I think it is unfair for someone who is bred here to serve 2 years of National Service. but nonetheless kudos for sacrificing your time and energy! Your contribution is key to why and how most Singaporeans can sleep peacefully at night.
Takuya, born and bred in Japan, moved over to Singapore when he was young but remain in an all Japanese environment here. Studied in a Jap high school, had friends who speak the same language, ate Japanese food, speak Japanese at home (though his mum is a Singaporean Chinese), listen to Jap music.
We had a fantastic time together for the past 1 year in section 2, platoon 1, archer company, 11th mono, 40th SAR. We were posted to the victory battalion, strong culture of being victory warriors; best armour battalion, good results for atec.etc But that also meant we went thru alot of hell and tough training together.
Being a Armour infantry trooper, a huge amount of our time was spend in the bx vehicle during outfield training. Troopers waiting to dismount and thrash the enemies? nahh huge amount of our time was spend in the bx sleeping and eating and waiting to get out for a grasp of fresh air.
I will always remember him siting in the bx like a boss, enjoying his first class seat when the rest of us suffer in the crappy bx. Also remembering him stoning and shag out, always expecting his outfield mode when we move out for training.
But Taku was probably the fittest guy in our section in terms of physical. Gold IPPT doesn’t seem to be a difficult task for him. Thanks for running together with me during the 8km out of camp run, my one and only ooc run and i had to start at a 8km range! This is when i get to know the difference of combat fitness and physical fitness. I clearly suck at the latter.
We also had lots of fun together, the countless nights out, maggi nights, pizza nights, duty in camp, birthday celebrations, overseas exercise. And of course not forgetting how annoying he can be. When the entire platoon is dreading to do pt, he will be the only one shouting counts loudly like a crazyman. Worst still, we had to bear with him playing his guitar and singing the same old song in our bunk for the entire year.
But we dont hate him, and we still love him very much for being part of the section. I will miss all the memories made together in our section. Thank you for everything and all the best for your future endeavors. Sayonora!
*Taku returned to Japan for his uni studies and to reside there permanently.
One of the most memorable experience of national service is going for oversea exercise. I am sure many of us who’ve gone through NS will agree on this.
Ex Wallaby at SWBTA (Shoalwater Bay Training Area) is a yearly affair conducted between the 3rd and last quarter of the year. A typical training frame last around 3 weeks or so. Vocations from all different units and divisions will get a chance to train there for at least once.
Btw, Wallaby is the name of a kangaroo species. Don’t embarrass yourself going around telling people you are going to Wallaby. You will see alot of wallabies during the exercise, they mightvisit you near your tent and your bx might also run over them
So i shall share more with the pictures..
We were expecting to take the Singapore Airlines, because there was a rumour spreading that all saf personnel leaving for oversea exercise will get to take the national carrier to their destination. Sadly it was a no, but Qantas wasn’t that bad either.
7hrs flight from Changi – Rockhampton, direct flight. We had supper, breakfast, snacks served by angmo flight attendants, first time in my life.
After 7 hours, we landed in the land of kangaroos!
Some tips to share…
Time Frame & Communication: We stayed at the camp for approx 3 weeks? longest time i have ever being overseas and away from home. Some of us got really homesick but there is no signal in the camp, our camp is in the middle of no where. There is only reception at specific areas.
During admin time, there will be many people camping at the reception pole for signal. The reception pole is a specific lamp pole found behind the cookhouse, not any lamp pole you see. You will know when you see alot of people around the magical pole. For better signal & lesser crowd, go to the vehicle ground nearer to the exit of camp growl.
Get Telstra or Optus sim card, also available at Changi airport. You may not have time to purchase them at the Rockhampton airport. Btw, you wont be able to use your phone all the time in the camp, so just forget about being connected to the outside world. go and be a kangaroo for the time being.
Accommodation & Sanitation: We all slept in the tentage, which can house 12 to 16 soldiers per tent. Each soldier will also given a safari bed, sleeping bag and a pillow. The only locker is our own duffel bag, so remember to bring a good lock to safe-keep your valuables. The tent will be very cramp and squeezy but you can make your environment comfortable if you keep your stuff organised and tidy. I will suggest bringing your groundsheet, just in case it rains and the ceiling leak, use the groundsheet to cover your bed.
For the bathing part, it will be an open concept shower. After all the training, you will be too tired to bother about all the nudity. We had to bath with just a shower bag tied with a rope to the hook on the wall. All you need to do is to fill the bag using the pails in the shower room and tap, there are hot/cold taps, just fill up accordingly to your preference. Thankfully, toilets are well maintained and cleaned everyday by the Angmoh cleaner in Camp Growl. Proper toilet bowls with cubical and toilet rolls provided to use.
Food: The only time you will praise SFI food is Ex Wallaby. The food served in Camp Growl is more edible and beyond imagination then the ones in Singapore camp. Over there, food quality and variety are so much better. You will spend most of your chilly nights at the cookhouse with a cup of hot milo or congee.
When the unit celebrate their mission success at the end of frame dinner, a huge party will be thrown with angmoh girls coming in to perform and dance with you, free flow of wine and alcoholic drinks. Wait longggggg longgg
Okay, you get to taste barbeque kangaroo’s meat and free flow canned beer, a bbq cohesion thats it.
Recreational facilities: For the couch potatoes, kopi-kias and the otakus, your only entertainment you get to have in SWBTA is to go to the mess to watch movie or surf the net at the internet kiosk, the kiosk is a huge tentage with two rows of laptops. There is a pingpong table-in a container and a gym-in a container for the gym goers.
Mess: The mess is run by the local Australian, selling fries, carbana, chicken kebab, soft drinks, breaka. etc Price range from $3sgd – $10sgd for a cup of drink and a kebab in a bun. Check out their daily promotion for certain food items, you will see it on the whiteboard over their counter.
Weather and temperature: Rockhampton’s afternoon are crazily hot like machiam siao, and due to the humidity level you don’t perspire like you do in Singapore. But that doesn’t mean you are alright, the water in your body is still being evaporated/absorbed. Follow the hydration plan or take initiative to drink up. Heat stroke/falling sick is the last thing anybody wants to get. MO & basic outfield medical facilities are available in the camp, anything deem serious will be send to the hospital, which is like 1-2hours journey by car, unless you want a free ride in the super puma.
The temperature difference in the day and night is drastically different.
The night is chilly cold, i wear my long 4 pants and green socks to sleep every night. It is important to keep your feet warm, that will prevent you from getting cold. Get a cup of hot milo and lepak at the cookhouse with your mates, best time ever.
Remember to bring your Goretex jacket, the jacket will become your best friend. There were be thunder storm in the afternoon and the cold temperatures in the night too. Your best friend will protect you from the rain and wind there.
Some afternoons are spent cam-whoring, sleeping, or digging drains and prepping our tent for the the storm. (previously when the storm came, our tent flew away, the ceiling leaked and our area was flooded).
Some mornings, we did morning jogs from camp growl to the vehicle point, probably a 3.5km run to warm up ourselves. Imagine the chilly cold wind blowing into your face when you run, then slowly your body starts warming up and finally sweating? That is the best feeling ever!
The humidity level there is perfect for outfield trainings, you dont get to perspire alot, no sweaty sticky soldiers squeezing in the bx. The constant wind blowing also helps to cool you down during the long walks, really like a walk in the park.
Start of our outfield and live firings.. Sat, slept, ate, drink in the bx for days and nights, crazy days but memorable experience. I will never ever forget how amazing the starry nights are, witness countless of shooting stars too.
One of the most memorable time happened on the 4th day of our mission. It was tactical halt after a long day in the bx, we slept by the road beside our vehicle. It was cold, but we couldn’t help it and too tired to care much. Halfway sleeping around 1am, we were awoken by the bright headlights and sound of the toner. The toner came to deliver fresh ration! We had warm seafood fried rice and hot milo in the cold night. It is a state of happiness indescribable.
Oversea training allow SAF soldiers to get expose to the different terrains & weather elements and also to build up combat confidence in a different environment.
Unlike Singapore, driving in the tough terrain allows our bx driver to experience what its like to drive like a real bx driver. Long distance, bumpy mudroad, steep hills, deadfalls and also the opportunity to chop trees down by driving the bx against it.
Group photo after fighting Cougar company at the urban training facility. SAF invested in some money to build a urban complex for saf to train there. Cool huh
live firing signals the entire exercise coming to a closure and that means we are getting closer to R&R. Before that, we gotta pack everything up the container, send our duffel bags up the truck then leave camp growl and return to civilization.
Rest and Recreation (R&R): R&R would be a 2 days 1 night affair. Rockhampton is a small town, there really isnt much place that you can explore. For people who just want to buy some souvenirs and gifts back home, you will have more than enough time on the second day to shop at Stockland.
Short guided tour to Koorana Crocodile farm
Visit to Rockhampton Zoo & Botanic Gardens
Free & easy at Shopping centre
1 night stay at Capricon resort
Lunch buffet at Keppel Bay Sailing Club
Free & easy at Shopping centre
Dinner buffet at CQ university
Free & easy at Glenmore shopping village
Not gonna elaborate much, just some photos to share..
Conclusion: I will still say this is one of the best time of my life. Almost perfect condition for outfield training. The sky is so clear and blue in the day and at night the star is so bright, the wild wallabies hopping around randomly. All these is something you wont get to appreciate in Singapore. There is alot of first time in the exercise, just embrace the differences and you will enjoy the entire trip.
And of course, we should give thanks to the host country for allowing us to train in such a wonderful environment!
A blog post dedicated to this iconic 40 logo left behind from SG50 Celebration.
It was nicely place at the parade square for 40th SAR CO’s change of command. Just halfway through the ceremony, after they handover the command.. thunder struck and started raining cats and dogs. Strong wind causes the logo to collapse.
Pre Departure: 12 of us had to book in to camp by 2300hr.. because we volunteered to take the military plane C130 to Phisanulok, Thailand. The remaining of the troops took Thai airways. Kind of like a advance party thingy, but the plane delay made us reach there later than the main party.
The group of us waited at our courtyard for rollcall and further instructions. Came to know that we will be moving out at 0130hr, gotta help shift crates up the truck that will be transported to Thailand through the C130.
Reached Paya Lebar Airport at approximately 0220hrs. We had unfinished job to do! We had to continue move crates down from the tonners for immigration checks. Thereafter, we collected our plane ration, went through immigration at the small and desolate immigration hall.
Estimated to fly at 0430.. Waited forever at the runway.. then finally board the plane at around 0730, sited down and belt up. The engine started running, the air crews seem ready to shut the doors and all.
Dhewww… the engine died. We still thought it was just part of warming up the flying machine. God knows that the flying machine was faulty! The plane broke down just before we fly, no joke.. but thankgoodness, it was found out before we fly. not DURING we fly.
Another 2-3hrs of waiting on the runway, ate our plane ration on the runway, read a book, did everything. But it was a cool experience though, lying down facing the big vast sky with no buildings surrounding, enjoying the cool breeze and basking in the warm morning sun.
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Whatsapp from the medic group:
Doc: Have a safe flight!
A: Thanks! Quite safe ah, they found out the plane was faulty just before flying.
Doc: Oh shiaattt!!
Boarded the plane at approx 1000hrs.. reached Phisanulok Airport safely after 4hrs.
Arrival at Phisanulok Airport
Some RTA representative received us into the airport. They arranged for 6 tonners of kakia (privates & recruits) to unload the crates from the plane then load up the tonner (hats off, because they did it all without a forklift) and I can already feel the vip treatment from here.
Just some simple office tables set up as the immigration counter, express queue for us i guess. The RTA also specially prepared prepacked lunch and gave us the privilege of having all-drinks-free from the airport cafe!
Journey to the camp was another 2 hours journey.. we had 1 toilet stop along the way, so some of us bought snacks and drinks from 711 for our driver.
Wachiprakan Camp, Tak Province.
2330hr, we finally reached the camp in Tak province. I am impress with their regimentation, as the moment our tonner entered the camp. All the guards on duty immediately stood up and salute the arriving vehicles.
Here, we begin our 12days of fun and culturally interesting bilateral exchange with the professional soldiers from the Royal Thai Army.
We had our UO training at the Murai Urban Training Facilities (MUTF). The latest training facility SAF build to simulate urban environment for urban operations.
Part of the mission was for our entire company to secure 4 buildings taken over by our enemy platoon(formed up of our vehicle commanders and operators). Majority of Platoon one was killed during the mission: the sad fact of Infantry, chiongsua = die first. Before the mission, I was taken away to join our company sergeant major as the coy medic, i assisted my csm to set up the casualty collection point and directed the casualties and “dead people” to their various “resting points”. I was impressed with the way our commanders are in leading platoons and sections in impromptu situations. Overall, our action was quick and we managed to take over the buildings successfully.
Too many things happen in camp last week, which i cannot go to much into details here. All i hope is things to eventually become better for everyone. I need my weekend desperately…
Cohesion, a new word i learnt after entering the army. I didn’t know there will still be bonding sessions with our coy mates even though we see each other 24/7, 5 days a week. These chill out sessions can be fun sometimes and it helps to understand your mates better outside of military environment.
Army – training ground for the mind and body. It is important to know the survival skills in order to survive living in a community. Despite the differences we have, everyone attempts to be at peace with one another and avoid escalating any conflicts known/unknown. But unfortunately lots of conflict remain unresolved. definitely not the female hormones that is causing all this.. you know how girls can make a big fuss out of a small issue.
Accepting one another flaws is one difficult thing to do, but it is part of survival skill. You will really meet all kinds of people whose lifestyle, character, actions, goes against your own beliefs and ethics. It need lots of practice of understanding and tolerance. “Keep a safe distance, does not only applies to mechanical work and train stations.” But lastly, putting aside differences for a larger good is more important than anything else.
Good friends are hard to come by, but there are nice people around. I’m thankful to meet really good commanders.. and especially my plt sergeant whom is always supportive of what i do. They are probably the only motivation to continue when difficult times comes by.
I have completed 3 months of training to become an Emergency Medical Technician (Paramedic level 2) at SAF Medical Training Institute. Upon graduating in Jan, i was posted to 40th Singapore Armour Regimental to serve as a platoon medic.
Days at SMTI will forever be etched in my heart. It is the most rewarding and fun experience of national service so far. Probably because we all shared a common goal as trainees, we studied together and struggled through our combat phase. Nights out was the second best thing to happen as our camp was near Upper Thomson(somewhere popular for prata and cafes). Best thing was physical training were often canceled due to the monsoon rain. But all these came with a heavy price, we all end up gaining weight throughout the course.
My name was not in the list when i reported to Nee Soon camp on the first day. A group of us weren’t in the register list, mainly those who were posted from units. Then after waiting for all the people in the namelist to form up , one by one, a sergeant called out to us to join the platoon.
Halfway through, platoon 2 was punished for having sloppy movement and a mini “tekan” cum welcome session was taking place. I swear to heaven that i will never join platoon 2 after seeing how they were treated like dogs on the first day. I was the last guy left sitting at the vehicle shed waiting to be call. How nice, it turns out that the sergeant missed out my name from the stack of namelist and i belong to… platoon 2.
But i had no regrets, the badass commander ord-ed 2 weeks after we entered SMTI, mainly also because we performed really well academically, zero discipline issues and our spirits were high most of the time.