My recruits enlisted on the 9th of December 2005. My initial response to this event was:
Anxiety, excitement, horror, anticipation, shock, enthusiasm, trepidation – I never knew I could feel so many emotions at once! How I got through that fateful enlistment day, I can never know but the recruits are here to stay until I ORD!
So much has happened for the past few days and I simply don’t know why to start. To give a more coherent structure to this entry, I decided to divide each individual event into different headings.
First and foremost,
The MOST EMBARASSING LAST PARADE in my life as a
I was the Duty Sergeant (DS) of the platoon for the day, which meant that I was officially responsible for the recruits for that day, from bringing them to meals and lessons to teaching them how to do the most basic of drills (since the first lesson of the day was footdrill). During the last parade, I had to report the strength of my platoon by first bringing them to attention and then marching off to the Company Orderly Sergeant (COS) who later reports to the Company Duty Officer (CDO). Having only taught them the most basic of drills like sedia, senang diri, ke kiri pusing, ke kanan pusing and basic marching, it was clear in their minds what was right and wrong, even though they can’t properly execute them as a platoon (having learnt the drills only that same morning). Well, after I brought them to attention, I turned right and marched off to the COS. And what happened? I had to march using both my right hand and right leg together and vice versa! OMG! If you do not know how to march, try walking using your right leg while at the same time swinging your right hand up 90 degrees and you’ll know how wrong that is! I have never felt so embarassed in my entire life (expect for the floating light in fountain incident in Melaka which saw me plunging waist deep into disgusting murky water)! In front of my recruits and the whole company! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
I knew I had to salvage the situation. Thankfully my friend weiyang taught me a very important lesson in social skills (somethins which according to my brother I am severely lacking in). I knew I had to save my face and not loose respect of the recruits, while at the same time apologise to them for my severe lack of psychomotor skills. What weiyang told me was to ask them whether they noticed what I did was wrong and if they did, to make a joke out of it, and make it a learning point for them. Some did smile and laugh when I asked whether they noticed my apparent lack of psychomotor skills. I then apologised to them while at the same time emphasized that it was a wrong demonstration of basic marching. I was after all as tired and as sleepy as them, though going through BMT in different shoes. Hopefully this would not tar my image as a sergeant because without respect, it would extremely difficult to command and control 23 recruits who depend on you for instruction and guidance.
Argh. This would remain with me until the end of my NS (reservist included) cycle. ARGH!
The recruit with the broken nose
It all started during footdrill, when suddenly he wanted to fall out because he had difficulty breathing. I was shocked because a) it was relatively cloudy and cool that morning b) the drills had only progressed to ke kiri and ke kana pusing. It most definitely could not have been heat exhaustion or dehydration. I asked him why he had difficulty breathing. He then began telling me his story of the broken nose, how the operation failed to unblock the bone in one of the nostrils three times, how the difficulty in breathing causes him to feel giddy and nauseous, how the he lost his temper at the nose doctor at CMPB who manhandled his nose, causing the professor to disallow a downgrade for him. I thought the situation was quite serious since the company medic decided to bring him to the Medical Officer (MO). But the MO simply concluded that it was a case of nerves, causing him to be like a hypochondriac of sorts, not being able to withstand the harsh training of BMT (which I tried telling him that it was not, yet) because his lungs were clear and oxygen level was normal.
My course of action was to try to comfort him, telling him that it was normal to feel alone and afraid during the first few days after enlistment. But he should try to take everything with a positive mindset and try to go through all the training if he could. And if he can’t, he should try to take it at his own pace at least. I also told him to schedule his ENT appointment quick, since he wanted to do it anyway but didn’t, to get a professional opinion on his condition. He seemed relatively calmer after that, I think.
The recruit who cannot speak english
This was one of my fears, that I was not able to relate to the recruits having spoken English 99% of my life. I had to help one of the recruits fill up his Personal Particulars form for emergencies, in case we need such information ASAP. Under religion, he pointed it to me, asking me what it meant. I tried telling him “Your faith, your beliefs”. But that drew a blank look of incomprehension from him. Next I tried “Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism” and that also did not work! I gave up and them surrendered him to Zao yi who started to explain in Chinese.
Yesterday night, I was trying to teach them how to tie their ID tags properly in their bunks. That same Chinese guy was there and he started asking one of the other recruits in MALAY! @#$#!@#$#@%@%! Here I was trying to explain to them in disjointed and broken sentences when he suddenly asks one of the Malay recruits “Ini macam mana nak ikat?” I then exclaimed in Malay “Kau boleh cakap Melayu!” Then the Malay recruit he was asking said how the guy stayed in Malaysia since he was four and had to come back to Singapore for National Service! (Its amazing how the government manages to track almost every single male person born in Singapore to remind them of their forced obligation towards National Service).
On an unrelated note, my exclamation in Malay also drew some interest partly because of my seemingly Chinese features, despite my Malay name. They thought, as almost everyone else does, that I was Chinese, until I spoke in Malay. On another unrelated note, one of the recruits from my section studied in an American High School for seven years! And he’s Malay! Even his English had a slight tinge of American accent. How ironice this is that he just had to end up in my section! Even Vasaant’s section had about four guys who could run 2.4 under nine minutes like him! How coincidental that can be!
I can go on but I decided to end here. More army stories to come, if I’m simply not too exhausted to write.