This is a long overdue reflection of my days in Army. But here it is!
I can remember vividly the first day of my enlistment. The night before, Tammy and I were packing what extra stuff I would need in BMT, writing my name on all my barang. I was writing T. KWOK but she was writing THOMAS. K and we were discussing which would be better. The next morning, my parents, Tammy and I were in Tekong and I handed over my pink IC, never to be seen for 1 year and 10 months. And so my Army journey began.
I was in PEGASUS company and I had such wonderful memories there. BMT wasn’t like our father’s days where they beat you down and mould you up. But these days, it’s more of learning from experiences. The people in my section and platoon were awesome. I think my buddy Qing Fa deserves a special mention. I call him Raf, short for Raphael, his Christian name. We shared crazy times together, being punished together for some one else’s mistake, covering each other’s asses. He saved me from guard duty once by leaping onto my rifle and I saved him from a huge centipede crawling on his helmet. They say that in BMT, or Army in general, your buddy will become the most important person in your life for that 2 years. It’s true. Without his encouragement and support, I wouldn’t have made it through the tough times in BMT. Of course my section was there for each other too. I’m glad that we all turned out ok and had awesome postings after POP. It was a joyous and sad moment, to finally complete our BMT phase but leave your friends for different pastures. I was fortunate and privileged to go to OCS after BMT, much to the joy of my girl. But I owe it to my friends in Pegasus platoon 4, and more importantly, platoon 4 section 2.
My 4D number in pegasus was 4209.
Once in OCS, I realised that BMT was just the appetiser. OCS made the tough times in BMT look like a stroll in the park. It was there that I was stripped down to nothing and treated like dirt. It was there that I made a foolish mistake, I committed a Negligent Discharge, which resulted in a 14 RCP (cadet version of SOL) right after my 10 day field camp. So essentially I couldn’t go home for about a month. And Tammy was leaving for London 2 days after my RCP ended. Those were trying times for me. Being stuck in camp gave me time to think about my existence in Army, ponder about my sufferings in OCS. I never had a conclusion then. But again, I had the support of my wonderful section mates. GOLF Wing Platoon 1 Section 3. And my buddies Yao Hui and then Josh. Both of whom has helped me greatly.
In OCS, there’s a saying that goes: When you’re suffering, look left and look right, your buddies are suffering with you; you are not alone. Without my buddies, I would never have completed OCS service term, got my first GOLD for IPPT, dug the cursed fire trench, navigated in the jungle and most importantly, reach the glorious commissioning day. It was in Golf wing that I saw the best in a man. How self-sacrificing my buddies can be, how they stick their necks out for their friends, how they bounce back from adversity stronger than before and their fighting spirit to achieve what has their goals. Never had I felt camaraderie as strong as this and my only wish was that I were half as good as the men they were.
My 4D numbers in OCS were 1309 then1301
After service term, I was lucky to enter the artillery formation. A new twist to all the infanteering that we had done since BMT. New relationships were forged and lessons learnt. Here in FAOCC (Field Artillery Officer Cadet Course), I saw, again, the best in a man but also the worst in a man. I will not describe the ill things I have seen. I have learnt many new skills and values but the most important of all was integrity. Be true to yourself and be true to your friends. In artillery, we had tough times and joyful times. Never had I taken a longer exam in my life, a 4 hour planning exam beats the longest A level paper hands down. Fast march with at least half our body weight. But we had fun times in the officers mess too.
My 4D numbers were X301 then L101
Finally the awaited day came. We received our swords and our graduating certs but my proudest moment was marching into the parade square during the commissioning parade. My parents and Tammy were there. Tammy came back from London for my commissioning. All the blood, sweat and tears and memories condensed into that 1 bar that I will wear on my chest till the end of my service as a NSmen.
Yes, blood, sweat and tears. Blood, sweat and tears that my buddies and I have shed for 9 months, finally came to an end.
Now being an officer is a whole new ball game. I was posted to 21SA as the Dy S3. Life was very eventful and again, many lessons were learnt. My upper study was very helpful and experienced and he taught me the ways of the Dy S3. Gone were the days trying to shirk responsibility, every morning when I come down from work, that bar on my chest reminds me that it’s time to start performing, living it up. Again it all boils down to responsibility and integrity. Responsible for my work and the guys in the branch and integrity to hold myself together. I have learned that command and control is not only outwards and directed to your men, but also inwards to command and master yourself.
I would like to thank the guys in my branch for teaching me so much, all the precious lessons I’ve learnt, I shall never forget. Gary, Isaac, Desmond, Teng, John, Kai Sheng, Kuan Wei, Chang Lok, Ryan, Rong, Beng, Heng Sui, Roy, Ananda, Fabian, Xerxes, Chee Kiong, Kelvin and of course my beloved Dy S2, Boon Bin and understudies Philbert and Suresh. Not forgetting my batch of officers: Ian Yang, Erusha, Mervin, Rakesh, Zong Ye, Nicholas and BSO Zhide. Thank you for making my life a joy in 21 SA.
During my life in 21 SA, I’ve been to Wallaby and Thunder Warrior. A rare privilege that I am most thankful for. ORD was bittersweet, I’m finally out of a regimented organisation, free to pursue my fancies but also to leave my friends behind.
Finally, for those who would say that Army is a waste of time, I beg to differ. I have learned so much and gained much more out of Army than I would in 2 years in any other organisation. When pushed to the extremes, the true colours of people will emerge and trust me when I say I have seen the best and the worst in people. There are many role models that we can find in army but also many negative examples. Army is what we make of it. Everyone is faced with the same 2 years, you can only gain as much as what you put into it. For those who have yet to enter Army, go in with an open mind and seek to learn new knowledge. For those who are still in Army, try to learn as much as you can and to try new things. For those who have come and gone, don’t forget the things that you have learned back in your glory days.
As of now, my days in Army has drawn to a close and a chapter of my life come to an end. I regret nothing and I am proud to say that I am no longer a boy but a man.