There is a First for Everything…

November 28, 2006

Today was the first day I entered a Court Building (not the court itself!). Today was also the first day that I was invited to go for dinner with my lawyer and all of the other lawyers and secretaries in the office. Today was also the first and only time that I had to puke during a meal. And last but not least, I also got personally invited for a Malay wedding that is not at all affiliated to my parents!

There’s always a first for everything. As some of my friends already know, I have been working in a law firm for about two months already. And it has been such a refreshing change from the regimentation and discipline of the army! And it has actually come to an extent that I self impose such discipline and regimentation on my lawyer and his office, with my ever obsessive compulsive desire to keep things neat and tidy and on stand by conditions, even during the day when I leave for lunch! I actually cleaned his whole office, making it workable for once! Since I am employed as a secretary/admin assistant/clerk, I don’t expect to really understudy him and learn the mechanics of law and go to court. So when some documents had to be personally delivered to the Subordinate Courts and when the dispatch rider was on MC, the onus was on me to go with him (since I can’t drive!) So yes, the first time I actually went to court was to send documents to the Probate counter. Not entirely spectacular but its a start, given my initial ambivalence to the law profession itself.

Today was also the first time that I participated in a social event with the rest of the people in the office. I have to clarify that there are three separate law firms with three separate lawyers and secretaries working in the same office, so including me that makes seven of us. It was hard initially when I did not know them well so as I worked and proved my worth to them, even though I am only a temp, I was still invited to go with the rest of them. (Though traditional Malay courtesy would prove otherwise, that I still would go regardless of whether I was only a temp!) And it was fantastic, meeting and talking to them on a social setting since its difficult once we are in our offices and immersed in doing documents and paperwork. And I actually managed to talk to the other two lawyers and gain much insight on the law profession itself, especially with regards to being a Malay lawyer.

And this was definitely the first time I vomitted during the meal. And no, I did not vomit on the table. (Thank Allah!) I vomitted in the toilet! I knew that eating at a table barbeque restaurant which mainly consisted or burnt or undercooked food was not good for my sensitive stomach so when I was on to dessert, I already felt queasy and nauseous. One of the lawyers even commented that I was eating too little but the truth is, I was simply feeling sick and the smell was making it worse! So yup I vomitted in the toilet without their knowledge and nonchalantly went back to my seat. Note to self: Never ever again eat at Seoul Garden or Hans River or any other table barbeque restaurant. There’s a reason why you swore off Seoul Garden since Secondary school. No more overpriced undercooked/burnt food for you!

And I was also invited to my first Majlis Persandingan or wedding! One of the female secretaries was getiing married this december and I’m invited! It feels good in the sense that on one hand, she feels close enough to me to invite me to her wedding and that I’m also old enough to actually receive an invitation! I’m definitely going, just that I will going alone since the rest of them are married and have children. So yup, my first wedding invitation no vaguely associated to my family!

So yup, the first of many firsts. Just that today was exceptionally more special with my vomit-in-toilet in mind. Hehehehe. Never ever shall I go to any table barbeque restaurant. NEVER.



November 5, 2006

My name is 3SG NIZAM. I was a Section Commander of Section 2 Platoon 1 of Alpha Company and a proud SPARTAN of 6 SIR. The emphatic word being was, that is. I also undertook the dual responsibility of being the Administrative Specialist of my company. And today is the day of my ORD (Operationally Ready Date).

Its been a long 1 year 10 months. I would be lying to myself if I had said that I had not changed from this National Service Experience. And the ironic thing was that I so adamantly refused to loose myself, to protect myself from the lingering influences of the army, from the nonchalant vulgarities to the unwavering regimentation. And the fact is, I did. I tried to redefine what is means to be a sergeant, not following the basic practices of the stereotypical image of a sadistic sergeant.

Being the 1st Year Specialists, I trained my men from their enlistment into BMT in January 2006 to them turning operational in August 2006. It feels good to see the difference from the start, when they were still ignorant of what the army experience would have to offer. I hoped that I had made a difference, teaching them skills that they can use in their lives.

It was only in 6 SIR that I felt that I was at peace with myself. Throughout the whole NS experience, I felt as if I was inifinitely in transition, that I was perpetually on course (BMT, BSLC, ASLC) and under constant scrutiny, not being able to be in control of who I am. But being a Section Commander, the leader of six men, I knew exactly what my role was and I carried it out to the best of my abilities. Training with my men, from section training to POI training, I get to learn what it really means to become a Section Commander. I must confess that I initially had fears of going to a rifle company because I was afraid that I would not be able to interact with such individuals of a different economic strata (My Theory of the RJC Bubble). But I realised that they are just the same, though they may speak in a different language.

Being the Admin Spec, I learnt a lot on how to deal with people, especially with respect to rank and protocol. Though sometimes differences in rank have to be observed, sometimes you must not think that it defines entirely who you are. In the end, if you want a clerk from S1 branch to give you more time to collate all the Blue Booklets, you would have to treat them like any normal human being, with respect. Or if you want the clerk from S3 Branch to furnish you the results of your company as for this current workyear, you must ask nicely because though they are supposed to do their jobs, it does not mean that they owe you a living. I learnt to how talk to them and to became friends with them, such that we are now on a first name basis. And it really helps if you have friends in HQ, because in the end my job as the admin spec is further enhanced and I am able to execute my responsibilities more effectively.

And it feels good that i get recognition for my hard work, from my PCs, CSM and OC, as well as from the clerks in S1 Branch and Chief Clerk herself. She even told encik and I that I was the best Admin Spec in the battalion. This is not to say that did my job to earn such a praise. I did my job because I wanted to do it to the best of my abilities because in the end it will help my company function properly without any administrative lapses. What if the IPPT results were not submitted promptly? Will you clear your second year IPPT requirement and get your $200? What if your leave applications were not promptly sent to S1 Branch for approval? Will you still be able to go overseas? I felt even more proud that because of this, my encik and my 2IC decided to sent me to Platoon Sergeant Course 2 months before my ORD! And it feels good to have completed it, being one of two NSFs in the course to have done very well.

I am leaving my company with a heavy heart because of the strong bonds of friendship I have forged with my PCs, my CSM, my PSs and all the section commanders of Alpha Company.We went through hell together and made it through! Though the journey for them has not ended, my National Service has ended. I want to wish them all the best for their future missions, exercises etc and remember to enjoy themselves in between those tough training. These are the friends that you will remember for life.

To SSG BENEDICT, thank you encik for being the most understanding sergeant major! You are the first encik I know of that does not strike fear but while at the same time inspires respect and the command and control of everyone in the company. Your impeccable work ethic will get you further that what the army can offer and I hope you succeed in the future.

To 2LT IRVING, you are the best PC one can ever get! Having such an effervescent personality, you can’t help but be happy with him around. But remember sir that you cannot do everything, and that you need to delegate your job to other people and take a break sometimes! You deserve it!

To 1SG ALIF, though sometimes I don’t agree with you at times, but I feel that you are a good Platoon Sergeant, because you are able to bring out the best in all the men of the platoon! And you trust us enough to carry our jobs properly and step in when it is your time to take control. Thank you for giving my space to carry out my dual responsibility of Admin even though at times you were stretched to the limit.

To 2SG GABRIEL, 3SG ZAO YI and 3SG VASAANT. You guys rocked! We simply loved arguing with one another. If not on how to handle the smoking problem of the platoon, it was the COS duty for the next weekend or whether you can create atmosphere on the moon! We argued because we cared so much about doing things right, even though we have different ways of looking at an issue. I know that I am not always with the platoon because of my admin spec responsibilities but you three never once complained to anyone that I should be more involved and for that I thank you. I will leave Alpha with such fond memories of our missions and conversations together throughout my 6 SIR journey.