Conscription in Singapore, called National Service, requires all male Singaporean citizens and non-first-generation permanent residents who have reached the age of 18 to enroll for national service. They serve a 22- or 24-month period as Full Time National Servicemen (NSFs), either in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Singapore Police Force (SPF), or the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). When a conscript completes his full-time service, he is considered to be "operationally ready", and is thereafter known as an Operationally-Ready National Serviceman (NSman). NSmen are the equivalent of other countries' reservists.
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NS for me was a humbling experience
Despite the popular rants and jibes towards NS by kids nowadays, I have my own perspectives towards NS.
I see my NS experience in the SCDF as a humbling experience. I came from JC and was thrown straight into a PES E intake with the SCDF. I could have gone to the army perhaps, had I not broken my arm cleanly 2 months before enlistment. But because of the little mishap, I was thrown into a platoon made up of people from very diverse backgrounds. Some barely spoke English, some had gang tatoos, some barely had any education but all of us somehow gelled together to get through our misery together.
I was surprised by my ability to be able to adapt to people of differing backgrounds, I could get along with the guys from the General Duties as well as I could get along with the officers. In fact I preferred the company of the GD guys as politicking was non-existent and the guys were pretty straight with you, you knew when you were part of them and you jolly well knew when you weren't. Officers, well, are a nefarious lot. Ditto those who have ambitions.
NS has been a way of life in Singapore for 4 decades and is unlikely to change. We may not like it but we just have to do it. But if we have to do it, definitely there could be something to learn from it.
So, quit complaining guys and learn from the situation you are thrust in whether you like it or not.
I totally question the need for National Service. Two years for NS (previously two and a half) is a bit excessive don’t you think. Reservist liability is a total joke. I very much doubt the money and resources wasted on wasting our time waiting around in reservist units will really create a fighting force to rely on in times of war. Waste time waste money.
Don't you just love how they hush up the NS deaths? Such a waste of young lives.
Singapore is the only country where a yes-man sycophant with too much Brylcreem can take such a cavalier stance about the White Horse phenomenon in National Service and then go on to be elected President.
And why do females get away scot free? They want equality of the sexes, let’s put them through NS too to start with.
That said, I did have great fun in NS! Lots of hot boys...
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Painful but Essential
At the age of 18, I have many friends and acquaintances who are enlisting for NS or have already enlisted in. And so, I've naturally given the concept of compulsory national service some thought.
First, let's get real. No one in the right mind would like to be dragged into military training for 2 years in their prime time. These youthful years is the golden time to explore their interests, develop hobbies, form bonds and build relationships. We all need some time to try and figure out what we want for ourselves and what is it we want to specialize in at varsity. Therefore, I did feel indignant for my male counterparts as they're deprived of this precious time to rationalize important decisions that might change the course of their lives forever.
But of course, like any other politician would say, we must learn to look at the bigger picture: compulsory military training for our strong and healthy males goes a long way in protecting the nation during exigencies. Most doubt wars happen anymore in the 21st century, but hey, better be safe than sorry right? Besides, we are a sovereign state: nobody is going to come to our rescue when war breaks out and we'll have to fight for our own skin.
Last but not least, the debate over whether girls should enlist for NS too has been increasingly heated over the years. I have three crucial questions to post to those who are keen on this suggestion:
1. Are girls really needed for enlistment at this point in time? Has our population rates fallen so drastically that the current number of males enlisting into army is insufficient to ensure national sovereignty?
2. Will there be sufficient supplies (camps, food, artilleries, military weapons, training grounds etc) when it is made compulsory for girls to enlist?
3. Are you just keen on this suggestion because you feel indignant about the seemingly biased advantages females get to enjoy when it comes to NS enlistment?
I believe these are critical questions to consider before proposing such major suggestions. And while I greatly sympathise with my male friends for the pains they have to go through, I am in favour of compulsory national service in Singapore.
For women too?
There have been countless of interviews about the thoughts on NS and how it is meant to protect our country in dire times. In that aspect, I respect the efforts in order to change the mindset that surrounds the compulsory National Service that the males of the country have to attend.
What perturbs me however, is the lack of concern that is shown by the females of the country. While the males are whole-heartedly defending our country and are sweating it out to try and protect our island home, the females on the country seem to shift the blame to only the males alone. I have seen females, who upon being interviewed about the prospects of national service, champion the idea and even express their positive thoughts about how it can ensure our country's safety in times of need. However, when asked about whether women should serve national service as well, they immediately clam up and shirk responsibility, pushing the idea that women are the weaker sex and mumbling something along the lines of how that is not a good idea.
I personally feel that in wartimes, there is more to how one can protect the nation. In the case of war, each and every single person is critical to the survival and safeguard of the country. But in that case, if the women were to leave everything to the men and choose to ditch the country in times of need, then where else can we really call our home? Where else can we be rooted and feel proud about our achievements?
NS is an integral part of Singapore's defence, which all Singaporean males aged 18 have to go through. NS has come under intense scrutiny of late, because of a spate of deaths and mishaps. Even so, I still think that NS is a necessity because after all, Singapore's only resource is its people. We need soldiers that are battle-ready in the case of a war.
Although I do not need to go through NS, my perception of it is that it is overall a great experience. The trainings and drills may be hard but I also hear of many great friendships that have been forged through NS. NS is dominated by males, but there are also interestingly some females that choose to enlist into the army! There was even talk about making NS compulsory for Singaporean females as well, but I am glad that the idea has already been throughly quashed.
The criticisms that have befallen NS is that it is too tough and does not take good enough care of its soldiers. Despite that, I still think that NS cannot ever be too soft and too easy on its recruits, how else are they going to learn how to be battle-ready? No one else is going to serve things to them on silver platters in the event of a real war and NS is supposed to simulate wars and hardships. That balance is still needed and I think currently, we are already somewhat near achieving it. Good luck to everyone enlisting soon!
A Dramatic "Once In A Lifetime" Experience
National service, a period of drama, lifelong memories and unbreakable friendships. I still remember the first day I stepped on board that Penguin ferry to take me to the dreaded island Pulau Tekong, not knowing what will happen next. I handed my Pink IC to the guy at the registration counter, not knowing that I will not be seeing it for the next two years. As I raised my hand to pledge two years of my life to the nation, I literally felt my heart sank. Suddenly, my immediate future didn't seem exactly fun-filled or exciting.
Fast forward through BMT, I was posted to the Navy as a Sea Soldier. My job description? To protect Changi Naval Base with my life. After months of tears (alright I didn't really cry, maybe sometimes on the inside), sweat and willpower as a trainee, I finally passed out to become an operationally ready Sea Soldier. Access control, vehicle patrols, foot patrols, base sirens and fire drills marked my one and a half years as a sea soldier in the naval base. Along the way I made many good friends, flirted with female American naval officers from USS John C. Stennis. This ship was destroyed in Transformers 2 and I had the privilege of going on board for ship tour! I developed a tummy dining almost everyday at the Navy's specialist mess. Did I mention the Navy's specialist mess serves one of the best sambal chicken fried rice?
Although I never want to go through the whole NS experience again, I'm thankful that NS made me who I am today; a person mentally stronger, who is grateful for the little things in life and who takes things a little less for granted these days.
I was engaged in absorbing the contents of my textbook one day when my father plopped a letter beside me. I glanced at it. My name was typed across it. I was beseeched by curiosity. I grabbed it and tore the envelope apart. What greeted me inside left me speechless.
I can't remember the exact contents but I recalled the front cover vividly. It was an brochure. A glossy brochure like some fashion magazine advertising an upcoming sale. Unfortunately, the contents were a far cry from fashions and sales. It was National Service. For women. Yes, an NS service for women.
I was taken aback. What's with the sudden outcry for women NS? I scanned the contents and unleashed a sigh of relief. It was a recommendation. It wasn't a compulsory situation. I am a woman who believes 'violence' or 'military' are only words that comes along with the words 'boys' or 'men' only. Just like the local hit movie, Ah Boys to Men. Was there an Ah Girls to Women? No!
A part of growing up.
The phrase 'Boys to Men' tells it all. With the intensity of competition in Singapore, I think National service really hones the inner self of Singaporean men. Parents in this era, spent lesser time with their children and most would gladly use money to get domestic help to see to their children's daily needs.
Children these days, undeniably smarter and bursting with creativity, are becoming more and more pampered to a good level of 'spoilt'. Many may have not wash their own shoes, dishes and handled their own chores. Putting them through a long camp at the age of 18 seems to be for the better in inculcating endurance and independence. It strengthens their mentality and prepares them for obstacles in front of them ahead in life.
With the improving of facilities and leniency on the strictness, I'm sure boys will see NS in a more lighter light.
Should spend its money more wisely
As much as most men like myself claim to hate the army, deep down inside, we will all miss our time there simply because of the great buddies we had. Nothing compares to living, eating, working and getting hammered by CSM together day in day out. For me, there was no 2 years in my life quite as memorable as national service.
But truth be told, I found the armed forces to be quite inefficiently run. Perhaps I really haven’t seen things from the big picture, but as a servicemen and taxpayer, I found it hard to accept some of the redundant and cost inefficient protocols that I’ve had to experience.
Of course, we can always use the saying “one can never put a price on a nations safety” as reason to spend unnecessary money. But I certainly hope to see every single cent of our country's hard-earned wealth go into strengthening our force and not unnecessary expenditure.
Rush to wait and wait to rush
First and foremost, I wanna laugh at the picture above. Classic!
Unlike most of the enlistees in Singapore, I was assigned to SCDF instead of the army for my National Service. Some of my friends, who were eagerly awaiting my incarceration to Alcatraz island, was disappointed when they realise that I'm not going to be there suffering with them. Others, who were waiting to abuse their authority as instructors in Tekong, was disappointed that they couldn't lay their hands on me after all.
The enlistment to SCDF was a surprise to me, but I reckoned it's because my dad was a fire fighter during his National Service. Well, the government have spoken, so off I went to Basic Rescue Training in Jurong instead of Basic Military Training in Tekong. It was gonna be hell either way.
National Service is a rite of passage for Singaporean males. It's supposed to be punishing on both the mind and body. However, the truth is that after the first three months, most of us would be separated into different units and the strong bonding we forged with our platoon mates will disappear into the ether. That happened to me anyway. Throw a group of random people together in a unit against their will and you would be hard pressed to find enthusiasm in anything that involves work. Hence, physical training of the body will slowly give way to mental training of the mind in the form of escaping responsibilities whenever possible.
Ironically, that aptitude to 'eat snake' while adapting to your working environment would serve you well in the future workplace so yeah, NS does prepare a person for life on the outside.
Boys to Men
My family and I are permanent residents here in Singapore. However, male PRs are still required to serve national service. I could see that it was physically exhausting for my brothers. They slept at jungles, exercise every day and walk kilometres with their heavy bags and guns. However, my brother said the experience was worthwhile. It does not just taught them to be physically fit but to be responsible and to set goals and achieve them.
My brother was not the most physically fit among his peers. The only time he will run is when he is late for school but now, he could not go on a week without exercising and he even set his priorities right. National service made him a better person.
I am on the MR (MINDEF Reserve) list now. This means that officially I do not need to book for my IPPT test any more. Clearing IPPT (Individual Physical Proficiency Test) was always something that spoilt my preparations for birthday celebrations. Not that I had any chance to pass the test or not that I really did any preparations to attempt to pass the test. It is just that nagging feeling that you have to do something before your birthday before you can celebrate your birthday.
All said and done, I felt that NS gave me a different perspective to life. I served my BMT (Basic Military Training) in Tekong. That was when I started to appreciate food. I really needed to stuff myself during the weekends because the food on the island was really not edible or it was something that given a choice I would not have eaten.
Then came my posting back to Singapore. The unit I was posted to was a real eye opener to me. It was like the whole society compressed inside the camp. I was exposed to people of different education levels and different backgrounds. Some of my platoon mates cannot even speak Mandarin, their main language was Hokkien. I thanked NS for the submersion program, now I am better equipped to deal with people from different walks of life.