Singaporeans are weak, LOL. by Nicholas Anthony Ethan Lim

“Singaporeans are weak, LOL” says a girl posting a comment on an article that a friend shared: NSF dies after taking part in training exercise: Mindef.

And just that one insensitive comment riled up enough people online to warrant a witch hunt. The popular online forum, Hardwarezone “Eat Drink Men Women” forums were filled with angry posts about this girl, the infamous CSI-team on the forums started digging out her background, photos, social media links and everything and splashed it all over for the online world to tear apart.

Why on earth would anyone say something like this?

Well I think it’s quite clear why someone who has never served NS before would have such an opinion. No thanks to other guys who have served in the past constantly impressing their female friends that “Our time was more shiong, now army relax la” or “Tekong is a holiday camp now” or even our dads and uncles will go “last time we train under the Israeli army, they were insane, now soldiers like baby”. Or even STOMPers posting a photo of a recruit and his maid carrying his field pack.

So the general NSF public image has been battered by all these. But is it any true?

I hardly think so. I was a platoon sergeant in Pulau Tekong, and I took 4 batches of recruits. I took all kind of recruits, the JC batch, the Poly batch, PTP phase, Enhanced phase and even an Obese batch. I’ve seen all kind of patterns that our Singaporean boys are made of. From your garang king to wayang king. While things are a little different on Tekong compared to a mono-intake batch in unit, training is still training.

And I will say, training is tough. No way around it. We push the recruits as much as we can, but we always ensure their safety. Never mind what other people tell you about commanders who don’t give a shit, as far as I’m concerned, the sergeants in my company are all very dedicated to their roles and we pride ourselves on being the best company. When it’s time to have fun and relax, we make sure welfare is given out, but when it’s time for training, we make sure it’s hell. Our recruits can speak for that.

Field camp, for any recruit is hell. Take any typical Singaporean out of his usual urbanized comfort zone and throw him into a week long outfield exercise of mud and hell and he’ll break. Mentally and physically. It is unlike anything any boy would have experienced growing up in a safe country like Singapore. Plenty of punishments are given in field camp for the slightest infraction, and because these recruits are tired and exhausted, there will be plenty of mistakes made. Digging your shell scrape for the first time is a living hell, not because you are exhausted, but you most likely will suffer from heat rashes from the powder bath- powders trapped in your pores will drive you insane.

As a commander dishing out all the punishment, we always keep an eye on each recruit’s well being and state of mind. There is no competition to “see which platoon gets whacked the most”. Those are said in jest, but we won’t hesitate to pull out soldiers and send them to the medical tentage. Safety measures are always in placed, a rover is always ready to send anyone back to the medical center, and if necessary, heli-evac.

But even with the best safety plan in place, shit will always happen. The number of deadly symptom that soldiers will succumb to is heat exhaustion or worst, heat stroke. The new iLBV, fashioned after the one used by American soldiers traps heat like a boss. Add that with our humid weather and hot temperature (for some reason, Tekong is always 1 degree higher than Singapore), it’s just a ticking bomb waiting to explode.

And I’ve seen it happen. And you will never forget it.

Recruit suffering from heat exhaustion, will burn up in heat, fingers folded in a lock manner because of the muscle contractions, crying and they all have that same look of terror in their eyes. Some will whisper to you in fear and tell you “Sergeant, I don’t want to die” as you sit beside him on the rover rushing back to the heli-evac zone. Your heart just keeps pounding in anxiety even as you put on your best “Everything is going to be alright” face on. Some recruits go into delirium and will keep insisting over and over again that they are okay, just because they don’t want to re-field camp. There was a case where a recruit repeatedly shouted at a sergeant to “punish me! knock me down sergeant!” over and over again.

This is no fucking Hollywood movie, this is the real deal. Most people outside the army don’t know that too many times we could have nearly lose these soldiers.

 And there are unfortunate cases of recruits who do die. Any commander who had men die under his care in peacetime training will never ever forget how difficult it is to apologize to the deceased family. Try looking into your recruit’s parent’s eyes and say you’re sorry and you did tried your best. You will never forget the sound of a wailing mother who lost her son. 

 And then this gets reported, and we get people like this girl to say “Singaporeans are weak, LOL”.

 Are these soldiers weak? Maybe. But does an armchair critic who have never been through even just basic military training have the right to nullify the shit that these soldiers go through? I hardly think so. We put our recruits through a lot of shit, and most of them take these shit and you see crazy transformations before your eyes. Weak, pale looking boys who come out of field camp with the men beaten into them. “Boys 2 Men” : It’s sure as hell cliché but it’s true in its essence. And as much as I dislike the army, I cannot deny the valuable experience I’ve taken out of it. It isn’t something you’ll ever forget.

Rest in Peace, Private Lee Rui Feng Dominique Sarron.

by  Nicholas Anthony Ethan Lim  ~~ Singaporeans are weak, LOL


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