The best description of my feelings for National Service [NS] would be: It’s complicated.
My platoon mates and my officers know for a fact I am the worst kind of soldier. In fact, it is clear that I ain’t fit to be one since I am often lost and confused when in green uniform. The only good news is that I haven’t gotten anyone of them hurt (or worse, killed) during my Operationally-Ready NS training. Truth be told, I rarely passed my IPPT [Individual Physical Proficiency Test] and I am a regular visitor of Maju Camp for Remedial Training [RT]. That is why I have also previously mentioned that I probably won’t survive for long as a soldier if a war breaks out, and at times I really hated National Service and even considered it a waste of time. That said, RT has kept me healthy and fit as I do not have the discipline to exercise on my own. These days, I am just getting fat.
Yet, if you were to tell me about abolishing NS or reducing the conscription period further, you will see me jump out and defend it. That is not hypocrisy. Because whether I liked NS or not, if I won’t defend my country – then who will?
I am glad I visited “Army Open House @ Our City 2012” held at the F1 Pit building near the Singapore Flyer this year. I must congratulate the Singapore Armed Forces [SAF], the Ministry of Defense [MINDEF] and in particular the organising committee for making this year’s Army Open House a success. This has got to be the best Army Open House I have been to. Even if there are those who won’t feel the same, it is still one of the best Army Open House ever. This is much needed at a time when the institution of National Service has suffered some blow to its public image.
I had to say our army has come a long way. While it is the fighting men, and not the equipment or weaponry that wins the war, I am impressed by the array of equipment and armaments that the SAF has procured over the years. In fact, while I am not very convinced that our armed forces can fight any conflict over a prolonged period in the past, I am now more assured that we are better equip to prosecute such a conflict if it was forced upon us. It is not the state of art Leopard 2 Main Battle Tans or the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) that convinced me of that, but the mobile kitchens and field washing machines that did so.
It doesn’t matter how well verse you are in Sun Tzu or von Clausewitz or how good a military history student you imagine yourself to be when you cannot appreciate the significance of mobile kitchens and field washing machines. What you have learn is all in vain if you do not understand how much soldiers appreciate a change of fresh uniforms and hot food in the field. However insignificant these equipment may look and no matter how useless they are in actual combat, it makes up by boossting the morale of the troops. The army marches on its stomach and combat rations can only last you so long. Freshly cooked food would be as good as godsend. Powder baths may keep rashes at bay, but a fresh change in uniforms goes a long way in keep a soldier comfortable on the front line. It also meant that the SAF no longer need to maintain a long supply line back to Singapore, since it can now utilise food and water in enemy territory on the move. The prospect of the SAF staying for extended periods would give opposing military planners pause when they consider plans to wage war against Singapore.
Before I bore everyone with a lengthly, boring lecture… here are the pictures I have taken at the Open House on Saturday (May 26th, 2012). Enjoy the pictures and see how far the SAF has come from the days of our fathers in the army to the time of their sons.