometimes after an exercise, we were too lazy to discard the leftover water, and then in our rush when the next exercise came along; which could be days later, we simply drank the stale water in the bottle. Yikes. Just think of all the bacteria! My wife would faint if she thinks our son does the same thing.


Anonymous said...

Plastic mug reminds me of "Ang Tau Jui" or MILO for night supper.

Anonymous said...

U forgot, during OCS you always needed extra pairs for everything? Wait till u see your son's bedroom and then u compare.

Life is Short said...

Yes, I remember the NCOs forcing us to take the supper (yes, ang tau jui) from the metal mug (or is it green mug?) whether we like it/hungry or not.

Of course we also have the water parade, where we have to drink plenty of water from the water bottle, in fall-in formation and bottoms up style before lights out. Maybe water can only be effectively absorbed overnite. Later so tired still must wake up to pee.

Lam Chun See said...

I think the water parade was introduced after a soldier died from heat stroke during a running test. Then they came up with a list of safety procedures such as at least 7 hours of uninterrupted slip the night before, etc. etc.

Actually next weekend, they invited parents to view the facitlites at Safti MI. I was looking forward to it; but unfortunately have to go on overseas trip :(

Anonymous said...

You had a plastic water during your time? I remember the aluminium water bottle with the rubber cap. Stinks! It came with an aluminium mug into which the bottle fits. Could be used for boiling water.
I think you can view SAFTI again during the POP.

Anonymous said...

Correction: You had a plastic water _bottle_ during your time?

Icemoon said...

I think those huge tents are just called 'tentage'. So we say 'set up tentage and GS table'. Must ask storeman or CQMS for the proper name.

I used to drink the stale water from the bottle. There was one time I had water from previous ICT few months ago, forgot to discard.

The stale water might actually be 'cleaner', considering we army guys got our water from the TOILET or the washing area.

Even the Jerry Can used outfield, dunno they wash or not.

Icemoon said...

1) We still had Maggie Mee and solid fuel.

2) The only time we queued and ate from mess tin was BMT. In Unit, a rep would collect the lunchboxes and fruits and bring them to us, often with garbage bag. That's how we got fresh rations (not combat rations) outfield.

3) We had plenty of Stand by Universe/Area/Bunk/Bed. The aluminum base is called Mess Mug.

Icemoon said...

Why is MILO called red head water? Which part of MILO is red? Or should it be Ovaltine?

peter said...

In my OCS era, the instructors were very picky about everything, so Stand by Bed or Stand By Basha could be terrible because punishments sure ly to follow. One method I devised which proved to be effective to handle those regular SAF officers was to plenty of pin-ups in my bedroom.

Of course my room mate a Chinese-educated and Mandarin-speaking graduate of Nantah University being a "Good Boy" sort never saw my point. To him women are evil, so what more showing a bit of flesh. Anyway, if you see my photos, you can betetr understand the point.

Instead of pasting my cupboard with brown paper, I pasted bikini-clad Japanese girls (a more like today's Race Queens") I pasted the wall with braless Caucasian girls. My o my during morning inspection, all of them (all the section instructors) always made an excuse to check my bunk. No matter how "dirty" or mis-laid my bunk was, I never got punishment. I even received enquiries as to whether I got more posters to share with them. One of them today is a retired Division-level BG with a Temasek-linked company.

Lam Chun See said...

During my time, the bottle was plastic; exactly like that in the photo; but the mug was alluminium. In the field, we will place our spoon beside the bottle, and once buckled up it would not drop out.

But once the al mug is placed in the pouch, it is very difficult to remove. So it tends to get very dirty.

Lam Chun See said...

I remember now. There were 2 types of tents. The very 'serious' onces come complete with windows etc. and light brown in colour. These are used for big occasions like NDP. The other one, the less elaborate one is green in colour and is usually for the commanders during exercise. They have specific names; not tentage.

Lam Chun See said...

Icemoon. Milo and Ang Tau Chui are 2 different things. Actually should be called Ang Tau Tng meaning red bean soup.

As far as I remember, it is not Milo but very thick chocolate drink; probably Van Houten. I don't like it at all. Prefer the coffee or tea from the 'Marsiling girls'.

Lam Chun See said...

"how I envied our commanders who ....... ate at GS tables in the shade of huge tents "

To be fair, the tents and furniture was not just for the comfort of the commanders. I believe they had a lot of documents, maps etc which needed protection from the rain. In fact, I have seen the clerk typing away at his type-writer in the tent.

peter said...

My time the water bottle was metal including the mug with handle. We kept 2 bottles like I say we work in pairs. One for Stand By Bed, the other was for actual use. The one for Stand By Bed was very KILAT because we use autosol and brasso to make it shine. Some more got no dent. The rubber "washer" inside the bottle gap use neutral kiwi so make it shine.

Our beds in OCS trg, never sleep on it. Instead we slept on the concrete floor because don't want to have creases on the bed-sheet or sunken mattress. I kept a carpet in my room because I swept all the dust under the carpet. As we had a table in our bedroom, I brought an English tea set and made tea for breakfast during inspection. In a way you can say "I carry balls" but worth it. Our instructors from 5th or th batch OCS very mean but we must use strategy to win them over. So such efforts worth it.

alex said...

My first water bottle during my recruit days were "recycle bottles" and it has a metal cap. We didnt have the plastic mug, but drink from the "mess mug" as mentioned by Icemoon. I remember using plastic bags to "go-over" the mess tin, when we collect our food from the 3-tonners, so that we dont have to wash the oily remains from the messtin after meals. Any of the "Lau-Pengs" have the same way to keep the mess tins clean? The mess tins came in a set of two, a larger and a smaller, and we make a point to use only one, so that the smaller one can remain as a storage "box" to keep tooth brush, tooth paste soap etc. I think we usually keep the kiwi shoe polish and show brush there too, because they are all "essential items" for field camp.

Tom said...

Tom said ...
Chun See and Peter,you lads do bring back alot of memories, I remember the tin water bottle and mug and the mess tins , I use to hate cleaning them for inspection and if they were not up to the Nco.standard you were put on charge. any body remember the Hexamine -Hexi solid fuel stove,
when the fuel tablets burned it was smokeless,and they made your mess tins black and thats when I hated cleaning them. yes Chun See I agree with you the webbing made of green canvas,I did not like cleaning the webbing to.

Unknown said...

Thanks for this post Chun See. It certainly brought back memories for me during my NS days, and I was in the transition period of going through various combat ration types - from the tins of baked beans and sardines to the tear and eat packs.

How is life back in Singpaore? Hope your son is coping well with NS.

Lam Chun See said...

Reently I visited the Memories at Ford Museum at Bt Timah Road. I was so surprised to see an exhibit of the very same mess tin which was used by the British soldiers in World War 2.

household name said...

Did your son get catered food during his BMT? I heard that army food nowadays is 'quite good' and people really don't mind having to eat in the camp.

Lam Chun See said...

Yes. Nowadays, they outsource the cooking to private contractors. I had a chance to taste the food when I visited BMT on enlistment day. Needless to say, it was much better than our time when the cooks were NS boys. Do you know that the recruits even get to evaluate the food standard?

Unknown said...

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